Promoting collaborative research on ideas central to the pressing issues of our time.

Who We Are


The Humanities Institute at Penn State is dedicated to supporting the generation and promotion of ideas in all aspects of the humanities and related disciplines.  We are committed to a collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit in supporting research projects at all levels of production and to help publicize the social value of humanities scholarship.  Through fellowship support, public lectures and conferences, workshops, and public outreach, we aim to support both Penn State faculty, other academics, and the wider public in ongoing discussion of the most pressing questions of our time.

The Institute serves as the central organizing hub for Penn State’s Humanities in the World initiative, an effort aimed at supporting humanities work throughout the university.  Investing significant new resources into the HI, this initiative will allow the expansion of existing programs and building new ones, all showcasing the social importance of the humanities.  These include an expanded program for visiting post-doctoral fellows, an invitation to senior visiting scholars, and continued production of the video series HumIn Focus.

The Institute also provides support for a wide variety of endeavors for the university community.  Faculty and Graduate Student Fellowships, workshop and conference sponsorships, lectures and public media are offered to support the efforts of faculty and students in discussions of the fundamental questions of the human condition.

Legacy of the Institute for Arts and Humanities

Fall 2017 marked the Inaugural Year of the Humanities Institute, an outgrowth of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities which flourished at Penn State for the previous 50 years (1966-2016).  The IAH generated numerous important initiatives and partnerships, successfully developed faculty research projects, and produced the highest quality public events, lectures and performances, all of which gave Penn State international exposure as a premier location for art and scholarship. The Humanities Institute proudly inherits this legacy, as we continue to build our own unique programs and public presence.


John Christman

(814) 865-0495

John Christman is a Professor of Philosophy, Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He is the author of numerous articles and books in social and political philosophy, specializing in topics such as the social conception of the self, theories of justice and oppression, and the idea of freedom. His books include The Myth of Property: Toward an Egalitarian Theory of Ownership (Oxford), The Politics of Persons: Individual Autonomy and Socio-historical Selves (Cambridge), and Social and Political Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge).  He is the editor of The Inner Citadel: Essays on Individual Autonomy (Oxford) and co-editor, with Joel Anderson, of Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays (Cambridge).

a headshot of Lauren smiling

Lauren Kooistra

Associate Director
(814) 865-4197

Lauren Kooistra, Associate Research Professor of Humanities, earned a Ph.D. in Music Education from Penn State University with a dissertation entitled The Experiences of Two Young Children in Informal Piano Lesson Settings: Expressions of Meaning and Value. Holding previous degrees in both Piano Performance (B.M., Gordon College) and Piano Performance and Pedagogy (M.M., Westminster Choir College), Lauren is interested in the ways that young children express and develop their musicianship within the contexts of their lived experience, with implications for learning and teaching. Her research focuses on the application of these aspects within piano lesson settings, and her scholarship has been internationally published and presented.

portrait of elizabeth

Elizabeth Gray

Assistant Teaching Professor and Coordinator, Public Humanities Fellowship Program

Elizabeth Gray earned her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Brown University. She is currently working on a book manuscript, The Poetics of Intervention: Art and Activism in Contemporary Latin America, which explores literature, performance, and protest in spaces of present-day crisis. The project centers on the artistic practices of excluded communities and amplifies innovative models for responding to social and ecological issues. She has worked as a public school teacher in the United States, Brazil, and Chile, and facilitates workshops in arts and social justice. Over the last fifteen years, she has also worked as a program coordinator and teaching artist in youth arts organizations such as The Center for Teen Empowerment, Books of Hope, and the Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival.

Billie Jo Moslak

Administrative Coordinator
(814) 865-0495

Headshot of Event Coordinator Elizabeth Garrett Ceres

Elizabeth Garrett Ceres

Event Coordinator
(814) 867-0100

Andrea Martínez Teruel

Andrea Martínez Teruel

Graduate Assistant

Andrea is a 4th year doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature, minoring in Latin American studies. She is positioning herself as a scholar of Hemispheric American studies, specializing in contemporary literature from Central America and the US Central American diaspora.

Megan Dale

Megan Dale

Undergraduate Intern: Graphic Designer

Megan Dale is a senior majoring in Graphic Design and minoring in Digital Media Trends & Analytics. She was a juror on the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for 2023 and is currently rebranding a small business in NYC. As an illustrator, she is planning to publish a self-illustrated children's book aiming to educate and help young children who are colorblind.