Humanities' New Home is the Center of Attention
Located in Serra Hall, the newly completed Humanities Center is unlike anything the University of San Diego has housed before: a space specifically dedicated to study through the lens of the humanities.
It’s a significant addition to campus because of what it will provide undergraduates — a place to learn, explore, think, meet and grow in a central space on campus. But beyond that, the Humanities Center makes a statement: in a society that values hard numbers, profits and ROI above all else, USD is different; it is a university that values both the humanities and math, science and creative writing. University of San Diego’s class offerings are interdisciplinary. Computer Science and English Literature are no longer separate entities. Instead, they are a combined study that’s housed in the digital humanities portion of the Humanities Center.
Philosophy Professor Brian Clack, the inaugural director of the Humanities Center, is intimately familiar with the purpose of the center. After all, he helped Noelle Norton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to determine it.
“We’re worried, in times such as ours, where politicians and the media are attacking the liberal arts. [They say] that it’s ‘worthless to have a liberal arts degree.’ So we thought about a number of ways in which the arts and humanities could be supported. Because all of us in the [College of Arts and Sciences] fundamentally believe that these things are hugely valuable for a reflective human life … so one of the suggestions we came up with is that we should have a Humanities Center in the center of campus.”
What started as an idea now has an actual home base. It’s a space for students, faculty and the campus and local community. In fact, the unique mission statement of the Humanities Center is what sets it apart from other centers in the country.
“[What makes ours unique] is that we have a research focus but also to have it be a place where students can come to start exploring the contours of humanities … our center is characterized by having four elements. One element is collaborative research element where we are bringing together research groups working on specific humanities issues. We’re doing interdisciplinary curriculum development, where we embed a humanities perspective and an interdisciplinary perspective in courses. We have, in the center, as anyone can see as they come in here, a digital humanities studio where we have great people working in Digital Humanities scholarship which is at the interface of computer science and digital humanities scholarship. And then we do a lot of outreach work in the community … Public humanities is the place where the humanities and civic engagement come together,” Clack explains.
Practically, the Humanities Center is a physical space where work, collaboration and innovation shine. The USD Changemaker Hub and the Center for Catholic Thought and Culture each have a presence. Symbolically, it serves as a constant reminder of USD’s commitment to the arts, which includes a University Galleries exhibit space.
“With this center, we are giving the humanities a central, prominent home, and are providing space to explore what it means to be human through new interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum, community engagement, digital humanities and collaborative research," Dean Norton says. "It’s truly an exciting time at USD and for the humanities in San Diego.”
— Taylor Milam
USD News Center