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New Humanities Institute to be launched in 2001

A new Humanities Institute at The University of Texas at Austin will be launched in the 2001-2002 academic year, establishing a campus center for interdisciplinary intellectual community and research.

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AUSTIN, Texas—A new Humanities Institute at The University of Texas at Austin will be launched in the 2001-2002 academic year, establishing a campus center for interdisciplinary intellectual community and research.

The Institute will not only seek to open the lines of communication between separate academic disciplines, but also between the University and outside civic, corporate and professional interests.

“My sense is that if we are to pursue world-class status, benchmarked against the very best, we must engage the world with targeted, carefully chosen, intelligent programs,” said UT Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson.

The Institute is being organized with the backing of Ekland-Olson, the colleges of Liberal Arts and Fine Arts, the Graduate School, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

“The Humanities Institute is an important part of UT’s efforts to highlight the central place of the humanities in all of our lives,” said Dr. Richard Lariviere, liberal arts dean. “I am particularly enthusiastic about the Institute’s plans to bring the humanities into the community.”

English professors Evan Carton and Geraldine Heng, who wrote the proposal that recently was approved by the UT central administration, will be the first director and associate director of the Humanities Institute.

“The Humanities Institute will provide a continuing forum in which resident and visiting humanities, social science, and fine arts faculty and graduate students, along with interested members of the general public, can come together to explore matters that cut across the boundaries of individual fields of study,” Carton said.

The issues to be explored, he said, are of “broad concern. (Their) dimensions are aesthetic as well as political, ethical as well as economic — spiritual as well as technological.”

The core program of the Humanities Institute will be an annual seminar for selected faculty and graduate student Institute fellows from across the University. Successful faculty applicants for Institute fellowships will receive a one-course teaching reduction during their term as fellows. Graduate students may take the Institute Seminar for course credit.

The seminar, which will meet weekly throughout the school year, also will be supported by a lecture series in which distinguished visitors will both lecture publicly and join Institute fellows in a session of the seminar.

The inaugural year topic, “The Future of Disciplinary Knowledges,” seeks to prompt a campus-wide examination of the state and challenges of knowledge today. Seminar readings, discussions and visiting lectures will consider the definitions, histories, purposes and future prospects

of traditional academic disciplines and explore new ways of imagining and fulfilling the mission of higher education in the new millennium.

A major outreach initiative of the Humanities Institute will be a “Teachers as Scholars” (TAS) program in which K-12 teachers participate in three-day seminars led by UT faculty. The seminars allow teachers to become students again to learn something new or deepen their knowledge in any area of intellectual interest, regardless of what they teach.

The TAS program is designed to establish new links between UT Austin and area schools. It is patterned after a model developed at Harvard University.

It will be funded by foundation grants, participating schools and school districts and corporate and private donors. Funding is also expected from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.