Humanities Institute

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Message From The Director

Nels Pearson headshot

The humanities exist at an exciting juncture of traditional and evolving disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. More than ever, our world requires global citizens who can think historically, critically, culturally, and creatively. Its present and future depend on leaders and problem solvers who can transcend formulaic approaches, recognize the human dimension, synthesize multiple categories of knowledge, and articulate nuanced ideas to multiple audiences. The humanities are thus more relevant, and more instrumental in the professional and public lives of college graduates, than ever before. If you would like to hear more about the growing impact of the humanities on contemporary social and professional life, I encourage you to watch this video.

Here at Fairfield, the Humanities Institute has undergone its own renaissance. Founded in 1983 with the aid of an NEH challenge grant, then revitalized as a freestanding and multifunctional Institute in 2014, under the directorship of Dr. Ronald Davidson, we now enter a growth phase in which our aim is to broaden the impact of our programming, support, and outreach.

‌It is an honor to lead the Humanities Institute in its mission to promote the Humanities as the nexus of intellectual livelihood at Fairfield University. Among our recent highlights is an expanded Humanities Institute Seminar, directed by Dr. Kris Sealey, which welcomes six faculty fellows every two years, and six student fellows each year. Fellows receive reassigned teaching time to work on innovative research projects and support one another’s progress while also mentoring our eight student fellows, advising them in original research. The interdisciplinary seminar format provides valuable interactions between faculty scholars while also offering some of our top humanities students the kind of tutorial-based, one-on-one experience that will prepare them for graduate school or other intensive intellectual environments outside of Fairfield. 

The program grants committee, now directed by Dr. Ryan Drake, will look to continue and enhance its exemplary work in assessing and funding faculty projects. Recently funded projects range from restoration of ancient Greek art to representations of China in Italian film, and from mapping Irish emigration in Rhode Island to guiding veterans in the writing and performance of their remarkable stories. Each of the program grants has been successful in infusing the dynamic energy of the humanities into the fabric of the University̦.

One of the Humanities Institute’s core concerns, the Digital Humanities Consortium, co-directed by Dr. Ron Davidson and Dr. Shannon Kelley, is now a permanent part of the Institute, and will continue working with the DiMenna-Nyselius Library to enhance its web-based hub for the promotion and dissemination of student and faculty digital projects. Other planned initiatives of the Humanities institute include exciting new public humanities programming and outreach, as well as the new course  “Technical Skills for Liberal Arts Majors,” which will train humanities students in the specific software skills that surveyed employers say will make them competitive after graduation.

We will also continue to explore the possibilities arising from the recent formation of the School of the Humanities, including the ways in which the two entities in the College of Arts and Sciences will work collaboratively to promote teaching, scholarship, and initiatives in the Humanities.

We hope you will join us in the various events we are planning and connect with the remarkable faculty and students of this University as they ask difficult questions of themselves and their peers, seeking answers that challenge entrenched positions while also expressing intellectual generosity and empathy with others, whether in agreement or difference of opinion.

Nels Pearson, PhD
Professor of English
Director, The Humanities Institute in the College of Arts and Sciences
Fairfield University

Mission Statement

‌The Humanities Institute supports and promotes all aspects of humanistic inquiry and performance, as expressed in the scholarship, initiatives and organizations of the faculty and students of Fairfield University, whether on campus or in the wider community. In the Jesuit spirit of cura personalis, and through the employment of both traditional and digital media, the Humanities Institute advances interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange by assisting teaching and supporting research across the humanities and related disciplines. To this end, it seeks to create a hub of international humanistic discourse, with an emphasis on student-faculty mentorship.


Advisory Council

Digital Humanities Consortium

The Digital Humanities Consortium is an ad hoc committee of the Humanities Institute. It’s work has been supported by both the Humanities Institute and the DiMenna-Nyselius Library. For more information, please see the Digital Humanities Hub.



Interdisciplinary Programs 

About The Humanities Institute

Created by an NEH Challenge grant in 1983, the Humanities Institute in the College of Arts & Sciences is an endowed initiative established to ensure that the humanities will flourish at the heart of a Fairfield University education. Since its inception, the endowment has funded hundreds of lectures, events, film series, workshops, and seminars, as well as most of our successful curricular and engagement initiatives. Over the past 30 years, the Humanities Institute has been one of the most significant sources of educational innovation and change at Fairfield University.

Moving forward in the 21st Century, the Humanities Institute continues to lead the way in catalyzing humanistic inquiry and dialogue across disciplines to inspire, guide, and respond to transformations in our lives and our societies, contributing to imagining and creating a more just, humane, and sustainable future for humankind. The Institute revitalizes the University, placing our traditional strengths at the center of our strategic priorities and ensuring that our students are not only technically equipped to analyze, innovate, and address real problems in professional contexts, but intellectually and ethically capable of doing so in ways that fulfill our educational pledge and deliver on Jesuit education’s promise.

The Humanities Institute aims to: Humanities Institute

  • Support teacher-scholars in humanistic inquiry
  • Cultivate innovative teaching in the humanities
  • Participate in identifying, enriching, and assessing student learning, engagement, and outcomes
  • Partner with on and off-campus constituencies
  • Create an international hub for humanities teaching, research, and engagement 



Associate Directors

Apply For A Grant

Program Grants

HI Program Grants are for projects that enhance the educational experience of students and/or faculty development through programs or research in the humanities (history, philosophy, religion, language, linguistics, literature, archaeology, jurisprudence, and ethics, as well as the history, theory and criticism of the arts). Proposals in the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences that intersect substantively with humanities methodologies and disciplines will also be considered. All applications will be evaluated based on their potential contribution to teaching and research in the Humanities. Applications may be submitted by any CAS faculty member.  (Further guidelines available on the downloadable Call for Proposals).

*NEW! There are now two different applications available: one for grants involving faculty development or research; one for grants involving events, lectures and other campus and community programming. Both applications are available to download at the links below. Before applying, please review the updated Call and Guidelines for Proposals, also available below.

Program Grant Application (for programming, events, initiatives) (PDF)

Program Grant Application (for individual faculty development or research) (PDF)

Call and Guidelines for Proposal (PDF)

Budget Planning (DOC)

Application Deadlines are typically August 1, October 15, and February 10, pending annual calendar shifts of weekends and holidays.

Next Deadline: February 10, 2022


Quick Grants

The Humanities Institute is accepting abbreviated applications for its new Quick Grants program. Grants will be reviewed on September 1, November 1, December 1, January 1, March 1, April 1 and May 1.

NEW! Mid-Career Research Grants for Humanities Faculty

In order to expand and diversify the Humanities Institute’s support of the scholarship and/or creative projects of humanities faculty, we now offer a competitive grant for one course-release for an associate professor in the humanities. The intent of this grant is to provide support for associate professors working toward promotion. One grant per academic year will be awarded.

Eligibility: Rank of associate professor at the time of application. While priority will be given to humanities faculty and projects, all faculty with a research project in a humanities area are encouraged to apply for the course-release grant, including those whose project has a substantive humanities component but who do not teach in a humanities department. Projects with an evident path to completion are most competitive, but they may currently be at any stage of the process. Preference is given to faculty not participating in the Humanities Institute Seminar during the same award year as this Mid-Career Research Grant.

Application Deadline: February 10, 2022, to be awarded for the 2022-23 academic year. 

Summer, Fall, and Spring Grant Recipients

Humanities Institute Program Grant Award Winners AY 20-21

  • Summer 2020 Grant Awardees: Sunil Purushotham, “Maps for From Raj to Republic: Sovereignty, Violence and Democracy in India”
  • Fall 2020 Grant Awardees: Sergio Adrada Rafael and Laura Gasca Jiménez, “Understanding Heritage Language Learners’ Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in Mixed Language Programs”
  • Spring 2021 Grant Awardees: Jo Yarrington, “The Conceptual and Political Renaissance of the Domestic and Utilitarian Object:  Felting as a Redefining and Re-Assessing of Traditional Feminine Work”
  • Lauren Gaskill, “Drag and Activism: 1970s - 1990s in Images from One National Gay and Lesbian Archives”
  • Michelle DiMarzo, “Co-Curating with Students: Italian Renaissance Painting Exhibition”
  • Mid-Career Research Grant
  • Kim Gunter, Associate Professor of English, for her pioneering book-in-progress Factory Floors, Church Pews, and Kitchen Sinks: Counter-Literacies of the South’s Women Apparel Workers, 1964-1984.
Humanities Institute Quick Grant Awardees AY 20-21
  • Jo Yarrington, “Through a Different Lens”
  • Jo Yarrington, “Rememory as Praxis: Black Women Performance Artists”
  • Jo Yarrington, “Hosting Artist Yuchen Chang”
  • Sara Brill, “Aristotle on the Concept of Shared Life”
  • Laura Gasca Jiménez, Sergio Adrada Rafael, “Understanding Heritage Language Learners’ Critical Language Awareness (CLA) in Mixed Language Programs”
  • Cheryl Yun, “Hosting Artist Prof. Elizabeth Duffy”
  • Betsy Bowen, “Hosting Speakers for Contemporary Children’s Literature

Humanities In Action

Take a closer look at some of the innovative and educational faculty projects sponsored by the Humanities Institute.

Archives of Consciousness: Six Cuban Artists

Latino New York as a Teaching Canvas

The Humanities Seminar

The Humanities Seminar is a research and mentorship program for faculty and students conducting research in the humanities. We envision the Humanities Seminar as the leading edge of humanities research and mentorship at Fairfield University, with significant scholarly outcomes in both faculty and student scholarship in the humanities.

Six Faculty Fellows and seven Student Fellows were chosen to participate by a selection committee and work under the direction of the Associate Director of the Humanities Institute. Fellows work in an intellectual community on individual research projects, while engaging one another in conversations about methods, procedures, theoretical considerations, and other topics. In both fall and spring, Student Fellows join Faculty Fellows in regular meetings to discuss their research-in-progress.

All those having a project in a humanities area, even if their home department is outside the humanities, are encouraged to apply. Any questions about the Seminar and/or application process should be directed to Dr. Kris Sealey at  

Faculty Fellows 

The Humanities Seminar is a two-year commitment for Faculty Fellows. For each of the two academic years that they participate, Faculty Fellows receive a one-course reduction.

Congratulations to our successful 2021-2023 Faculty Fellows for their investiture in their two-year seminar membership:

  • Dr. Annemarie Iddins, Assistant Professor Communication 
  • Dr. Claudia Calhoun, Assistant Professor Visual and Performing Arts
  • Dr. Jerelyn Johnson, Associate Professor Modern Languages and Literatures
  • Dr. Lydia Willsky-Ciollo, Associate Professor Religious Studies
  • Dr. Elizabeth Petrino, Professor English, Director of Magis Core
  • Dr. Silvia Marsans-Sakly Assistant Professor History

Student Fellows 

The Humanities Seminar is a one-year commitment for Student Fellows. Student Fellows receive three credits and individual mentoring by a Faculty Fellow while completing an advanced research project in English, history, modern languages and literatures, philosophy, religious studies, visual and performing arts, or an interdisciplinary field with a substantive humanities component.

Student Fellowships are recommended for Humanities majors and minors, but are open to all exceptional students proposing advanced humanities research.  

Congratulations to our successful 2021-2022 Student Fellows for their investiture in their one-year seminar membership

  • Eula Valdez,  2022
  • Amber Aslaigh,  2022
  • Tracy Ferguson,  2022
  • Jack Martorano,  2023
  • Hannah Flanagan,  2022
  • Kelly-Ann McAlice, 2022
  • Sydney Youd,  2023

2019/2020 Student Fellows Research Presentations

2018/2019 Student Fellows Research Presentations

Humanities At Work

"Humanities at Work" is a series of lectures, panels, and resources devoted to recognizing the powerful and transformative role that a humanities education plays in society, as well as in civic and professional life.

The American Studies Workshop For Teachers

The American Studies Workshop for Teachers, a partnership initiative of the Humanities Institute, brings together secondary education teachers and Fairfield University faculty to explore the dynamic and interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Our expert faculty offers a wide range of collaborative, 1-2 hour workshops covering an array of historical subject matter from Women’s Rights, slavery, and religious freedom, to pop music, American art, and the 20th century space race.

Digital Humanities

The Humanities departments at Fairfield have made a commitment to exploring and using all emerging tools and technologies that aid in digital humanities, both in faculty research and in classroom and pedagogical applications. The University's digital humanities hub shines a spotlight on the various digital projects being conducted by faculty (both individually and with students) across the College of Arts and Sciences’ humanities departments.

Recent Events



From Raj to Republic: Sovereignty, Violence and Democracy in India with Sunil Purushotham, PhD in conversation with Dr. Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza

Wednesday, March 31
5 p.m.

Virtual Launch and Discussion of the new book From Raj to Republic: Sovereignty, Violence and Democracy in India (Stanford University Press) by Sunil Purushotham, PhD, Associate Professor of History and Humanities Seminar Fellow, Fairfield University in conversation with Dr. Jesús F. Cháirez-Garza, lecturer in modern history, University of Manchester.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, Director of Digital Humanities, Michigan State University

Wednesday, Sept. 23 @ 5 p.m.

Dr. Fitzpatrick is author of Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University (2019), Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (2011), and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (2006). In Generous Thinking, she argues that universities can help overcome distrust of academic specialization by moving from isolated and competitive models to those that encourage collaboration, community, and public dialogue. She will talk with Nels Pearson, PhD, about why these approaches are all the more crucial given current events.

Lauren Alleyne Poet and Associate Professor of English, James Madison University

Monday, Oct. 5 @ 5 p.m.

Alleyne is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Difficult Fruit (2014) and Honeyfish (2019) and assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. She will read from recent work that speaks to issues of race, state violence and protest, and engage audiences in discussions of how poetry allows us to see the human dimensions of these issues as well as to represent experiences that are difficult to speak about.

Yolanda Wilson, PhD, Fellow, National Humanities Center and Encore Public Voices

Monday, Oct. 26 @ 5 p.m.

A former visiting scholar in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Wilson will discuss intersections of race ethics and medicine in light of the pandemic. Her work on medicine, bioethics, and social justice has appeared in some of the most highly regarded academic journals in bioethics, philosophy, and public health. She is also a widely respected public voice for these issues across multiple media platforms.

Gniesha Dinwiddie, PhD, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Tuesday, Nov. 17 @ 5 p.m.

Dr. Gniesha Dinwiddie is a medical sociologist and social epidemiologist with expertise in the social determinants of health, cardiovascular disease epidemiology, chronic disease management, and health services research. She will host a moderated question and answer session on race, class, and the pandemic. She will discuss research approaches for studying the effects of Covid-19 and how mixed-methods research focused on race and class give us a more holistic picture of the pandemic.

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