MISSOULA – The Montana Board of Regents fully approved a proposal for a new University of Montana Humanities Institute on Sept. 14, 2016. Led by faculty and structured to benefit student and faculty research, the institute will bring new opportunities for humanities study at UM.
“The creation of the Humanities Institute signals the University of Montana’s historic commitment to scholarship in the humanities,” said Nathaniel Levtow, who will serve as the institute’s first director. “The Humanities Institute will be an important site and source of support for individual and collaborative research projects in the humanities at the University of Montana.”
Drawing on UM’s rich tradition of teaching and scholarship in the humanities, and funded primarily by grants and private donations, the institute aims to foster provocative thinking, innovative research and sustained public discussion of the human experience in all its complexity.
This mission encompasses traditional liberal arts disciplines including history, languages, literature, philosophy and religious studies, as well as any humanistic work that crosses disciplinary boundaries or develops new approaches to related fields.
“Until now, UM has lacked a common space and visible forum for the development and presentation of cross-disciplinary humanities research on campus,” Levtow said. “The Humanities Institute will promote faculty scholarship and offer the entire University community and the greater public a way to connect with ideas and initiatives generated every day in UM’s many humanities departments and related programs in the arts and sciences.”
The Humanities Institute’s first Spring Program will highlight the research of new UM faculty members, and will include public lectures on topics such as cultural trauma in Chinese Central Asia, the nature of language acquisition by children and new views on the foundations of modern Western political thought.
In addition, the institute will offer financial support and working space for interdisciplinary research projects in the humanities. The institute’s future plans include hosting events to advance public understanding and discussion of humanities scholarship on campus; bringing renowned humanists to UM from other institutions to speak and collaborate with faculty and students; establishing a Humanities Institute Fellows program for faculty and students; and furthering initiatives to expand funding opportunities for humanities research at UM.
The institute is overseen by an advisory board composed entirely of UM faculty. Its members include Associate Professor Benedicte Boisseron of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (French, Francophone Studies); Regents Professor of History Anya Jabour; Professor Ashby Kinch of the Department of English; Associate Professor Bernadette Sweeney of the School of Theatre and Dance in the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Assistant Professor Robert Tuck of the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures (Japanese); and Associate Professor Theodore Van Alst of the Native American Studies department.