Building connections in the humanities

Group in front of the Hall Center

There’s more than meets the eye behind the arched columns of the Hall Center for the Humanities. A new way of thinking about discovery is unfolding.

Humanists tend to be individual researchers. But Hall Center Director Victor Bailey has made collaboration central to its mission, and private philanthropy is helping pave the way.

Laying a new foundation

A challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, matched by other donors, will assist humanities faculty members conducting innovative research who are willing to collaborate with other faculty, within or outside their disciplines, or even with other organizations. The center also received private backing for a post-doctoral program in the digital humanities. “You can’t do digital humanities without collaborating with librarians and other academics,” Bailey said.

Another impetus for the center has been to bolster support for graduate education in the humanities. The Hall Family Foundation provided seed funds for a program that provides four dissertation fellowships for exceptional students. “The more we can bring in high quality graduate students to KU, the happier the faculty are,” Bailey said.

Opening doors

Private contributions are expanding career options for graduate students through the center’s Applied Humanities program, which helps students land jobs outside of academia by connecting them with employers in other fields. The center also awards 10 scholarships per year to outstanding undergraduate students. It gives them the opportunity to meet and dine with renowned international scholars visiting KU as part of its Humanities Lecture Series.

“There is a strong commitment at KU to the student body, which sets us apart from other large universities,” Bailey said. His work exemplifies this: In addition to running the center and holding the Charles W. Battey Distinguished Professorship of Modern British History, he also teaches a freshman class.

Bailey’s dedication and leadership have brought global attention to the humanities at KU. This motivated the Hall Family Foundation to permanently endow the directorship of the center to ensure it continues to attract the same caliber of leadership in the future.

The support the Hall Center received during Far Above cemented its stature at the forefront of the humanities and as a point of pride for the university.