W.M. Keck Foundation Awards USD's Humanities Center $250,000

The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded USD’s Humanities Center a $250,000 grant. The funding will be used to support a number of exciting programs, including the newly created Keck Undergraduate Humanities Research Fellows Program, and the development of new collaborations between the humanities and other academic areas of inquiry at the University of San Diego.

The Humanities Center, which officially opened in 2016, is uniquely student-centered, supporting active learning across disciplinary boundaries. The Center is organized into four elements: 1) Collaborative Research, 2) Digital Humanities (DH), 3) Interdisciplinary Curriculum and 4) Public Humanities. Within each element, students engage in active learning that fosters interdisciplinary understanding, with the humanities as a connecting framework.

“We are committed to offering a multitude of ways for guests and students to engage with the humanities because we believe that the humanities are truly foundational,” said Noelle Norton, dean of USD’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Thanks to funding from both our initial donor who funded the remodeling of the space and from the Keck Foundation who funded development of programs within that space, we are able to work towards our vision of reinvigorating the humanities on our campus.” 

With this grant from the Keck Foundation, the university’s Humanities Center will inspire new scholarship and curriculum involving the humanities, create novel opportunities for students and faculty to develop and build interdisciplinary collaborations, and extend these important connections across USD and into the broader communities of San Diego and southern California. 

“The Keck Foundation’s support of our Humanities Center is an affirmation of how important the humanities are on college campuses, ours in particular,” said Brian R. Clack, director of USD’s Humanities Center. “We believe that the purposeful study of and appreciation for the humanities will lead to more fulfilled, engaged and fruitful lives for our students, campus community and neighbors.” 

This month as part of its Illume Speaker Series, the Center welcomed distinguished guest speakers, including Deepak Chopra and Pankaj Mishra, while also featuring acclaimed members of USD’s faculty. The Humanities Center is hosting seminars that encourage students to explore facets of the new political landscape in the United States, as well as digital humanities symposia. An immersive art exhibition was also mounted by local military veterans that recreated an Iraqi patrol base bunker, to name just a few of the more recent activities in the Center. 

“A thoughtful examination of what it means to be human and how this understanding applies to a broad range of human endeavors has never been more important than at this moment in history,” said Ron Kaufmann, associate dean in USD’s College of Arts and Sciences and faculty coordinator of the Keck Foundation grant. “This generous grant from the Keck Foundation will elevate the ways in which students and other members of the campus community can explore issues of contemporary interest in relation to fundamental principles regarding the nature of humanity.” 

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.  The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education.  The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth. For more information, please visit www.

For more information on programming at USD’s Humanities Center, please visit us here. 

— Melissa Olesen