The humanities by nature engage fundamental questions of human life and explore the cultural expressions humans have produced in response to their reflections. Whether the concern is the individual search for meaning or the nurturing of civic awareness in service to society as a whole, the humanities provide a rich venue for shared inquiry into the pressing human dimensions of the challenges we all face in living. But such engaging humanities explorations should not only be the private preserve of the undergraduate classroom, since the diverse communities of our society are in serious need of the opportunity to join carefully considered conversations on issues of contemporary significance through respectful discussion and debate in order to learn from one another.
The humanities have the capacity to transform individual lives through the discovery of meaning, and to transform society through the discovery of shared civic ideals. The Center for Public Humanities’ role, therefore, is to kindle the conversation and invite more people to it. In this spirit the Center seeks to bring together collegiate faculty and students together with secondary school teachers, cultural and civic leaders, and potential learners whose resources and life situation have discouraged them from considering a college education. Such a public humanities outreach program has the power to transform individual lives and communities, and is very much in keeping with the College’s mission of preparing all for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation.
To realize its goals, the Center sponsors innovative forms of public humanities outreach through a variety of collaborative programs. Working groups of faculty and student fellows, as well as individual faculty members and students, have opportunities to offer their expertise to the wider community through service, teaching, and public speaking. In addition to off-campus outreach and collaboration with other humanities-based organizations (schools, libraries, museums, regional societies, state councils, colleges and universities), the Center sponsors a variety of public events on campus as a service to the wider community. In fact, the Center for Public Humanities is an enabling agent to bring together various groups interested in humanities-based education, cultural events, and civic issues of contemporary significance.