Penn State commits $5 million to its Humanities Institute

February 27, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will invest $5 million in its Humanities Institute over the next five years, greatly enhancing the University’s status as a global leader in conducting socially relevant humanities research and in educating future generations of humanities scholars. The investment will enable the institute to support research and teaching in humanities disciplines throughout the University.

“Supporting the Humanities Institute addresses one of Penn State’s top strategic priorities, which is to build upon our existing strengths in the arts and humanities in order to position Penn State as an agent of change in addressing complex global issues,” Provost and Executive Vice President Nick Jones said when announcing the commitment.  “We believe this investment will help cement Penn State’s reputation as an intellectual hub of humanities-based research and an influential voice in important policy conversations.”

“We are grateful to the provost for making this generous commitment in the humanities and specifically to the Humanities Institute,” said Susan Welch, dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, which serves as the academic home of the institute. “Scholarship in the humanities is as relevant today as it has been any other time in history. Led by the Humanities Institute, this support will strengthen the ability of our humanities faculty and students to explore and resolve society’s most relevant issues from a historical, philosophical — and most importantly, human — perspective.”

According to John Christman, professor of philosophy and director of the Humanities Institute, the University funding will be used to support the University’s “Humanities in the World” Initiative. A unique component of the initiative is its Visiting Faculty Fellows Program, which will enable world-class scholars from other institutions to connect with Penn State humanities faculty and students for research purposes and to participate in integrated programs.

“Our faculty fellows’ program will be one of the very few nationwide offering full one-year fellowships to visiting scholars, which immediately elevates it in terms of prominence and prestige,” Christman said. “We will also be able to utilize their valuable expertise during public discussions taking place on campus that explore important issues from a humanistic perspective.”

The initiative will also support the creation of a postdoctoral fellowship program as well as an Undergraduate Humanities Fellows program, which will integrate humanities-focused research and study abroad opportunities into the undergraduate experience. Students from the campuses as well as University Park will be eligible to be Undergraduate Humanities Fellows.

“Humanities in the World” also seeks to position Penn State as a nationally known resource and venue for public discussions on important social issues. For example, the initiative will provide additional support for the production of HumIn Focus, a web-based video series created and produced in partnership with the Bellisario College of Communications and WPSU that is also supported by a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. HumIn Focus explores pressing social issues through the perspective of humanities scholars who provide the background and context lying behind the issues. The first episode, produced last fall, focused on Confederate monuments in the broader context of public memory and the practices of social memorialization in general.

The initiative seeks to position the Humanities Institute as a hub for coordinating humanities-based research, events, and activities across the University. On April 11, for example, the institute will host its annual Celebrate the Humanities event which this year features a presentation by Robert Newman, director of the National Humanities Center and a lecture by Swarthmore College Provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton.

“We look forward to enhancing existing initiatives and launching additional programs that position Penn State as the leading provider of public humanities research and outreach, and help citizens and policymakers reflect on the human values that guide efforts to solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Christman said.

To learn more about the Humanities Institute, visit

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Last Updated February 27, 2019