Feature | 27 September 2019

Celebrating 20 Years of Inquiry, Investigation, and Innovation




This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Humanities Institute. What was originally an idea to fund interdisciplinary Humanities research has blossomed into something remarkable—a vibrant community at the center of UC Santa Cruz and at the cutting edge of Humanities research, education, and public engagement.

In 20 years we have fostered a vision for the Humanities at UC Santa Cruz and beyond that includes connecting some of the most compelling figures in art and culture with our community on campus, in town, and beyond. We’ve engaged with Toni Morrison, Madeleine Albright, Anita Hill, Jaron Lanier, and Gary Snyder for provocative public discussions about the issues that dominate headlines and influence our lives.

Our commitment to innovative public engagement has made us a national model for influential Humanities work. This carries through in our Mellon-funded initiatives that drive our core programming themes and anchor our curricular work. We’ve been able to successfully connect the dots between public programming, graduate student training, and undergraduate education.

We support the work of faculty and students, and engage with our community partners to tackle the questions that matter to all of us. We incubate ideas and foster collaboration by funding projects, centers, and research clusters that connect scholars (often in different disciplines) to work on some of the biggest problems of our day.

Students at all levels are essential to the Institute. We’re empowering undergraduates to think critically and do research around the world, as with the groundbreaking Okinawan Memories Initiative and the Nido de Lenguas Project. We provide graduate students with the tools and experience they need to succeed in whatever career they choose with our PhD+ series and the nationally recognized Public Fellows program.

We have proven over the last 20 years that innovative, bold, and publicly-engaged Humanities work is not only possible, but necessary in the face of ever-changing and tumultuous times.

It’s not a coincidence that our theme for our 20th anniversary year is Futures. Because while we appreciate a moment to look back at all we’ve done, we’re really most concerned with what’s to come. This year, our programming and curriculum will center on subjects such as speculative fiction, the future of food, and what lies ahead in the Middle East—topics in the Humanities that help us grapple with an uncertain future and changing daily reality.

Running through these discussions of Futures will be a meta-discussion about the future of the Humanities and the university. The Humanities Institute demonstrates that research and liberal arts are natural partners especially at a great public university like ours.


Nathaniel and Irena

Nathaniel Deutsch, Faculty Director, The Humanities Institute

Irena Polic, Managing Director, The Humanities Institute