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Humanities Planning Group History

Early Historical Highlights

In the summer and early fall of 2011, a proposal was brought forward to combine Washington State University’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and College of Sciences (COS) into one unit. Considering the ramifications of this merger for Humanities departments and faculty, Dr. Christopher Lupke (Foreign Languages) raised the idea of a Center for the Humanities with President Elson Floyd. President Floyd expressed great enthusiasm for the idea and urged Lupke to discuss it with colleagues. Lupke immediately recruited Dr. Michael Hanly (English) to partner with him in forming a faculty group to discuss the idea.

About a dozen CLA colleagues from diverse departments were assembled to discuss the possibility of creating such a Center, which would forge a unified identity for the Humanities at WSU and thereby increase awareness of and support for the research already being conducted by faculty members dispersed across a variety of separate departments. On the model of existing, successful centers currently operating at regional, peer, and AAU institutions, this new unit would serve to publicize the work of WSU scholars in the Humanities and create opportunities for collaboration between these disparate groups at WSU, and with colleagues at other institutions.

By inviting eminent Humanities scholars to offer lectures and participate in colloquia on vital issues, the proposed Center would reassert the centrality of the Humanities to the mission of the University and demonstrate to the academic community and the public at large the national and international significance of research by WSU scholars in the same fields. With President Floyd’s support, the Humanities Planning Group was formed.  This initial team, gathered to assist in the development of a proposal for such a Center, included Drs.:  Peter Boag (History); Maria Deprano (Fine Arts); Phil Gruen (Architecture); William Hamlin (English); Michael Hanly, co-director (English); Linda Heidenreich (Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies); William Kabasenche (Philosophy); Debbie Lee (English); Christopher Lupke, co-director (Foreign Languages and Cultures);  Francisco Manzo-Robledo (Foreign Languages and Cultures); Michael Myers (Philosophy); and Jesse Spohnholz (History).

The Planning Group concurred from the outset that the project would only be worthwhile if it could help to enhance the academic reputation of WSU as well as increase the viability of WSU’s entrance into the Association of American Universities (AAU), if it could be supported at various levels of the university, and that it ultimately would become a vehicle for enhancing new and greater revenue streams into the university, particularly in the form of grants. In a meeting in October, 2011, President Floyd reiterated his enthusiasm and, recognizing the critical position of the Humanities in the institution, pledged $100,000 in seed funds. He charged the co-directors, working with the Planning Group, to establish a blueprint for the Center that would include ideas for what the Center would do, what resources would be required on a permanent basis, and what the outcomes for the Center would be.

In the ensuing three academic years, the Planning Group has met on average of once a month. The Planning Group has helped fund several Humanities events on campus across a variety of disciplines (see related co-sponsored events page). The co-directors together attended the annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutions [CHCI] in 2013, Dr. Lupke attended the 2014 meeting, and Dr. Lupke, together with a team of planning group members and one administrator, will attend the 2015 meeting.

A large number of peer Centers and Institutes have been visited in the course of the last three years. Meetings have been held with Provosts Bayly and Bernardo, CAS Dean Darryl DeWald, Nancy Magnuson (interim) and Chris Keane, VPs for Research, department chairs, WSU staff members involved in marketing, media, and development, the Co-Chairs of the Integration Team, the Co-Directors of CEREO, and numerous others. Several members of the planning group also met with a representative of the National Endowment for the Humanities when he was on campus.  In addition, in 2013, a Humanities consultant was brought to campus to meet with college and university administrators, department chairs, and interested faculty from across disciplines to examine the prospect of creating a Center for the Humanities at WSU.

The Co-Directors and Planning Group have set forth an ambitious agenda of events for the coming years including establishment of a research initiative, annual Humanities Fellow application selection/awards, Humanities Week and other humanities-related events and activities as the need arises. The proposed Center currently has a home base office space and a half-time Manager. The Humanities Planning Group is ready to submit the final proposal to the Faculty Senate for approval to create the Center for the Humanities at Washington State University.