Center for the Humanities Faculty Fellows Program Enables Scholarly Interdisciplinary Exchanges for Ph.D. Students and Faculty

In a conference room on the first floor of the Richter Library, the 2014-15 Faculty and Dissertation Fellows of the College of Arts & Sciences Center for the Humanities gathered around a table, talking about how land rights are tied to human rights in Africa.

Each scholar had carefully read chapter three of Ph.D. student Ng'ang'a Muchiri’s dissertation – and each brought a unique perspective to his work.

Heather Diack, an assistant professor of art & art history in the UM College of Arts & Sciences, suggested visual images that could complement his argument. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Pamela Geller praised the organization of the paper, which “moves through time and space, from the emic (or inter-group) perspective to the etic (or external) perspective.”

The 2014-15 Center for the Humanities Faculty and Dissertation Fellows (left to right): Sallie Hughes, Rina Tzinman, Alisa Be, Laura Giannetti, Deborah Schwartz-Kates, Mary Lindemann, Heather Diack. Not pictured: Pamela Geller, Ashley Maria Mateiro, Ng’ang’a Muchiri.

Center for the Humanities Director Mihoko Suzuki said the chapter showed “the power of literature, but also its limits.” While Mary Lindemann, professor and chair of the Department of History, found the “juxtaposition between legal documents and novels” very effective.

Muchiri left the session with a wealth of ideas to strengthen his chapter, and to move forward with work on his dissertation.

Each year, the Center for the Humanities selects a cohort of fellows including up to seven faculty members and four advanced graduate students (in the dissertation phase) to enable scholarly exchanges across departmental and disciplinary boundaries.

Throughout the year-long program, the group meets monthly. During each session, they review a project from one of the fellows. By the end of the year, each fellow has had an opportunity to present his or her work.

“(We hope) that the fellows will be able to communicate their research to scholars beyond their own discipline and reach a wider readership, and to forge scholarly collaborations with colleagues from other departments that will last beyond their tenure as fellows,” said Suzuki.

She added, “The graduate student fellows have remarked that the comments and suggestions they received on their dissertations have enabled them to see their work in a fresh light and to extend the implications of their scholarship.”

Applications to the fellows program are evaluated by external reviewers from two different disciplines. Faculty fellows are released from two courses, either in one semester or over the course of the year. Dissertation fellows receive support matching their departmental TA stipend.

The program was launched in 2009, and more than 40 faculty members and 20 graduate students have participated.

For the first time in 2014, the Center has two fellows from outside the College of Arts & Sciences: Associate Professor of Journalism in the School of Communication Sallie Hughes, and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Musicology Deborah Schwartz-Kates, from the Frost School of Music.

Suzuki said, “It has been a challenge to work out the logistics, but it is a great opportunity for faculty to collaborate with colleagues from beyond their own schools.”

For more information on Faculty Fellows please visit:

November 13, 2014