Announcements From the VPR

Research Insights

Celebrating humanities & arts

December 2022

Last month at UGA, we celebrated the importance of artistic expression in all forms through our Spotlight on the Arts. That monthlong event, drawing participation from across campus and involving the efforts of students, faculty, staff and alumni, reminds us each fall that some ideas and passions can only be adequately communicated through art.

This past semester I participated in the UGA Community Music School (shout out to Director and musician Kristin Jutras for this wonderful program) and witnessed first-hand the hard-working students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, who spent endless hours in practice rooms, then presented dozens of concerts and recitals featuring music from classical traditions to jazz and contemporary styles. I met other music students, who spent time teaching community members like me, helping us find or reinforce our own personal connections to the arts. Our students are constantly sharing their creative work and igniting the world; their passion and talent is immeasurable and simply awe inspiring.

Try for a moment imagining holidays without music. You can’t do it. Throughout human history, there is no culture at any time or place that did not leave evidence of music making and dancing. These were always a critical component of the most important rites, celebrations and festivals. That alone reminds us that musical expression is fundamental to the human condition. A walk earlier this month through the UGA Special Collections exhibit “Georgia on My Mind: Finding Belonging in Music History” with University Librarian Toby Graham and Director of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Kat Stein served as a striking reminder to me of the seamless interconnectivity of music and being.

Regarding the human condition, this fall also marked a milestone for the university. Eleven years after UGA recognized that the arts deserved a dedicated, ongoing conversation on campus with the formation of the Arts Council, we have now reached the same point with the humanities. An idea conceived by our own Office of Research humanities communications working group and actualized by the Office of Academic Affairs, the new Humanities Council will bring together students, faculty and leaders to highlight, share and encourage innovation in humanities scholarship and community. One goal is to establish an annual event in the spring to celebrate the humanities, just as Spotlight enables us to do for the arts each November.

Nicholas Allen, director of the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts and Baldwin Professor in Humanities, chairs the Humanities Council, and the Willson Center will take a leading role in coordinating such an event. Each year, the Willson Center is Athens’ host to a global community of researchers, artists, teachers and creators, with a continuing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and serves as an Office of Research representative and window to UGA arts and humanities research and artistic creation.

I’m excited about the Humanities Council, which was first proposed through a humanities communications working group initiated in the Office of Research last year. And I look forward to supporting the Council members as they plan the inaugural spring event in 2023. We have so much to celebrate in this space—for example, the news that Natalie Navarette, a Morehead Honors College student and Foundation Fellow majoring in international affairs, Russian and Spanish, with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, was recently named UGA’s latest Rhodes Scholar. Or how about undergraduate commencement speaker and double major/double minor Michael Banks, who spoke so passionately to the inextricable importance of the arts and humanities in our lives, and the natural and wonderful convergence with other fields, and who challenged us to find joy in our respective journeys.

As we take a break next week from our overpopulated schedules to recharge and refresh, let us embrace the ways humanities and arts draw us together and help us celebrate the uniquely human.

Have a wonderful break; I’ll see you next year.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research