Humanities Front and Center

Author: Malcolm McDowell Woods

Published Date: 5/29/2019

Categories: Academics F1RST Magazine F1RST Summer 2019

Carroll University Center for the Humanities

In the Abstract 

Don’t bother looking for the Carroll University Center for the Humanities on Google Maps, you won’t find it. Though the name may bring images of an ivy-clad grand hall to mind, Carroll’s center is a bit more abstract—and far less concrete.

The lack of a building, however, doesn’t mean the center lacks a presence on campus. This spring, the center hosted a daylong symposium, just the latest in a string of programming initiatives targeted directly to benefit undergraduate students—and keep the humanities front and center.

“Space and Place in City and Suburb” brought students, faculty and community members together to discuss and participate in activities examining place-making and the complexities of intersecting cultural geographies. Participants, including a group from Chicago’s Roosevelt University, toured the university’s Wisconsin Artists Collection, and created their own photo essays on the subject of place-making.

The annual spring event is balanced by a Scholar to Student Lecture Series in fall. In this series, scholars are invited to campus to speak on their area of expertise, and three Carroll students are selected to deliver their own thoughts on the subject. Last year, Dr. Gillian Rodger, a professor of musicology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, spoke on female to male cross-dressing, and gender and class in 19th-century popular theater.

Carroll students hold their own, demonstrating the university’s high academic standards, said Dr. Charles Byler, the dean of Carroll’s College of Arts and Science. “I’ve been to a number of those, and the students do high-level work,” he said. “They’re engaging with a scholar in that scholar’s field of expertise and they’re doing it in front of their peers. It’s impressive.”

Also impressive are the winning selections in the center’s annual essay contest. The Deirdre M. Keenan Humanities Award for Writing Excellence competition recognizes excellence in writing in a humanities-based field. Three winners, chosen annually, receive stipends and the opportunity to present their work during Celebrate Carroll, the university’s annual showcase of academic achievement. 

Byler noted that Carroll’s Center for the Humanities is oriented towards the undergraduate learning experience at Carroll. Its offerings are open to all Carroll students, regardless of their major. All that is required is a burning curiosity and an open mind.

“We’ve really decided to focus on undergraduate engagement,” noted Dr. Lara Karpenko, director of the center and an associate professor of English at Carroll. “It makes us unique from many other humanities centers, which often have a focus on faculty development or are targeted at graduate students.”

The center’s mantra is “comprehension, compassion and action.” The center’s mission is “to augment the undergraduate experience and to highlight Carroll University’s liberal arts heritage…to motivate all undergraduates, regardless of major, to engage in humanities-based inquiry in order to understand the human experience more deeply and in order to forge empathetic connections throughout the university, the community and our ever-changing world.”

The center has received generous financial support from Carroll alumni, according to Stephen Kuhn, Carroll’s vice president for institutional advancement. “We certainly appreciate the support we have received,” he said. “It’s indicative of the central role the humanities occupy at Carroll and we hope we can grow the endowment for the center going forward.”

“The center is a strong signal that the humanities are alive and well at Carroll and that we have excellent learning opportunities for our students in the humanities,” said Byler. “We want to continue to make Carroll an attractive place for those who do want to major in the humanities.”

Learn more about the Carroll University Center for the Humanities

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Humanities Fellows

A fellows program offered by the Center for the Humanities provides opportunities for students to take a deeper dive into the classroom, even allowing them to lead classes and facilitate discussions. 

Two students each semester are selected to serve as Humanities Center Fellows. Each will be placed in a humanities-based course, one they have already taken. There, they’ll have the opportunity to gain direct instructional experiences, teaching in a class, leading discussion sessions and holding office hours to serve as a resource for other students. “One of the highlights of the experience is the student spends a week leading the classroom,”  said Karpenko. 

“For the fellows, the benefits are numerous, she added. “They develop a very close relationship with that faculty member, and they gain presentation, organization and communication skills—a lot of the résumé-building skills that businesses seek.”

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