A Note of Reflection and Thanks

Dear Friends and Colleagues of Humanities for the Public Good,

As the end of 2021 comes into view, we wanted to pause to celebrate all that your work has made possible. This fall and the last two years, we have been laying the groundwork for a student-centered, experiential, applied humanities graduate degree that is rooted in social justice values and that prepares students for multiple careers. Along the way, many graduate students, staff, and faculty members have worked with us not only because they support our aims, but also because within their own disciplines they are committed both to student-centered, inclusive, and equitable graduate education and to preparing students to adapt disciplinary knowledge to any number of future opportunities.

Despite a pandemic, many of you have worked energetically with the HPG team to connect the disciplines of art, history, languages, literatures, philosophy, and religious studies and the insights offered by critical race theory, gender studies, postcolonial theories, and publicly engaged approaches to scholarship, on one hand, with the challenges we face locally, nationally, and globally, on the other. This summer and fall, with the support of our wonderful Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Laura Perry, groups of faculty, staff, and students continue to design “Humanities Labs”—future graduate courses that take a hands on, problem-based approach to advanced studies in the humanities. Luke Borland, our outstanding HPG Graduate Assistant and a Ph.D. student in History, has kept us organized and moving forward. Last summer, Obermann Associate Director Jennifer New again created another round of meaningful, illuminating HPG graduate internships with community partners.

We are eternally grateful to our hardworking HPG Advisory boards. For the past two years, Board members collaborated in working groups, meeting bi-weekly to question, reconstruct, and design graduate education in the humanities. Together, they tailored the best of disciplinary approaches to an HPG program for students who see a lifelong commitment to social justice and their humanities studies as inextricable. This year’s Board, which includes department chairs and leaders from CLAS and the Graduate College, is reviewing our plans thus far, clarifying the foundational values of the HPG degree and sharpening our curricular plans. We see our current Board as a model for the kind of cross-sectoral, honest, responsive collaboration that guides the HPG project. To that end, Board members are helping us create mutually supportive, intellectually invigorating ways to engage with departments and to complement and support the critical work of CLAS and the Graduate College on behalf of graduate students.

Looking ahead in the spring semester, we’ll be holding a series of virtual conversations to share what we’ve learned and to update you on plans for the HPG degree. We’ll ask some of our mini-grant awardees to reflect on their redesigns of introduction to graduate studies courses as pathways to an array of career paths. We’ll invite colleagues from around the country to talk with us about the ways they’re re-envisioning comprehensive exams and final projects (dissertations among them) as preparation and/or prototypes to further social justice and to prepare students for all sorts of careers—as well as demonstrating disciplinary expertise. We hope you’ll join us; we look forward to lively discussions with you about a host of topics.

Most of all, we want to acknowledge the passion, commitment, suffering, and joy that we’ve all experienced this past fall. We know you’re tired, stretched thin, worried about the future, and processing all the hard lessons from the recent past. That you’ve kept faith with our HPG vision and kept company with our community, generously sharing your hopes and dreams for re-seeing the world through the lens of the humanities and remaking the world with humanities insights and tools—that gives us hope and keeps us working every day.

With gratitude and admiration,

Teresa, Laura, and Luke