Strengthening the impact of ASU humanities

By

Margaret Coulombe

Research for books in the humanities is hard, complicated and lengthy. It can take faculty members five years or more to deliver a work of meaningful scholarship, particularly early in their careers. Hoping to narrow this gap between concept and publication, Arizona State University has launched the Provost’s Humanities Fellows Program.

A 12-month investment in 10 emerging leaders, the program offers resources and mentoring developed to invigorate humanities and empower faculty who are already high performing.

“This program is designed to help supercharge these professors’ careers and contributions in research and writing, in tandem with the growth in their service and support for students and the university,” said Provost Robert E. Page, Jr., who is also a professor in the School of Life Sciences.

The inaugural humanities fellows include faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Once assistant professors achieve tenure and move to associate professorships, they are bombarded with service, teaching and also graduate mentoring, noted Duane Roen, dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and advocate for the fellows program. This transition, he said, is abrupt and disproportionately impacts women, minorities and those invested in service.

The program developed by ASU deans Roen, George Justice and Marlene Tromp, with support from Provost Page, provides workshops, a writing support group and development for book proposals, in addition to monetary support.

The Institute for Humanities Research and ASU senior faculty mentors, professors whose projects have been supported by Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities funds, will also actively offer guidance as associates apply for these important fellowships.

Humanities fellows’ book projects range widely, from “The Industry of Scooby-Doo,” already under contract with Duke University Press, to an examination of “The Philosophy of Communication: Race, Gender, Sexuality” and the mental decline of Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Emerson’s Memory Loss.”

Matt Garcia, director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, points to these programs as essential to increasing the impact that scholarly work can make, not just in academic circles and teaching, but also in understanding and offering context to important issues facing the public. His own work, “From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement,” took six to seven years to complete.

“The scholarly works our fellows will publish promise to change the nature of their fields,” said Justice. “In terms of impact at ASU, our hope is that these exceptional faculty members move from a long and indeterminate window for completion of their projects to one and a half years.”

• Elizabeth Brake – “Responsibility, Rescue, Recovery: A Case for Disaster Rights?” examines natural disasters through the lens of ethics and political philosophy.

• Ron Broglio – “Beasts of Burden: Biopolitical Life in the British Romantic Period” investigates the transformation of human and nonhuman life into quantifiable sums.

• Breanne Fahs – “Firebrand Feminism: The Radical Lives of Ti-Grace Atkinson, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Kathie Sarachild and Dana Densmore” explores four radical feminists, through their writings, lectures and conversations, and feminist history.

• Christopher Hanlon – “Emerson’s Memory Loss" maps the intersections between Emerson’s late writings, his experience of mental change and U.S. public discourse on collective cognition.

• Jacqueline Martinez – “The Philosophy of Communication: Race, Gender, Sexuality” explores the work of Merleau-Ponty, communication theorists and Latina feminist philosophers.

• Catherine O'Donnell – A review of Catholicism in the Age of Revolutions (1965-1950) and the biography of Elizabeth Bayley Seton, the first native-born American saint.

• Kevin Sandler – “The Industry of Scooby-Doo” analyzes a creative work as a commodity, shaped and exploited within a capitalist society.

• Victoria Thompson – “Inventing Public Space” focuses on Paris during the French Revolution and the evolution of royal areas to urban public spaces for citizens.

• Mike Tueller – The revision of the “Greek Anthology” for Loeb Classical Library, a compendium more than 4,000 classic works. The Loeb Classical Library has been a literary and scholarly standard for more than 100 years.

• Stephen Toth – A work that examines the Mettray Agricultural Colony for Delinquent Boys, a Catholic correctional facility that impacted 17,000 juveniles in the 19th century.

“Humanities research can change the world,” said Justice. “However, only when it consists of deep knowledge, often painstakingly obtained, and is synthesized in ways that create new ways of understanding human culture. Provost Page and ASU signal through this program not only a commitment to humanities at ASU, but to the outstanding faculty who create knowledge and share it with the students who will take this knowledge in many different fields and professional contexts. Ultimately, this program will have impact on the world of knowledge, and on our students’ lives.”