Humanities Center provides invaluable opportunities for English majors

by Victoria Slater, CAS communications intern

Nestled on the second floor of Bachelor Hall, English majors have a place to convene with experts from all the humanities disciplines to discuss culture and the human experience. Here, in the Humanities Center, students, faculty and world famous scholars alike swap ideas and share their expertise to answer the world's greatest questions.

According to Director and Professor Dr. Tim Melley, the Humanities Center, which was formed in 2009, provides a forum for people from the 11 humanities subjects at Miami to come together and work in collaborative groups, sharing different perspectives on a range of issues.

"The Humanities Center is really a hub that brings people together for debate and important conversations about humanities subjects," he said. "It helps build collaborations across people in the university, alumni and those in the public."

The point is to put those with differing backgrounds and skillsets together to answer the big questions, he said. For instance, a philosophy major may work with a linguistic professor on a theme woven through historical literature texts.

Melley said the English Department, one of the largest departments on campus, and the cornerstone of the humanities subjects, is a vital supporter of the center.

"The English Department has a deep connection with the humanities center – it is truly the hub of the humanities," he said. "Here, English majors have extensive opportunities to write and even get their work published professionally." 

The Humanities Center hosts 10-20 different programs a year, and each with an annual theme. This year, the Humanities Center is celebrating the "Senses," with conversations and guest lectures surrounding the theme.

One of the largest programs the Humanities Center features is the Altman Program, which brings experts in for lecture events, and whose "goal is to foster collaboration, pedagogical innovation and new research across the humanities at Miami," according to its website.

Within this program is the undergraduate Altman fellows program, a group of "outstanding undergraduate students," according to Melley, who "seek an opportunity to explore advanced scholarship in the humanities." These students work with a group of eight-to-ten faculty members on a year-long research project.

"What sets our Humanities Center apart from those at other institutions is our commitment to undergraduate learning, and supporting ambitious undergraduates with their research endeavors," Melley said.

This year’s undergraduate Altman Scholars include six English majors. Senior Jessie Motts (Creative Writing), who has only been a scholar since the beginning of the semester, is already deep into her research project – creating an interactive “Senses” display to be placed in Armstrong at the end of the year.

"What I love most about the Humanities Center is getting to meet all these different people and have really animated, enthusiastic conversations," she said.

Senior Thomas Yarcusko (Literature) echoes this sentiment. He was heavily involved in last year’s theme, the “Anthropocene.”

"I like that the Humanities Center makes real, face-to-face what we learn in the classroom," he said. "We can always read books and articles or watch films to learn; however, the Humanities Center creates the opportunity to take a learning a step further. We invite the authors of these books and articles and public figures to Miami University itself. We sit down with them, we ask real questions, we have real conversations, and we learn about the person behind the page."

He encourages all English majors to take advantage of the resources the Humanities Center offers.

"English is one facet of the Humanities and as English becomes increasingly more interdisciplinary, we have a duty to be so as well," he said. "The English major bridges the reader to the world. The Humanities Center bridges individuals to other worlds."