John Christman named inaugural director of the Penn State Humanities Institute

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — John Christman, Penn State professor of philosophy, political science, and women’s studies, has been named the inaugural director of the Penn State Humanities Institute. Christman’s appointment is effective July 1, which also will be the institute’s first day of operations.

“I am delighted that John has agreed to assume the helm of the Humanities Institute,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, in announcing Christman’s appointment. “His previous leadership experience, his reputation as a teacher, adviser, and scholar, and his interdisciplinary breadth are the perfect combination needed to help guide the new institute as we further our efforts to advance the humanities disciplines. Under John’s leadership, I believe the institute will become a hub of greater intellectual discovery on humanistic concerns such as ethics and their impact on our actions, or how historical and cultural perspectives structure the way our society functions today.”

Christman joined the Penn State faculty in 1998 and has served as acting or interim head of the Department of Philosophy on four separate occasions since 2005. A specialist in ethics and socio-political philosophy, he has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications related to his research, including a book, “The Politics of Persons: Individual Autonomy and Socio-historical Selves” (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Christman is also a well-regarded teacher and adviser, as evidenced by his receiving the Penn State Graduate Faculty Teaching Award in 2013 and the College of the Liberal Art's Advisor of the Year award in 2011.

As the institute’s inaugural director, Christman hopes to strengthen Penn State’s reputation and prominence in the humanities, while also highlighting the critical role that humanities play in the world today.

“The humanities have faced really acute challenges over the past several years,” Christman said. “The Humanities Institute needs to position itself as a prominent voice touting the value of humanities research and push back on the notion that the humanities have somehow lost their relevance.

“In fact, in many ways the humanities are even more relevant than ever. In today’s rapidly changing technological world, where skills and expertise become outdated quickly, what’s needed is more deep and rich thought and conversation about the human condition — not just how we do things, but why we do them. The humanities help us do that.”

Christman said one of his primary goals for the institute will be to create “an atmosphere of synergy and collaboration that help make Penn State known for its cutting-edge and world-renowned research in the humanities.” Christman indicated that the global component of that goal is particularly important. “We want to promote collaborative humanistic research with a global reach,” he said. The goal also aligns with Penn State’s efforts to advance the arts and humanities, which the University identified as one of the five top priorities in its most recent strategic plan.

“I want to bring together people with many different perspectives and many different areas of expertise that have been in silos in the past,” Christman said. “Those conversations will help lead to innovative, interdisciplinary research teams that will enable us to celebrate the humanities at Penn State and advance the frontiers of humanistic discovery.”

Media Contacts: 

William Hessert

Work Phone: 
814-865-9988

Lead Writer, College of the Liberal Arts

Last Updated March 10, 2017