Administrators are working together to highlight the humanities and fund a seminar series featuring from scholars outside GW.
Leo Chalupa, the vice president for research, and Ben Vinson, the dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, are teaming up to give as much as $20,000 to fund conferences with humanities scholars during the next academic year.
The offices are each providing up to $10,000 for the program. Faculty members across disciplines must pitch proposals – including a series topic, prospective speakers and a tentative timeframe – to Chalupa and Vinson.
Chalupa said two seminar series proposals – one on Latinx culture in America and the other on vulnerability and race in America – were approved for funding in December.
The faculty members who received funding are still in planning phases with the goal of hosting the events next academic year.
“The Office of the Vice President for Research is discussing replicating this incentive model with other deans and research deans and anticipates sponsoring one or two events per school as long as the school is willing to match OVPR’s support,” Chalupa said in an email.
Chalupa said seminar series give visiting scholars the chance to come to GW and learn more about the University.
“We funded two conferences already and we are going to do that across the campus. Why do we do that?” Chalupa said in an interview. “We want faculty to come here for conferences to see how great GW is.”
Chalupa said scholars learn more about the University’s educational opportunities when they physically come to campus, which could attract new faculty to GW. He added that visiting scholarship has already reinvigorated STEM programs, and he hopes the program will do the same for the humanities.
“People come here for neuroscience and they say, ‘Wow, this place is great,’” Chalupa said. “That is true across the campus. You need faculty to boost those people.”
The research office is also offering a $1,000 reward to any humanities researcher who applies for an outside grant as another way to encourage humanities research.
Vinson said it is sometimes hard to find funding for humanities conferences and that the seminar series will bring attention to those fields.
“This is an amazing boost for the humanities as it is sometimes difficult to secure funding for conferences in these fields, which rely greatly upon scholarly exchange to advance important ideas that can have field-shaping impact,” Vinson said in an email. “When the opportunity to have additional support from OVPR was presented to us, the idea was to spotlight the humanities.”
Vinson said CCAS plans on funding a maximum of two events per year, as long as the OVPR is willing to match funding. The seminar series will provide mutual benefits to GW faculty members and visiting scholars, he added.
“We are able to expose new audiences to GW, while showcasing our attributes with scholars who may not have been familiar with us before,” Vinson said.
One of the seminar series proposals that has received funding is called “Latinx-ing the Humanities: Indigeneity, Blackness, and la Tierra” and was proposed by a group of faculty from the Spanish, history, English and American studies departments.
Antonio Lopez, an English professor, said the seminar series will give students and faculty opportunities for discussion about Latinx culture in the U.S.
“It’s an occasion for students and faculty to come to campus and spend time with the most expressive, thorny and joyful thinkers and artists around,” Lopez said in an email.
The seminar series will aim to address a number of questions surrounding Latin culture in America, especially in light of President Donald Trump’s negative comments about Mexican citizens and other minority groups, Lopez said.
He added that the seminar series responds to declining national interest in the humanities by offering educational and transformative experiences within the humanities.
“People often talk about a crisis in the humanities in higher education – we’re in need of more students, more funding, more attention – and that is true,” Lopez said. “My colleagues and I also know that when it comes to transforming oneself and others in meaningful public and private ways, nothing beats an experience with the most exciting, pleasurable and powerful materials the world has to offer, and that’s the humanities.”
The other approved seminar series, “The Politics of Vulnerability: Understanding Race in America,” was proposed by a group of American studies faculty.
Gayle Wald, the chair of the American studies department, said the joint funding is an opportunity for multiple disciplines in the humanities to approach questions of race and vulnerability together.
Wald said she and her colleagues proposed four seminars, each consisting of several events, including a talk, a graduate seminar and a group discussion about vulnerability and race. The events will be spread out throughout the school year, with two in the fall and two next spring, she said.
The seminar series allows faculty members to showcase how essential the humanities are to education, she said.
“We strongly believe the humanities are more relevant than ever, and relevant to those in the sciences, in medicine, in politics, in policy and in foreign affairs,” Wald said.