Humanities for the Public Good responds to COVID-19


Just over a year ago, focus groups met at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies to imagine an experiential, interdisciplinary humanities PhD. We envisioned a program that would use the subject matter, methods, and values of the humanities to solve problems in the service of the public good. Fast forward to April 2020. Those conversations and our work since seem almost prescient.

Like colleagues across the University of Iowa, the country, and the world, we now find ourselves restructuring our work as well as our lives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapidly changing situation requires balancing quick action with long term thinking; traveling toward an uncertain future through the past; weaving communities together through storytelling while unravelling disinformation with incisive evidence and arguments; then persuading those communities to embrace complex, intersectional, and ethical approaches to problems by considering multiple points of view rather than clinging to self interest.

Even as the University of Iowa has joined in the global effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19, the HPG team is working in the background to find creative ways to continue moving our work forward. For example, if you are interested in being part of our planning process and our growing commitment to collaboration, community, inclusivity, intentionality, and hope, we have extended the deadline to apply to be on the 2020-21 HPG Advisory Board until May 1st.

As we prepare for the next few months, we’re grateful to be part of the local and larger communities who live out every day the myriad ways that the arts, humanities, and social sciences as well as the sciences help us to remain socially connected even as we protect one another through physical distance. We’ll continue to be in touch here and via our newsletter. For now, we hope that you are well and safe and taking care of yourself and those in your worlds—large and small.

With thanks and compassion,

Teresa Mangum, Jennifer New, Ashley Cheyemi McNeil, and Victoria Burns