Brilliantly, the humanities let their light shine

Dean Pic

By Steven R. Leigh

The announcement last week that Elizabeth Fenn, associate professor and chair of the University of Colorado Boulder’s History Department, had been awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People provided a striking exclamation point to mark the end of a truly remarkable year for the faculty in our humanities departments.

In fact, the History Department alone celebrated enough achievements to make it an outstanding year for the humanities as a whole at CU-Boulder. Among other accomplishments in that department: Professor Fred Anderson won the Hazel Barnes Prize, the most distinguished award a faculty member can receive from CU-Boulder. Professor Susan Kent was named a College Professor of Distinction by the College of Arts and Sciences, the highest honor that the college confers. Assistant Professor Liora Halperin’s book Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920-1948 won the Shapiro Prize for the best book published in Israel Studies. Professors Virginia Anderson and David Shneer each received a College Scholar Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. And Associate Professor John M. Willis spent a full year of scholarship as a fellow at the National Humanities Center.

Faculty from across the College of Arts and Sciences often receive significant recognition, both externally and internally. However, history’s accomplishments help shine the light on our humanities units more generally. Therefore, this issue focuses on a series of major accomplishments from our faculty in humanities departments and programs, not just the History Department.

For example, two of the three faculty who were named College Professor of Distinction this year come from the humanities (Kent and Carole Newlands, professor of classics—while Richard Olson, professor of psychology and neuroscience, received the third professor of distinction award).

Humanities also represented about half of the faculty members who received this year’s College Scholar Awards (Anderson and Shneer from history, and Professors Ruth Ellen Kocher from English and David Boonin from philosophy).

Humanities faculty were among the winners in two of the three categories in this year’s Boulder Faculty Assembly Excellence Awards: French and Italian Senior Instructor Carmen Grace for leadership and service, and Professors Christopher Braider of French and Italian and Brian Catlos of religious studies for research and scholarship. Professor and Chair of Classics Elspeth Dusinberre received an Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award from the Graduate School, along with Paul Sutter in history.

And the record of our faculty across the humanities departments this year was no less impressive when it came to earning external recognition. Associate Professor of Philosophy Mitzi Lee and Catlos, for example, each received extremely competitive fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Catlos also received the Albert Hourani Book Award in honor of his recent study, Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, ca. 1050-1614. Art historian Claire Farago won a prestigious Folger Library fellowship to support her scholarship at the library in Washington, D.C., for next year. Notably, awards garnered by our faculty cross all faculty ranks and indicate a bright future.

Beyond this small sampling of awards, faculty in the humanities, as well as those in other areas, made countless contributions to their departments and to our campus. Subsequent articles in this issue of the Arts & Sciences Magazine highlight several of our achievements in the humanities, as well as other accomplishments across the College.

Specifically, we expand on Elizabeth Fenn’s Pulitzer Prize, discuss a recent National Educational Association grant to Marcia Douglas (English), and celebrate a new professorship in Jewish Studies made possible by a generous donation. While we can’t recognize our entire faculty individually in the space available here, we want to congratulate our colleagues on another successful academic year.

Many of the achievements documented here (see partial list of links below) are supported by donations and gifts to the college and campus, most prominently the new endowed position in Jewish Studies. In addition, the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Annual Fund is an important source of support for both faculty and students, with funds used widely across the college.

Donations to the fund support faculty and student activities that oftentimes lead to amazing accomplishments. For example, faculty accomplishments give us an edge in recruiting the nation’s most talented faculty, as well as graduate and undergraduate students. These kinds of awards, and the donor support that helps us attain them, are critical to CU-Boulder’s future. Congratulations to our faculty for their stellar performance.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities David Boonin, will be leaving his college leadership position this summer to resume full-time professorial activities. Dean Boonin has used his remarkable talents in leadership well across the last five years as associate dean. We wish him the best in advancing his significant research and in continuing his excellent teaching and professional service.

What follows are links to some stories about the achievements in the humanities in recent months:

First-ever Professorship in Israel/Palestine Studies

Doing justice to Aristotle’s ethics

In between a ‘clash of civilizations’ and ‘Convivencia’

Fred Anderson named 2015 Hazel Barnes Prize winner

Russian studies prof wins ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award

Cancer, poverty, race can’t keep poet down

Why Dante matters in the age of STEM education

CU bardfest breaks all-time box-office record in 2014

CU-Boulder Art Museum gets a fresh set of eyes

Prof named National Humanities Center fellow

Theatre, business alum does entrepreneurial artistry

Art student uses scholarships to succeed

The language of Homer soars into cyberspace

But seriously, just how crazy is this woman?

Through Soviet Jewish eyes, in the Russian tongue

In highly anticipated bard exhibit, the book’s the thing

Love Boulder and fiction? You could win a cool $1,000

The Grenada Revolution, through a humanities lens

Brakhage Symposium features cinema of Ken Jacobs

Digital humanities research focus of talk

Contemporary Tibetan art featured at CU Art Museum

Project brings local Latino history to schools

Tibetan text preservation, transmission in focus at CU

Historian adds nuance to Mideast religious history

CU’s expertise in Tibetan studies is unusually deep

Steven R. Leigh is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

April 30, 2015