Who We Are
The Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin brings together students, faculty, and members of the public to “think in community” about some of the most important issues of our time. Our interdisciplinary programs on campus and in the community promote challenging dialogue and stimulate innovative research and teaching in all facets of the humanities. Some of our priority campus and community initiatives include Difficult Dialogues courses and teaching workshops, community-based research grants, Health Humanities research seminars, and a new public lecture series and faculty seminar on the environment.
Dr. Jason De León (UCLA) speaking on “Soldiers and Kings: a Photoethnography of Human Smuggling across Mexico” (photo by Daniel Cavazos)
What We’re Fundraising For
We believe that the Humanities have a unique ability to support human connections so that we can face unprecedented challenges together. We offer a number of opportunities for supporting Humanities-based research and dialogue concerning social life in the wake of COVID-19.
Community Sabbatical Research Leave Grants
Our community grants enable senior staff of Central Texas non-profits to collaborate with UT faculty while researching a problem related to their organizations' missions. More than thirty local organizations have benefited from Community Sabbatical support. Grantees are matched with UT faculty mentors and share their research with the public. This year’s grants will prioritize community research projects on the pandemic and its effects in Central Texas.
Difficult Dialogues Teaching Workshops
A national leader of the Difficult Dialogues movement in higher education, the Humanities Institute serves students, faculty, and the public through our dialogue-based courses, teaching workshops, and public forums. Our workshops, whether in person or virtual, will prepare faculty and advanced graduate students to help students explore controversial contemporary issues with an emphasis on informed and respectful exchange.
Health Humanities Research Seminars
Part of our Health Humanities initiative, our research seminars bring together researchers, clinicians, and students from across campus as well as members of the larger Central Texas community interested in humanistic approaches to medicine and health. The members of the seminar and their guests discuss work in progress, incubate collaborative research and teaching projects, and explore humanistic approaches to improving health care. Seminars in 2020 and 2021 will occur in person or online, as necessary.
Public Lecture Series & Faculty Seminar on the Humanities & the Environment
Every two years the Humanities Institute chooses a theme for a series of distinguished public lectures and a weekly faculty seminar. The 2020-22 theme, The Humanities in the Environment/The Environment in the Humanities, will bring perspectives from multiple fields to a discussion of human/environmental entanglements in the past, present, and future. We believe that the coronavirus pandemic reveals the importance of humanities engagement with urgent, large-scale problems that affect us all.
We are asking for support for our community-based research grants. Increased support for the Community Sabbatical Program would allow us to award additional funds for research to leaders of community health, cultural, and social service organizations dealing with COVID-19 and its effects on Central Texas communities. A recent grantee, K.C. Lawrence, Memory Connections Program Director at AGE of Central Texas, described the program as “a unique and meaningful opportunity that allowed me the time and space to look more deeply into our data to improve service to our clients. Because of the grant, I was able to learn from research experts at UT. I explored a subject I am passionate about and grew as a nonprofit professional.”
2019 Community Sabbatical Grantee, K.C. Lawrence (AGE of Central Texas), presenting on her research project on chronic disease management for dementia patients
A gift in support of our 2020-21 Difficult Dialogues Faculty Learning Community will help enhance resources for faculty on how to engage and support students during the campus emergency. Director Pauline Strong says that this workshop will “provide faculty with the training, support, and confidence they need to help their students engage productively in dialogue about controversial topics and with techniques for helping students discuss and cope with today’s global health crisis.”
Students discussing the Difficult Dialogues Public Forum on “Indigeneity, the Land, and Storytelling” (photo by Daniel Cavazos)
A gift in support of our Health Humanities Research Seminars will help us continue to build a network of clinicians, researchers, and students working collaboratively to better understand the humanistic dimensions of health care, including fostering empathy for patients and providers alike, increasing access to care for members of marginalized communities, and creating dialogue around ethical decision-making. Our research seminars will be heavily focused on the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming year. We have also initiated the Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus project to offer our Health Humanities group and the wider community an outlet for wrestling with the emotional challenges of the global health crisis. We believe, as Phillip Barrish, professor of English and HI associate director for Health and Humanities puts it, that “the humanities and arts have the potential to transform health care for all.”
Health Humanities Graduate Scholars along with faculty and researchers attending the Health and Humanities Research Seminar (photo by Daniel Cavazos)
Our Faculty Fellows Seminar is one of the premier research and development opportunities for humanities faculty at the University. Support for the Faculty Fellows contributes to excellence and innovation in research and teaching by helping us gather faculty across disciplines to share their work in progress and by supporting public lectures from distinguished outside speakers. Caroline Faria, Assistant Professor of Geography, speaks for many Fellows in saying, “I really treasure the time and space the humanities seminar gave me, and the intellectual friendships I developed. The seminar was instrumental in developing a challenging piece of writing that I had been thinking about for a long time. For me, the faculty fellows seminar captures the very heart, and the very best, of what the liberal arts can be.”
With the 2020-21 theme of “The Humanities in the Environment/The Environment in the Humanities,” the Humanities Institute launches an inquiry centered in the emerging discipline of the environmental humanities. “Humanistic research on environmental challenges is more important than ever in this time of global crisis,” said HI Director Pauline Strong.
2018-2020 Faculty Fellows meeting with guest lecturer, Dr. Jason De León