Note from the Director

What does it mean to be indebted – politically, economically, artistically, or ethically? In 2016-17, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities tackles this expansive question by activating a campus-wide conversation on the theme of DEBT. Capaciously interpreted and explored through an interdisciplinary lens, the Kaplan Debt Dialogue series will bring audiences together from a multitude of departments and fields of study in over 17 events, and will feature prominent figures such as Anna Deavere Smith, Louis Hyman, and Clara Han, among many others. I invite you to add your voice to the conversation by attending our events.

Kaplan will, as always, host a range of dynamic performances, workshops, and talks, both scholarly and artistic; sponsor fellowship competitions designed to support humanities faculty and student research; and organize an innovative curriculum of classes positioned at the intersection of humanities disciplines.

I’m delighted to welcome our inaugural cohort of Franke Fellows. A highly select group of undergraduate and graduate students, the Franke Fellows receive mentorship and financial support designed to help them develop individual humanities projects or dissertations within an interdisciplinary setting. The Franke Fellows join our core Kaplan community of faculty and students, which meets weekly to discuss new issues and research at our lunch colloquia.

Our Kaplan community is expanding in other ways, too. This fall, Kaplan welcomes its newest faculty member, Doug Kiel, a scholar of Native American History, jointly appointed in humanities and history. We are also excited to have two new postdoctoral fellows joining us: Hi’ilei Hobart (Native American/Indigenous Studies and Food Studies) and Elizabeth Schwall (Mellon Dance Studies).

Let me also introduce the newest member of the Kaplan Institute team, Rosie Roche, who serves as Northwestern’s first Arts Manager. Rosie will work to connect the arts at Northwestern to students, faculty, staff, and the community and to facilitate exciting collaborations between different arts disciplines and departments on campus.

This marks the third year that Kaplan will be a consortium partner of Humanities Without Walls (HWW), an initiative of humanities institutes in the Midwest funded by a 4 million dollar Mellon grant. This year’s HWW programs include a national alternative academic summer workshop for graduate students and a new grand research challenge, “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”

Unlike many humanities institutes, Kaplan has a mission to provide vigorous nurturance and support of undergraduate education, both in and out of the classroom. We are again hosting a two-week faculty workshop on developing digital tools to support innovative pedagogy; the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program will offer a brand new pre-orientation experiential learning program for its incoming first-year students; and undergraduates from any major in any Northwestern school again have the opportunity to enroll in our spring break program, The Humanities Plunge (an immersion in the life of Chicago), and our Global Humanities Lab course, which this year travels to Vienna.

We are always considering new ways to broaden our public humanities footprint. Our collaborations with the Chicago Humanities Festival and the Evanston Public Library continue to thrive and we are exploring possibilities to expand our support for teaching in prisons.

Finally, after two years in a temporary swing space, the Kaplan Institute has relocated back to its permanent digs in the recently-renovated Kresge building. It’s invigorating to once again inhabit a place at the heart of campus life. Being back in our new but familiar space, we are optimistic about new opportunities and connections that will come in the next year. Please join us!  

Wendy Wall

Director, Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching
Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities
Professor, Department of English