American literature scholar to head Institute for Arts and Humanities

Michael Berube, Paterno Family professor in literature in the College of the Liberal Arts, has been named the director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State. His term will begin July 2010 and run through June 2014.

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities fosters excellence by stimulating and supporting innovative, interdisciplinary work of faculty scholars, artists and musicians, and graduate students in the arts and humanities throughout the University. An interdisciplinary research unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Institute is under the sponsorship of the College of Arts and Architecture and the College of the Liberal Arts.

"We are very excited that Michael has agreed to lead the Institute," said Arts and Architecture Dean Barbara Korner.

"The current director, Marica Tacconi, has taken the Institute to new levels of innovation and collaboration across the University and to greater public awareness," said Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch. "A renowned writer and scholar, Michael will continue that outstanding leadership to enhance the arts and humanities at Penn State."

Berube is a well known commentator on the humanities and on academia in venues ranging from the Chronicle of Higher Education to the New York Times. He has published seven books and nearly 200 articles on American literature, cultural studies and disability studies including "Rhetorical Occasions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities" and "The Left at War." His book "Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child" was honored as among the most notable books of the year by the New York Times and National Public Radio.

Recently, Berube was elected president of the Modern Language Association, the international association of scholars of language and literature, with his term beginning 2012. His previous experience with the MLA includes his chairmanship of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities and the Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession, as well as service on the MLA Task Force for the Evaluation of Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion, which published an influential report on the tenure process in departments of modern languages. A current member of the Advisory Board of Penn State’s Center for American Literary Studies, he also was a National Humanities Center Fellow in 2006.

Berube will succeed Marica Tacconi, professor of musicology, who has served as director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities since July 2005. During her five-year term, which will end in June 2010, Tacconi has instituted new, highly visible programs including the Moments of Change multidisciplinary initiative of lectures, performances and numerous events that focus on a specific time period marked by great transformation. She also has expanded the Institute’s funding opportunities, the Collaborative Teaching grant program, and short-term visiting distinguished professorships.

Under her leadership, the Institute has partnered with units across the university, presenting more than 70 events per academic year. Her accomplishments include bridging communities by drawing together faculty and students from across the arts and humanities, and connecting the academic and non-academic communities. Tacconi also has dramatically raised the visibility of the IAH, both regionally and nationally, particularly with the launch of the IAH Medal for Distinguished Contributions to the Arts and Humanities. Past medal recipients include renowned authors Salman Rushdie (2006) and Mario Vargas Llosa (2008), architect Daniel Libeskind (2007), and musicians Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman (2009). Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison has been selected as this year’s IAH Medal recipient.

Last Updated November 18, 2010