Humanities Institute

On This Page

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

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. Jerelyn Johnson, 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 HU 201, “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 

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 programming, events, and initiatives, and one for grants involving individual faculty development or research. 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) →

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

Call and Guidelines for Proposal →

Budget Planning →

Our next date for awards is August 1, 2020, for fall events.  


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 1, 2020, to be awarded for the 2020-21 academic year. 


Summer, Fall, and Spring Grant Recipients

The Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the results of the Summer 2019 grant competition. The project grants competition is judged by the Program Grants Committee, chaired by Dr. Jerelyn Johnson, Associate Director of the Humanities Institute. 

The following projects were identified by the Humanities Institute Program Committee as meritorious and worthy of support:

  • Dr. Michell Farrell, “Panel and Film Showcase: Cuba Today”
  • Dr. Shannon Kelley, "Folger Shakespeare Library Research Trip"


The Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the results of the Spring 2018 grant competition. The project grants competition is judged by the Program Grants Committee, chaired by Dr. Jerelyn Johnson, Associate Director of the Humanities Institute. 

The following projects were identified by the Humanities Institute Program Committee as meritorious and worthy of support:

  • Dr. Betsy Bowen, “Children's Book Publishing: Aesthetics and Careers”
  • Dr. Sara Brill, et. al., “Ethics Here and Now: Racial Justice, Reproductive Justice, Social Justice”
  • Dr. Michell Farrell, “Scholarship in Sound and Image: Workshop on Videographic Criticism June 2019” 
  • Dr. Anna Lawrence, et. al., "Black Feminist Activism: 25th Anniversary of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program"
  • Dr. Jo Yarrington, "The Bridge: A Pedagogical and Research-Based SciArt Intitiative 2019-2020"
  • Dr. Jiwei Xiao, "Jia Pingwa's 'Untranslatable Fiction' as World Literature"

Quick Grants

  • Dr. Shannon Kelley, “Get Ready for College" Workshop at Claytor Magnet Academy 
  • Dr. Marice Rose, “Countless Spects of Beauty" Exhibition at National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece
  • Dr. Jon Slotemaker, “Archival Work on Sentences in Libraries in Paris, France”

The Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the results of the Fall 2018 grant competition. The project grants competition is judged by the Program Grants Committee, chaired by Dr. Jerelyn Johnson, Associate Director of the Humanities Institute. 

The following projects were identified by the Humanities Institute Program Committee as meritorious and worthy of support:

  • Dr. Betsy Bowen, “Reading Slavery, Writing Freedom: FWP Ex-Slave Project”
  • Dr. Sara Diaz, “The Language of Food in Italian Culture: Pasta Practicum”
  • Dr. Sara Diaz, “Pane Amaro: Screening and Panel Discussion” 
  • Dr. Michelle Farrell, “A Close-Up of the Havana Film Festival, Havana Cuba”

Quick Grants

  • Dr. Lauren Gaskill, “Department of Modern Languages and Literatures Student Internship Panel" 
  • Dr. Elizabth Petrino, “Emily Dickenson Manuscripts: Robert Frost Library"

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 six Student Fellows are 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 2019-2021 Faculty Fellows for their investiture in their two-year seminar membership:

  • Dr. Michelle Farrell, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures 
  • Dr. Sunil Purushotham, Assistant Professor of History 
  • Dr. Dennis Keenan, Professor of Philosophy
  • Dr. Jiwei Xiao, Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures 
  • Dr. Robert Epstein, Professor of English 
  • Dr. David Crawford Professor of Sociology and Anthropology

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 2019-2021 Student Fellows for their investiture in their one-year seminar membership:

  • Grace Dembia '20 
  • Caroline Goulding '20 
  • Matthew Lerebours '20
  • Linnea Listro '21 
  • Arianna Tartaglia '20 
  • Nolan Wolfe '20
  • Justin Wooley '20

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.



Friday, October 4, 2019

Ethics Here and Now:
Racial Justice, Reproductive Justice, Climate Justice

Supporting Panels: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Barone Campus Center Dogwood Room
Keynote Panel: 4:30 - 6:30 p.m., Dolan School of Business Event Hall

Ethics Here and Now is a daylong ethics symposium designed to identify and amplify the calls to justice embedded within scholarly and activist approaches to climate change, reproductive politics, and racial injustice. Each panel will highlight both global issues and local expressions of these issues, and will include participation from faculty, students, and members of the community, as well as a collection of invited scholars engaged in groundbreaking work on the intersection of these issues.

Participants will walk away with a keener sense of the connections between the most pressing ethical problems of our day, and a deeper understanding of the modes of conceptual and practical cooperation necessary to address them.

Temp pic

September 14-16, 2018

Imagining the Coast
A Public Symposium on the Humanities and the Sea

Mystic Seaport and Ender’s Island, Mystic, CT

“Imagining the Coast” is a three-day interdisciplinary symposium that brings together artists, public historians, museums, scholars, and community members to discuss the importance of Connecticut’s coastline to our region’s history, culture, ecology, and identity, as its global connections.

Through a series of interactive panels, lectures, and exhibits, participants and will explore how our shorelines and maritime histories tell the story of our region— socioeconomically, politically, culturally, spiritually, and environmentally.

Search Results