The Humanities Institute at Penn State University

Promoting collaborative research on ideas

central to the pressing issues of our time.

Interim Director Tina Chen 2021-2022

We welcome Tina Chen, Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies, as our interim director for 2021-2022 while director John Christman is on sabbatical. Tina brings a long familiarity with the Institute and a breadth of knowledge of the College of Liberal Arts and the humanities, and we are grateful for her presence with us this year.

Tina Chen is Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University and author of Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture, which was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. Her national leadership roles include several stints as the co­-Chair of the East of California caucus for the Association for Asian American Studies; serving on the Executive Board of the MLA’s Division on Asian American Literature and the Speculative Fiction forum; and being the Founding Editor of Verge: Studies in Global Asias—an award-winning journal published by the University of Minnesota Press. She is the director of the Global Asias Initiative at Penn State and will be serving as the interim director of the Humanities Institute for AY 2021-2022.

Photo of Interim Director Tina Chen

Public Humanities in the Classroom Workshop Series

Led by Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow Elizabeth Gray, the workshops will introduce faculty and graduate students to forms of project-based learning, community engagement, and public partnerships. Participants will develop a public humanities component to an existing course and leave with a toolkit of approaches that can be applied in the classroom. The workshops can be taken individually or as a series.

Workshop 1: “Approaches to Public Humanities in the Classroom,” Friday, January 28, 3:30–5:00 p.m. EST via Zoom

Workshop 2: “Community Engaged Courses and Public Partnerships,” Friday, February 4, 3:30–5:00 p.m. EST via Zoom

Students standing in front of a mural raising up one hand.

Commonwealth Campus Center Nodes (C3N) Workshop

As part of a university initiative to create synergies across the Penn State University system, faculty at the Harrisburg and Greater Allegheny Penn State campuses, have produced a video series promoting the value of Humanities education, called “Humanities Works”.  The series is produced by Rosemary Martinelli and Catherine Rios.

Visit Commonwealth Campuses Collaboration Programs to view the recordings from this series.

Humanities Works Logo

HumIn Focus

HumIn Focus is a multi-part web series centering on pressing social issues through the lens of the work of humanities scholars.

Episode 5 of HumIn Focus, “Humanity Behind Bars: Incarceration in America,” premieres on WPSU on February 6th, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. This episode will also be available on the HumIn Focus website.

What is the purpose of prisons in America? Has mass incarceration in this country made society better in any way? What happens when we look at incarcerated people as true human beings? Humanities scholars and legal experts from the PSU community explain how we got here and what measures can and are being undertaken to improve the carceral system in this country. We also hear the voices of those behind bars whose lives are shaped by that system.   

The image shows the camera looking through the bars of a prison cell to see a bed and desk with books, paper, and pen.

From the Directors

The Humanities Institute at Penn State is committed to the development of humanistic ideas that connect with and are in the service of public concerns. As such, we declare our solidarity with those protesting police and other racial violence and the structural injustices that undergird and shape it. Our devotion to the study of history, philosophy, the languages, cultural studies and communication, connects us to the depths of injustice and suffering that current conditions manifest. We look with sorrow and solidarity to those victims of specific injustices and murderous assaults, both recently and throughout our history, and we support the voices of protest raised against them. We hope that the work we support can help in some way to bring to light and amplify our understanding of the complex historical and social dynamics that structure these injustices. For now, we join in the voices of protest against the forces of hate.

John Christman
Director

Lauren Kooistra
Associate Director

Humanities in the World

The Humanities in the World initiative includes funding for Visiting Scholars, Postdoctoral Scholars, and our Faculty Invites program.

Learn more about the Initiative
Find out more about Programming Resources for Commonwealth Campuses

Humanities Institute: Humanities in the World Logo

At the Heart of Every Other Question

In politics, business, and issues of social concern, the most trenchant challenges we face all rest upon fundamental questions about the human condition. What does it mean to be human, a citizen, a biological organism, a member of a society? What role does our history, and its complex conflicts and triumphs, play in our current confrontations? What responsibilities do people have for themselves and their environment versus what concern should be borne by the rest of us in a caring and just world? Where do we fit in the larger non-human world? Countless pressing social issues turn on abstract and longstanding questions that are at the center of humanities research.

Walls that Transcend Boundaries

By providing a space for faculty and graduate students in the humanities to address the fundamental questions that underly the most pressing issues of our time, we foster collaboration, innovative approaches to research, and outreach that brings humanistic discovery and thought into the public domain.

Initiatives to Inspire and Engage

In politics, business, and issues of social concern, the most trenchant challenges we face all rest upon fundamental questions about the human condition. What does it mean to be human, a citizen, a biological organism, a member of a society? What role does our history, and its complex conflicts and triumphs, play in our current confrontations? What responsibilities do people have for themselves and their environment versus what concern should be borne by the rest of us in a caring and just world? Where do we fit in the larger non-human world? Countless pressing social issues turn on abstract and longstanding questions that are at the center of humanities research.