Celebrating Ten Years of the BYU Humanities Center

by Rex Nielson

This year we celebrate ten years since the founding of the BYU Humanities Center, a major institutional initiative originally sponsored by Dean John Rosenberg. Under the creative and inspired direction of Matthew Wickman, the center’s founding director, the Humanities Center has grown while developing a wide variety of activities that have advanced the influence of the College of Humanities. Through its ten years of evolving programs, its mission has remained consistent: to promote innovative scholarship and teaching in areas pertaining to the language, literature, thought, culture, and history of the human conversation.

One of the things that make the Humanities Center at BYU so remarkable is that less than three percent of institutions of higher education have one. The very fact that BYU sponsors the center highlights the university’s deep commitment to the value of humanities education in preparing students to address some of the most pressing issues in society today. The center also highlights the leading roles BYU Humanities faculty are playing in contributing to humanities scholarship, teaching, and public service.

The BYU Humanities Center currently sponsors a broad array of creative activities that foster scholarship, interdisciplinary connections, and student development. For example, we host a weekly research colloquium where College faculty present new scholarship and works in progress. Distinguished guests and faculty from other institutions regularly to come to our campus to work with faculty and students and share new research. We also support a yearly symposium of student-driven research projects in addition to other workshops and meetings to discuss current issues facing the humanities. We’re especially proud to sponsor projects like the Cambodian Oral History Project, directed by Professors Dana Bourgerie (Chinese) and Brian Croxall (Office of Digital Humanities), which represents some of the best ways that Humanities scholarship can contribute to preserving memory, connecting generations, and enriching Cambodian culture.

Additionally, we sponsor ten different research groups that bring together faculty working on different topics, including medieval and Renaissance studies, the digital humanities, education and leadership, translation theory, and many more. And we partner with a number of other entities around campus to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary projects.

While supporting teaching and scholarship at the university, the Humanities Center also actively looks for ways to contribute to local and national (and even international) conversations. This past summer, for example, we sponsored six lectures and workshops at BYU Education Week, where hundreds of attendees were enriched in a variety of topics from finding Christ in the devotional writings of a remarkable Italian Renaissance woman writer to how a Humanities education led one of our colleagues to the gospel from Myanmar to India to Utah. We also regularly connect faculty with opportunities to speak at local public libraries, publish articles on faith, scholarship, and the liberal arts in our Humanities Center Blog, and produce our wide-reaching podcast, Faith and Imagination. These publications, along with other humanities-related resources, are free and can be accessed at our website: http://humanitiescenter.byu.edu.

Now ten years into its existence, the BYU Humanities Center occupies a central role in the College of Humanities; we look forward to the opportunities ahead in helping faculty and students enrich our university community and beyond.

2022 – 2023