January 24, 2022

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

As we prepare to return to campus next week, I look forward to attending and learning from the rich array of interdisciplinary workshops, colloquiums, seminars, retreats, lectures, and symposia – so many! – you have planned for this spring.  I am eager to benefit from the warmth and the spontaneous ideas we create together when we inhabit the same hallways, paths, office spaces, lecture halls, and conference rooms.  We are returning with commitment as well as care: many centers and research groups will be continuing to make use of hybrid formats while moving purposefully towards the residential experience that we cherish.

The Humanities Division is supporting several major interdisciplinary initiatives that began as collaborations among faculty and students.  I want to update you on those activities, and I invite you warmly to join these conversations and participate in the work of shaping them in the months to come.  These initiatives have benefited enormously from the support and leadership of our two new Associate Deans of Humanities Allan Isaac and Jorge Marcone, who joined us in these roles in September 2021. 

This spring, the Language and Social Justice initiative will be hosting a major lecture series that shows us why any project of equality and inclusion must take account of languages and language diversity.  The series is open to the public.  Coming soon: Language and Social Justice will launch the Rutgers Linguistic Landscape, a public website that provides an interactive, multimedia display of linguistic and cultural diversity at Rutgers University and the surrounding community.  The Language Engagement Project continues to develop curricular innovations that integrate languages and cultures across departments and disciplines, honoring the amazing linguistic and cultural diversity of Rutgers students, faculty, and staff.  The Take the 991 Challenge Award invites faculty to develop new language modules in their courses. The Faculty Forum series engages faculty in pedagogical conversations about how multilingualism shapes global citizenship and social inclusion.   

The Global Asias initiative, which supports cross-disciplinary and trans-regional research on Asia and its diasporas, has announced the inaugural recipients of the Global Asias Interdisciplinary Pedagogy Grant for Spring 2022.  These grants will support collaborations in the undergraduate classroom between graduate students and faculty in different departments.  The graduate-student recipients and their advisors come from all three Rutgers campuses, across fields from Childhood Studies and Geography to History and Education.  Global Asias is also supporting five graduate working groups on topics ranging from Cold War Asias to Global Anti-Caste Thought.

The Humanities Division has a longstanding commitment to supporting Digital Humanities and Public Humanities curriculum, events, and projects at Rutgers, as well as partnerships with K-12 schools, community groups, government agencies, arts organizations, and civic institutions. This spring, the Digital Humanities Initiative is sponsoring a series of workshops, panels, and talks with a range of other units, including Global Asias, the Rutgers Initiative for the Book, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Rutgers Libraries.  Public Humanities includes programs across campus that support community engagement and public programming, as well as curricular and career opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students. For the second year, the Humanities Division is very pleased to support Graduate Public Humanities Internships for students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.  These fellowships place graduate students in three-month summer internships at community organizations focused on education, creative arts, digital humanities, preservation, and public programming.  

We are building the Critical Translation Studies Initiative to foster intellectual and creative exchange among the many students and faculty engaged in making, using, analyzing, and conceptualizing translation at Rutgers. Critical Translation Studies will serve as a public-facing home for the diverse interdisciplinary work happening now at Rutgers and for new dialogues, projects, and theoretical horizons that we will develop going forward.  We will spend 2021-2022 planning for a 2022-2023 launch of the initiative, which will eventually include new undergraduate and graduate curricula, a lecture series, translation workshops, partnerships with university presses to support new translations, and an inaugural symposium in Spring 2023. I am grateful to Professor Karen Bishop for agreeing to serve as the first director of Critical Translation Studies.  Please reach out to her to join the planning stages.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate several major new grants and fellowships that Humanities faculty have won in December/January in support of interdisciplinary initiatives:  

Congratulations to Professors Nelson Maldonado-Torres (Comparative Literature and LCS) and Carter Mathes (English), who are the Co-PIs on $250,000 grant from the Luce Foundation supporting the Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies.  The grant funds a project entitled “Understanding Spirit: Black Religious Practice and the Search for Racial Justice” and will run from May 2022 to July 2025.

Congratulations to Professors Carla Cevasco (American Studies) and Maria Kennedy (American Studies), co-directors of the New Jersey Folk Festival, which received a 2022 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support an event – advertised, planned, and produced by undergraduates – that celebrates the diverse multicultural and indigenous folk life of New Jersey and the surrounding region.

Congratulations to Professors Yesenia Barragan (History) and Judith Surkis (History), who have won 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships to support their research.  

Thank you to the staff, faculty, and students who have kept our research collaborations flourishing throughout the pandemic, under very challenging circumstances.  I am excited and proud of the work we will be doing together this semester, and I look forward to seeing you on campus in the near future.


Rebecca L. Walkowitz

Dean of Humanities

Distinguished Professor