The Center for Public Humanities bridges the University’s goals as stated in the Building on Distinction themes of “Cultivating Creative Expression,” “Exploring Human Experience,” and “Creating Peaceful, Just and Prosperous Societies” and in the aims of the Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion plan. We do this by working collaboratively with both campus and local partners, as well as through careful consideration of the pedagogy, faculty, and students in the Public Humanities Master’s Program. As part of the American Studies Department and the Ethnic Studies Program, we participate in the programming and full-time faculty recruitment in those two units. The Center also hosts its own programming; collaborates with local, national, and international partners; hires professors of practice to teach MA in Public Humanities students; and raises and allocates funding for the MA students. In all of these activities, we hope to deepen and improve our commitment to diversity and inclusion over the next five years.
Issues of race, social justice, and inclusiveness form the basis of how we understand public humanities. We seek to learn from those diverse communities whose knowledge has been overlooked by the University and to share the University's knowledge with those outside its gates. We work to research how best to practice these forms of "public humanities" and share our understandings both within and outside the university because our mission includes continuing exploration of the meaning and importance of the study of public humanities. Fulfilling that goal, we hope to explore the idea of “public humanities” as a site for exploring the epistemologies of marginalized people, what might be considered alternative knowledges, and bringing those ideas into the university.
With those bigger goals stated, this report considers our plans under the following categories:
A committee met several times to discuss the DIAP and to plan meetings to gather more information. The committee had representatives of the following: faculty fellows, post-doctoral fellows, MA students, and staff. The faculty and community fellows devoted a meeting to discussing the plan and the students, staff, and post-docs convened for a lengthy discussion, run by student members of the committee. The following plan, based on these discussions, was reviewed and revised by the committee.
As the Center that works directly with local organizations serving the wide range of communities of color in Rhode Island, we are acutely aware of the barriers to professional training for many under historically under-represented groups who seek to work on racial and social justice issues. We also know that students who train to lead in the non-profit world often lack both funds to afford graduate school and opportunities to earn large salaries to pay back student loans. We therefore seek to admit and graduate more students from under represented groups to lead the many important cultural and arts organizations that serve communities of color, to support more students financially through the program, and to help change the way we all think and talk about racial privilege and social justice.
As a baseline, the Center and the Department of American Studies admit about 10 students each year in a two-year professional MA in Public Humanities program. From the beginning of the MA program in 2005, the diversity of the MA students has been a primary concern. The Center provides all students who request financial aide a minimum of 40% tuition waiver; a term time part time (10 hours a week) job; $3,000 summer funding; and a $1,000 professional development fund. With these relatively high rates of funding, we hoped to attract a diverse group of students. Our highest level of student representation from under-represented groups was in the May 2015 graduating class, which included one African American, one Latino, and two international students.
Additionally, in the last five years, the Center has collaborated with University partners (including the John Hay Library, the Instructional Technology Group, and the David Winton Bell Gallery) to provide a few, heavily recruited, students with partial fellowships at the rate of $15,000 a year (minimum) to work up to 20 hours a week. Further, and most importantly, we have been fortunate to have one student each year supported with a full Fellowship for the Study of the Public History of Slavery in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice which provides a stipend at the PhD level, full tuition, and summer funding.
The MA Program in Public Humanities will work to increase our admissions to 12 students a year, with four from historically under-represented groups. We consider international students to be under-represented but will count only one per year in our four student goal. In order to reach this goal, we will need both to recruit more broadly and also to increase funding offers to four full fellowships and two partial fellowships available to students from under-represented groups.
The Center will work with the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Office of Institutional diversity to add partial fellowships. For AYA 2016-2017, two students will work with the CSREA and OID, and we hope to continue those fellowships for at least the next four years.
We have been in discussions with the Native and Indigenous Studies Initiative, and within their proposed budget is a full fellowship (parallel to our collaboration with the CSSJ) to fund a student interested in Native cultural representations at the level of a PhD stipend, full tuition waiver, and summer funding.
The Center is discussing with the Rhode Island School of Design Museum a funding initiative, which they would lead, to fund a student in “Latino Arts and Community Engagement” at the same level as the Public History of Slavery Fellowship sponsored with the CSSJ. The Center has put forward a proposal, which the RISD Museum is considering.
Our baseline will be the AYA 2015-2016. In five years, we will have 25% of our entering MA class as members of under-represented groups; and we will have raised two additional partial fellowships and two additional full fellowships, devoted to students from historically under-represented groups.
The Center’s mission includes the on-going revision of the definition of Public Humanities through its teaching, research and programs. In continuing discussions around diversity and inclusion, students asked for two curricular innovations:
- New courses which take diversity and public humanities as their core topics, using intersectionality as a lens to understand the field; and
- A new way of understanding public humanities that moves away from a “one week on race” model that many courses have adopted; rather, issues of diversity and inclusion should be woven throughout a course syllabus even when its primary topic is not diversity.
Beginning in AYA 2016-2017, we will have at least one course a semester that takes diversity and public humanities as its central topic. In Fall 2016, Adjunct Assistant Professor Micah Salkind will teach “Decolonizing Public Humanities: Intersectional Approaches to Curatorial Work & Community Organizing.”
In addition, a student/faculty/staff committee will prepare a curriculum guide on teaching diversity for the many practitioners who teach part-time in the program, so that our adjuncts will understand the ways in which the students and full-time faculty understand these issues. The Center Director and the DGS, in consultation with student representatives, will review and revise the curriculum guide each year and ensure that each adjunct faculty member receives a copy before they prepare their syllabi.
The Center, through its Director, will work with the Department of American Studies to continue to hire in the intersecting fields of ethnic studies and public humanities and to encourage American Studies and Ethnic Studies faculty to teach Public Humanities courses exploring race and public humanities.
The Center hires a series of adjunct professors, mainly practitioners in the field. We plan to ensure that there are enough faculty members to teach the courses as outlined above, and we will hire at least one adjunct a year who is a member of a historically under-represented minority.
The Center is a hub of collaboration, enabling critical connections between underrepresented populations outside the university with everyone inside through our work on building exhibitions, interactive websites, programming, and other ways of tying the university to diverse publics. In addition to the different forms of learning that producing this content requires, our collaborations with local, national and global organizations have been opportunities for students to find ways of including and valorizing people and perspectives that are often excluded from traditional academic disciplines. The Center’s pedagogy rests on sharing authority with institutions of diverse kinds with diverse staffs. Specifically, through our Center in just the last two years, students have collaborated with organizations like the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Rhode Island Latino Arts, the Center for Reconciliation, Providence’s West Broadway Neighborhood Association, the Humanities Action Lab’s national exhibition on mass incarceration, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, among dozens of others. In aggregate, these collaborations have been ways by which our students, and other Brown community members who have interacted with their curation, writing, and programs, have mitigated some of the exclusions upon which the university’s normal operations are predicated, to the benefit of all.
As a historically white and elite institution, Brown’s actions, particularly with respect to Providence and Rhode Island, sometimes tell our students a destructive story about how the University approaches diversity. We use what one of our community partners calls a more "bi-lateral" vision of the University that seeks to both learn from and serve the community. We have begun this work by adding “Community Fellows” to our “Faculty Fellows” program and have welcomed staff from the Providence Atheneum, UPPArts, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and the Rhode Island Foundation. Each fellow receives a desk at the Center, a research assistant from the MA program (salary paid by the Center) and a research fund (also paid by the Center).
In the next five years, we will revise and extend our Community Partnerships program, ensuring that the majority of the partner organizations serve poor and/or minority communities.
We will pay particular attention to the Community Fellows program to ensure that we work with rising administrators of color in Rhode Island’s arts and culture organizations. In five years, we plan to have worked with 10 such leaders.
We will undertake an exploration of the intersections between the social sciences and their community interactions (described as “civic engagement”, among other terms), particularly with the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. We seek to understand what the social sciences can teach the humanities about university/community collaborations around issues of social and racial justice. We plan at least one reading group and several publications.
Programming at the Center for Public Humanities revolves primarily around student projects, innovative conferences, and lunch talks which bring together all our constituencies (students, faculty and community fellows, post-docs, staff, and faculty). With changes in the Community Partnership programs, there will be more diverse organizations with which students can work in practicums (internships) and class projects.
We will focus at least one conference a year on issues of representation or social justice. Beginning in September 2016 with “The Prison Education Movement: Does Brown Have a Role?”, will bring interested Brown faculty and students together in conversation with representatives from Bard, Cornell, and Princeton to discuss the possibility of offering credit for Brown-taught courses in Rhode Island’s Adult Correctional Institution. A second conference is being planned for December 2016. This conference, formed through our continuing collaboration with the CSSJ, centers on “Slavery and Global Public History: New Challenges” and will be co-sponsored with Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Institute and the National Museum of African American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Finally, rather than starting a new lecture series on race, inclusion, and diversity, we will continue these ongoing conversations at the Center by devoting 25% of our regular lunch talks to these topics. We will re-evaluate this after one year and consider whether a more concentrated emphasis involving a separate series would be more successful.