Confronting grand social challenges with humanities

(February 25, 2019)

An English master’s student, a business sophomore and an urban planning undergrad walk into a classroom. There is no punchline here, and they are all in the right place. The apparent motley crew is gathered on a recent morning in February to take on a formidable task: The title of the course is nothing less than “Rebuilding Puerto Rico.” It’s one of three lab courses being offered during the spring 2019 semester through the ASU Humanities Lab, an initiative launched by University and Regents’ Professor Sally Kitch in 2017.

 “I started the Humanities Lab because I realized that our students were not benefitting from the kind of interdisciplinary, exploratory experiences faculty were getting through the IHR,” she said. “So I wanted to see if we could establish a way for students to get that experience; to recognize the humanities as important for approaching and addressing today’s challenges, because the kinds of questions that really plague us are humanistic at their core.

Issues the Humanities Lab will explore include information overload and race, genes and culture. Kitch is working on developing a certificate for the lab, which will be offered through the School of Social Transformation.

Early in the process of creating the lab, Kitch met with faculty from across the country at a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities to see what kinds of similar projects they had in the works. The only other institution that had a comparable, student-centric pedagogical unit was Duke University in North Carolina.

Arizona State University…