Congratulations MA in Public Humanities Class of 2013 -Steve Lubar's Commencement Address
It is my pleasure to say a few words of congratulations to the graduating class of 2013, the seventh class of public humanities master degree students -- or as they’ve taught me to say, public humans.
This is a remarkable group, and a group with wonderfully diverse interests. They reflect the range of the field, from history to art to science, from culture to cultural policy to cultural politics. They’ve worked with daycare kids at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, with older kids at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and Central Falls High School, with college students at the John Carter Brown Library and with adults at the Providence Athenaeum. They’ve done their practicums from Hong Kong to Germany to New Zealand, from California to Colorado to Cranston. They’ve worked for the National Park Service and the National Portrait Gallery and the National Postal Museum. They’ve surveyed and studied and spoken, created and curated and considered.
This is a group of students that’s also taken full advantage of our student community jobs program, working at organizations across the city. From the Providence Public Library to the Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism to the Providence Athenaeum, from the American Dance Legacy Initiative to the Digital Archive of Japan's 2011 Disasters, they’ve learned a lot – but they’ve also made a big difference to local organizations, and local groups.
They’ve taken on some remarkable projects – digital as well as analog, far flung geographically as well as thematically. Some spent a week in Istanbul last summer, trying to capture and understand and explain the smellscapes of the old spice market there. Some made many trips back and forth to New Bedford, where they created a stunning exhibition that brought Mayan textiles from Brown’s Haffenreffer Museum to the Mayan community in New Bedford. Some spent a lot of time in Providence’s City Hall, in the Stephen Hopkins House, and the Benefit Street Arsenal. Some of them know the secrets of Mashapaug Pond, and of Little Compton.
There are two special groups of students I’d like to call special attention to. Ashley Bowen-Murphy and Sarah Yahm are both PhD students in American Studies who are receiving the MA in public humanities. Both have committed themselves to the work of public humanities, and have brought special skills to the program. Sarah’s expertise in audio production has helped us all. And Ashley’s been an extraordinary TA in my Methods class, bringing her skills in project management to our projects, helping not only our public humanities projects, but also hundreds of future public humanities projects, be run on time and on budget.
And three students are graduating today after an extraordinary effort. Peggy Chang, Kim Arcand, and Bess Paupeck have all completed the program while working full time. I have to admit that, when they applied to the program, I discouraged them – too much work! But they’ve proved me wrong – and I’m delighted that they did. All of them have brought a lot to the program from their jobs – and I hope that the program has helped them in their jobs.
I’ve enjoyed working with every one of the students in this class, as have all of my colleagues. And I hope they’ve enjoyed the last few years here – and, as they have heard me say many times – I hope that they have learned useful things. For in the end, the public humanities is about being useful – working with the public, helping the public to understand, and express, culture; working with and in organizations that devote themselves to the public, and to the humanities. I hope, in short, that they have truly become public humans.
Please join me in congratulating them, and wishing them all the best.
(not pictured: Ashley Bowen-Murphy and Sarah Yahm)