Amy Elias, professor of English, stepped into the position of director of the UT Humanities Center this semester and looks forward the opportunity to showcase the groundbreaking research of faculty in the Center.
“I will work to provide a vibrant, hospitable community,” says Elias. “I will also be working to inform people about the vital importance of the humanities to our society – its centrality to ethical and critical thinking about the traditions we’ve inherited and the future we want to create.”
Elias will build on the work accomplished by founding director Thomas Heffernan, who retired in December 2016. Current programs include faculty fellowship awards, interdisciplinary seminars, public lectures, and distinguished lecture series. Elias plans to develop undergraduate and graduate student initiatives and create more faculty fellowship opportunities. A major goal is to move into a new state-of-the-art facility within the next five or six years.
“I see the Humanities Center entering a second phase of development that will engage it publically with issues important to the national humanities, such as dialogue in the public sphere and the ethics of public rhetoric,” says Elias.
The Humanities Center is an important part of the UT community and unique to the College of Arts and Sciences because it represents all of the humanities at UT.
“The humanities have always been at the core of a liberal arts education,” says Elias. “The Center is a key advocate for the fundamental importance of the humanities to the intellectual life at UT. It is part of the transformative educational experience the study of humanities offers to our undergraduate and graduate students.”
Humanities scholars share unique perspectives on art and beauty and aesthetic forms that are basic to a cognitive apprehension of the world, according to Elias.
“We teach critical thinking habits and ethics essential to an informed citizenry, historical knowledge paramount to understanding the evolution of our diverse political and cultural institutions, and rhetorical and writing skills vital to making change in the world,” says Elias. “Today, in our tense and dangerous world, these are the approaches that give us insight and the skills that we need most to keep us vigilant and to keep us from misunderstanding, corruption, violence, and war.”
Under Elias’ leadership, the Humanities Center will continue to encourage interdisciplinary conversations among humanities scholars and develop new opportunities for the sharing of ideas in a communal space.
Visit the UT Humanities Center website for more information.