Douglas Brinkley, the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Professor of Humanities in the Department of History, won a Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz Album category for co-producing “Fandango At The Wall In New York” by Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, featuring the Conga Patria Son Jarocho Collective.
Daniel Domingues da Silva, associate professor of History and Center for African and African American Studies director of undergraduate studies, received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to expand the geographic coverage of SlaveVoyages. The world’s largest database on the history of slave trade, this digital humanities initiative is hosted at Rice with support of the School of Humanities, Fondren Library and Center for Research Computing. This is his second NEH grant to support SlaveVoyages.
Sophie Esch, associate professor of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures and director of the Initiative for the Study of LatinX America, won the 2023 Premio Iberoamericano of the Latin American Studies Association for her book, Letra y metralla: cultura y política durante los periodos de conflictos armados en México y Centroamérica (1910-2020). This is LASA's highest honor for a book published in Spanish.
Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor and chair of English, and director of the Medical Humanities Program, is part of a team that was awarded a National Institute of Health grant. The grant supports “Applying a Human-Centered Design Approach to Enhance Bioengineering Education,” a collaboration with Texas Children's Hospital and Texas Heart Institute for which Ostherr is co-principal investigator joining Sabia Abidi (Rice Bioengineering) as lead investigator.
Alexander Regier, professor of English and of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, received a National Endowment for the Humanities summer research fellowship to explore the idea of awkwardness as an aesthetic and critical category in British and American literature since the 18th century.
Timothy Morton, the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English and one of the world’s leading environmental philosophers, was recently interviewed for a documentary about ecology by producer and director Richard Knights. The documentary, called “A Short Guide to Saving the World for People with Limited Attention Spans,” also features primatologist Jane Goodall, activist Greta Thunberg, writer Bill McKibben and a host of scientists, activists and artists.
Gwen Bradford, associate professor of Philosophy, Esther Fernández, associate professor of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, Aysha Pollnitz, associate professor of History, and Alexander Regier, professor of English and of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, have been awarded residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center this summer.
“Life without science is a world without discovery. Life without art is an empty abyss ... To be human is to balance both,” says new graduate Ling DeBellis ’23. Learn about this mixed media artist and evolutionary biologist’s Rice journey, which included an experimental film she created and showed earlier this year at the Sleepy Cyborg Gallery — a semi-autobiographical piece in response to maturity, femininity and changing perspectives living in Houston.
PURSUING THE BIG QUESTIONS
Love is often thought of as universal, shared by all of humanity, but a closer look reveals that the situation is far more complicated. In this fall’s Big Questions course, “What Is Love?”, Sonia Ryang, the T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor of Asian Studies in the School of Humanities, and Ilana Gershon, professor of anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, will guide students through interrogating how different cultures consider all aspects of love — familial, platonic, romantic and everything in between.
STRATEGIC INITIATIVES AND PRIORITY PROJECTS
Kirsten Ostherr, director of the Medical Humanities Program and a scholar of media, health, medicine and technology, will teach a new interdisciplinary course in the fall, “Responsible AI for Health.” The course, which she developed after participating in a National Humanities Center workshop last summer, emanates from her own research on trust and privacy in digital health and will help students consider the social, cultural and ethical issues related to the development and application of artificial intelligence. Students will also consider the ways that technology often has unintended consequences that reproduce existing health disparities, especially racial and intersectional health disparities.
Ostherr is also leading efforts to create a cross-disciplinary Medical Humanities Institute at Rice. This initiative will build on the success of our Medical Humanities Program and facilitated acceptance program for Humanities majors with UT Health’s McGovern Medical School. This institute will expand undergraduate research opportunities, create a graduate certificate program, host postdoctoral research fellows, support faculty research that engages with the Texas Medical Center and foster international collaborations.
Joseph Campana, the William Shakespeare Professor of English and director of the Center for Environmental Studies, along with Weston Twardowski, program manager of the Diluvial Houston Initiative in the Center for Environmental Studies and Humanities Research Center, and Sophie Sapp Moore, the Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Justice in the Center for Environmental Studies and Humanities Research Center, are part of a Andrew W. Mellon-funded Global Humanities Institutes project sponsored by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes. The program is led by University College Dublin (Ireland) and explores “Post-Extractivist Legacies and Landscapes” across the globe; collaborating universities include Tallinn University (Estonia), University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) and the School of Culture, History and Language (Australian National University). In addition to presenting faculty research, the Rice team contributed a series of video reflections on extraction and regeneration in the U.S. Gulf Coast that are anchored in collaborative projects with community partners like the Houston Climate Justice Museum, the Nature Conservancy and Bayou City Waterkeeper.
Science and Technology Studies
An innovative collaboration between faculty in the schools of Humanities and Social Sciences has fostered the founding of the interdisciplinary minor and Program in Science and Technology Studies, co-directed this year by Elizabeth Petrick (History) and Cymene Howe (Anthropology). This new minor allows undergraduate students from a range of academic backgrounds and career interests to examine science and technology within their social, political, cultural and historical contexts.
Luis A. Campos, the Baker College Associate Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Innovation and a member of the Science and Technology Studies faculty, organized two STS-related conferences — the first of which took place earlier this month in Houston; the second takes place at the Rice Global Paris Center in June. The events are supported by the Strategic Collaboration Awards, established by the University of Edinburgh and Rice.
LOCALLY AND PUBLICLY ENGAGED
Founded with support from Terri and Terrence Gee ’86, our Civic Humanist program is expanding under the leadership of Associate Dean and Professor of History Fay Yarbrough ’97. With the goal of forging meaningful relationships between high schools serving underrepresented and socio-economically disadvantaged students and Rice, most recently, this initiative welcomed high schoolers from Jones Futures Academy and Northside High School.
The Center for Environmental Studies has created an advisory board of local environmental non-profit organizations to direct attention to areas of need in the greater Houston region. It has also built partnerships to create internships and research projects. The board — led by Joseph Campana, the William Shakespeare Professor of English and director of the Center for Environmental Studies, and Weston Twardowski, program manager of the Diluvial Houston Initiative in the Center for Environmental Studies and Humanities Research Center — includes representatives from Air Alliance Houston, Bayou City Waterkeeper, Blackwood Educational Land Institute, the Houston Climate Justice Museum, the Nature Conservancy and Commission Shift. Upcoming projects include an on-campus summer program for Houston Independent School District students in partnership with the Houston Climate Justice Museum; a biodiversity in urban parks digital research project with the Nature Conservancy (through the Center for Civic Leadership and the Gulf Scholars Program); and storymaps and GIS projects illustrating watershed threats with Bayou City Waterkeeper (through the Diluvial Houston Initiative, a project of the Humanities Research Center funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation).
We engage Houston, but we also take our students on journeys across the world. This summer, 81 students are participating in our popular Rice in Country program. Led by faculty in the Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication, students are studying in Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and Taiwan. New this year, some students are completing their Medical Humanities practicum while others are pursuing research through a partnership with the Center for Civic Leadership.
In the Department of Art History’s HART in the World courses, students engage in a spring semester seminar and study abroad in the summer. Past courses have taken students to Istanbul, Brazil and London, and this summer, the course takes place in Rome. Sophie Crawford-Brown, assistant professor of Art History and director of the Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations Program, and Art History PhD student Eilis Livia Coughlin, are leading a cohort of 10 undergraduates on tours of prominent cultural and archaeological sites in Rome and trips to neighboring historical cities, including Cerveteri and Siena. We look forward to seeing the students’ exhibits in Herring Hall’s first-floor corridor in the fall and learning about their exciting experiences.
Students enrolled in the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures' Rice in Madrid program are gaining an understanding of the local, national and global forces that have shaped this cosmopolitan city and capital of Spain. The course involves lectures and class discussions, walking tours, visits to historical sites, museums and artists’ studios, performances and other cultural events. This summer, Fabiola López-Durán, associate professor of Art History, and Luis Duno-Gottberg, professor of Latin American Studies in Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, are leading students from across Rice — many of whom have never traveled outside the United States — in exploring narratives of memory, cultural identity, politics, colonialism and nationalism in Spain, from the early modern period until present day.
We extend our warmest congratulations to the following School of Humanities faculty for their teaching awards:
- Travis Alexander, lecturer in Medical Humanities, received the Nicolas Salgo Distinguished Teacher Award, Rice’s oldest teaching award.
The George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching was awarded to:
- Marcia Brennan, the Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religion and Art History;
- Lora Wildenthal ’87, the John Antony Weir Professor of History and director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality;
- Vida Yao, assistant professor of Philosophy.
We are also proud of:
- Jeffrey J. Kripal, Associate Dean of Humanities and the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought, who received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service;
- Timothy Morton, the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, who received the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Achievement.
Congratulations as well to:
- Andrea Lara Lin ’23, a double major in Asian Studies and Political Science, won the Student-Taught Course (STC) Teaching Award.
Each summer, we award our graduate students a chance to travel to the National Humanities Center in North Carolina where they explore instructional strategies that emphasize accessibility and inclusivity, engage with public scholarship and discuss humanities-focused careers paths inside and outside the academy. We salute this year’s award winners: Jie Chen (Philosophy), Meredith McCullough and Bren Ram (English) and Dru Sanders (History).
- Christopher Patrick Senn, a graduate student in Religion, received the university’s Graduate Teaching Award for Independent Instruction.
- John Mayer Crum (PhD, History ’23), won the John W. Gardner Award for best School of Humanities dissertation in 2022-2023 for “Headwaters of Empire: Landscapes of Power and Refuge in the Tennessee Valley, 1794-1870."
- Congratulations to the following doctoral students, candidates and alumni who have accepted or begun teaching positions:
- John Mayer Crum (PhD, History ’23), whose work focuses on the relationship between empire, ecological change and state power in 19th-century Appalachia, has accepted a tenure-track position at Berea College in Kentucky.
- Kimberly V. Jones, a PhD candidate in History whose research focuses on histories of the Afro-Atlantic world, the gendered identities of Black women and African American history, has accepted a tenure-track position at the University of Denver.
- De’Anna Monique Daniels, a PhD candidate concentrating in African American Religion, was appointed to a tenure-track position at the University of Arizona as assistant professor of Africana Studies and Religious Studies.
- Learned Foote, a PhD candidate in Religion with a focus in Buddhist Studies, has been appointed visiting assistant professor of Religious Studies at Lawrence University.
- Sonia Del Hierro (PhD, English ’23) has accepted a tenure-track position as assistant professor of Chicanx Literature at Southwestern University, where she will join another Rice Humanities graduate, Eileen Cleere (PhD, English ’96), the Joanne Powers Austin Term Chair in English.
- Hannah Francis (PhD, History ’22) has been named a visiting assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University of Rhode Island.
- Timothy Grieve-Carlson (PhD, Religion ’22) is an assistant professor of Religion and Philosophy at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.
- Rachel Harmeyer (PhD, Art History ’22) has accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Visual Art and Design at Southeastern Louisiana University.
- Kevin MacDonnell (PhD, English ’21) has accepted a tenure-track position at Wake Forest University as assistant professor of 18th-century British Literature in the Department of English.
- Sharde’ Chapman (PhD, Religion ’21) is an assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.
- Mark DeYoung (PhD, Religion ’21) is an assistant professor of History and Cultural Anthropology at Virginia Union University.
We salute Anna Julia, our administrator for the graduate programs in Art History and English, for receiving the Rice Graduate Student Association’s Faculty and Staff Service Award in recognition for going beyond the call of duty to improve the quality of life for graduate students at Rice.
At a recent celebration to recognize Rice staff and celebrate service milestones, President Reginald DesRoches recognized: Anita Norwig, Leticia Gonzales, Rachel Boyle (25 years of service); Denise Michalak, Linda Evans (15 years); Nyeva Agwunobi, Heather Lazare, Haejin Koh, Heba Khan, Nancy Baise (10 years); Chelsey Denny, Irene Kwan (5 years).
Members of our Humanities community lit up the stage at this year’s Association of Rice Alumni’s Laureates Awards ceremony. John R. Eldridge ’75, chair of the Humanities Advisory Board, along with Tamara Siler ’87, who majored inHistory, received the ARA’s Meritorious Service Award. We offer our congratulations and deepest gratitude to John for his exceptionally generous support of the school and for his leadership of our very active advisory board since 2016. Andy Karsner ’89, who majored in Religious Studies and Political Science, received the Distinguished Alumni Award. Congratulations to our distinguished alumni!
Merritt McAlister ’02, who received her bachelor’s degree in English and Women and Gender Studies from the School of Humanities, has been named interim dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law as of June 1, 2023. Professor McAlister clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge R. Lanier Anderson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Katherine Fischer Drew ’44 ’45, the Lynette S. Autry Professor Emerita and former chair of History, former acting dean of humanities and social sciences, and Rice’s first woman hired as a tenure-track faculty member, died in March 2023. Professor Drew's many accolades include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Brown Teaching Award, appointment as a senior fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, election as a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and the Association of Rice Alumni’s Meritorious Service Award. Professor Drew’s legacy lives on through the Katherine Drew Endowment in the History Department, which supports our students’ engagement with historical thinking and research for many years to come.
We are pleased to congratulate Martin Blumenthal-Barby on his appointment to full professor of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures; Brian E. Ogren, the Anna Smith Fine Associate Professor of Judaic Studies, on his appointment to full professor of Religion; Emily Houlik-Ritchey and Tomás Q. Morín on their appointments to associate professor of English with tenure; and Josh Bernstein on his appointment to associate teaching professor of Visual and Dramatic Arts.
We extend our warmest gratitude to Jeffrey J. Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought, who has served as our Associate Dean of Faculty and Graduate Studies for four years and will take his much-earned sabbatical next year. We are grateful that Fay Yarbrough ’97 will continue on as Associate Dean, assuming the support of our faculty and graduate programs. We are excited to welcome Natasha Bowdoin (Visual and Dramatic Arts) as Associate Dean with responsibilities for undergraduate programs and special projects.
We thank Christian J. Emden, the Frances Moody Newman Professor of German Intellectual History and Political Thought, and William B. Parsons, professor of Religion, for serving as interim chairs of the departments of Philosophy and Religion this past year. On July 1, Robert Howell, the Dedman Family Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Southern Methodist University, joins us as chair and professor of Philosophy; and Brian E. Ogren begins his term as chair of the Department of Religion.
We wish to express deep thanks to departing department chairs, Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English, and W. Caleb McDaniel, the Mary Gibbs Jones Professor of Humanities, for their leadership and contributions as chairs of our English and History departments. We look forward to welcoming Alexander Regier, professor of English and of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, and Nathan Citino, the Barbara Kirkland Chiles Professor of History, as the new chairs of English and History starting on July 1.
The Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts will be renamed the Department of Art as of July 1, 2023. We are grateful to John Sparagana, the Grace Christian Vietti Professor of Visual Arts, who returns to chair the Department of Art on July 1, and we thank Bruce Hainley, the David and Caroline Minter Professor of the Humanities, for his contributions as chair over the past three semesters.
We are grateful to Lora Wildenthal ’87, the John Antony Weir Professor of History, and our former interim dean and associate dean, who began a new three-year term as director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality in January 2023. We extend our gratitude to the prior director, Helena Michie, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor in Humanities, for her leadership of the center.
Kazimi Lecture in Shi’i Studies
Nebil Husayn, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Miami, presented a talk entitled “Memories of Ali in Sunni and Shi’i Islam” — on the figure of Ali, Islam’s fourth caliph — at our fourth annual Kazimi Lecture in Shi’i Studies. Through this series, endowed by the children of Syed Safdar and Samina Kazimi, the School of Humanities brings in scholars each year whose research promotes understanding of Shi’i Islam in its many dimensions.
Bhagwaan Mahavir Lecture in Jain Studies
Anil Mundra, the Alka Siddhartha Dalal Postdoctoral Fellow for the Study of Jainism at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, gave the first-ever Bhagwaan Mahavir Lecture in Jain Studies. The February lecture was organized by the Humanities Dean’s Office in collaboration with the departments of Transnational Asian Studies and Religion and the support of members of the Jain community.
Celebrating MacArthur Fellow
The Rice community recently came together to honor Kiese Laymon, the Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of Creative Writing and English for winning the MacArthur Fellowship. Remarking on her friend and colleague, Lacy M. Johnson, associate professor of Creative Writing and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, called Laymon “a writer who insists — whether he’s working in fiction, nonfiction, essays, screenplay or, now, poetry — on animating in language what has become calcified and frozen, on interrogating systems that imperil his own vulnerability and dignity as well as others’, and celebrating joy and abundance in a world that sometimes feels reluctant to yield it.”
Ethics In Higher Education
“ … this is why the humanities are so integral to the social good — why they are so central to an effective liberal education, ‘liberal’ as in the original meaning of the term — free, liberating. This is also why, if cultivated properly, robustly protected, and sufficiently funded, the humanities can become the conscience of the university, the source and practice of its ethics and values,” said Jeffrey J. Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought in his talk “Intellectual Freedom and the Humanities” at Rice’s recent ethics in higher education symposium.
SAVE THE DATES
Friday, Sept. 29 – Sunday, Oct. 1
Friday, Nov. 3
School of Humanities Alumni Weekend Reception
Friday, Nov. 3 – Sunday, Nov. 5
Wednesday, Nov. 15 – Thursday, Nov. 16
School of Humanities Campbell Lectures with Imani Perry
Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University
I look forward to seeing many of you in person when we return to campus in the fall. Until then, I extend a warm congratulations to our graduates, offer my gratitude to all our faculty and staff, and wish all of you good health this summer!
Dean, School of Humanities
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of History