January 17, 2023

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Friends of Rutgers Humanities,

Welcome to the Spring 2023 semester!  I’m delighted to be back with you on campus, and I hope you enjoyed a restorative winter break.  Thanks to your initiative and the support of our excellent staff, there is a lot going on this Spring in the classroom, in our event spaces, in the outdoor common areas, and in the community.  

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to our new colleagues who have started teaching with us on January 1, including our new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History Leslie Alexander, whose first undergraduate course at Rutgers, building on her new research on slavery and policing, focuses on the history of policing of Black communities.  Professor Alexander's course is a great example of how excellence in basic research in the Humanities supports excellence in undergraduate education. You can read about her course and the distinguished history of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Chair here.

I also want to draw your attention to a few major Humanities-wide initiatives that are launching or expanding this semester.

Highlighting student success and diversity in academic excellence, the Year of Languages continues in January and February with a visual essay contest for all Rutgers undergraduates, whom we invite to submit 30-second or two-minute videos answering the question “What Does Learning a Language Allow You to Know?”  You can view the truly moving and eloquent winning entries from the Fall essay prize competition on screens all throughout campus and on the Humanities Division web site.  Read, for example, the essay by Neuroscience major Noor Rashed, whose first language is Urdu, who later learned English, and who is now learning Korean as part of her training to become a doctor.  You can read why here.  The Spring contest invites video contributions that can be uploaded to Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media venues.  On April 19, we’ll host a Year of Languages celebration with activities, prizes, and refreshments in Vorhees Mall. You can keep up with the courses, events, symposia, and celebrations here.  For background on the YoL, you can read “Advancing a Culture of Languages.”  The Year of Languages is a multidisciplinary program that highlights our innovative commitment to multilingual education, including diversity and equity in Expository Writing and other courses that reach undergraduates throughout the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.  In an article published in December, I explain why encouraging all students to engage and learn new languages is crucial to equity and inclusion on campus and to global citizenship beyond campus.

For the third year running, the Dean of Humanities Office will support paid Public Humanities Summer Internships for graduate students, who will work with leading public humanities organizations throughout the region.  The Public Humanities Initiative is a major commitment to student success, career diversity, and community engagement.  With a generous grant from the ACLS and in collaboration with the Rutgers Initiative for the Book, we have been able increase our internships in Summer 2023 and expand our partnerships.  Selected students will receive a stipend of $3,000 to participate in the projects and serve the missions of these organizations, while drawing on their own academic, personal, and professional backgrounds.  Through this program, students receive training in public humanities methodologies, gain hands-on experience in public engagement around humanities themes and methods, and develop a network of mentors throughout the region.  

We are also expanding our Public Humanities programs with international collaborations and new curricular certifications.  In December, the Public Humanities Initiative co-sponsored a multidisciplinary seminar on sustainability in Maldonado, Uruguay, led on the Rutgers side by Associate Dean of Humanities and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Comparative Literature Jorge Marcone.  We have also launched a new Public Humanities Graduate Certificate, which offers training, experience, and certification in scholarship designed to create Humanities knowledge that can benefit, and engage with, communities outside the university.  

This Spring marks a return to on-campus symposia, conferences, workshops, public seminars, and lectures at a scale we haven’t seen for three years.  That’s great news.  We all benefit from the vibrancy, excitement, and spontaneity of in-person conversations.  But it can be hard to survey the events we know about and make sure we’re learning about new ones, so this semester we’ll be launching a Humanities Centers and Institutes calendar on the Humanities Division web page.  It will be nice to see everything in one place!  Stay tuned.

Warmest wishes for the new term,

Rebecca Walkowitz

Dean of Humanities

Distinguished Professor