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Provost’s Action Plan for the Art & Humanities


Vanderbilt’s past and future rest on our incredible strength in the arts humanities and our nuanced understanding of their potential for lifting up and bettering the human experience. The following outlines the Interim Chancellor and Provost’s most recent action plan to amplify, enhance and advance the arts and humanities at Vanderbilt.

The plan is aligned with the Academic Strategic Plan and responds to recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Humanities Committee’s manifesto and recommendations, the October 2018 Chancellor’s Town Hall for the Arts, and feedback gathered through various other channels. Feedback may be submitted to Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente by completing this anonymous online form.

Initiatives Underway

The University Arts Council

A new Arts Council will advocate for all of the arts at Vanderbilt including related scholarship, performing arts, visual arts and literary arts. The Council will also provide strategic direction for the university’s Educational Art Collections. The Council will be formed in the Fall of 2019.

Arts & Humanities Rapid Response Micro-Grant Fund

The Arts & Humanities Rapid Response Micro-Grant Fund is designed to enhance and advance the arts and humanities at Vanderbilt. Specifically, it aims to provide faculty the ability to seize opportunities and carry out new collaborations, ventures, projects or outreach. The program is intended to support either time-sensitive projects or projects that are not conducive to current funding models such as Research Scholar GrantsTrans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) or Discovery Grants.

Robert Penn Warren Center Strategic Review

With a strong reputation as a regional and national advocate for the humanities, how can the Robert Penn Warren Center build on its current foundation to position itself for success in the years ahead? How can it take support for scholars and scholarship in the humanities to the next level? How can the center bring additional outward facing visibility and prestige to Vanderbilt’s humanists? The College of Arts and Science assembled a committee to review all aspects of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities to answer these questions. Through a series of interviews and focus groups, the committee assessed the center’s operations, leadership structure, programming and resources.

The committee recommended that a faculty member with substantial trans-institutional experience be appointed to replace Mona Frederick, following her retirement after 30 years of dedicated service as Executive Director of the Center. The new Director, Holly Tucker (Mellon Foundation Chair in the Humanities and Professor of French) has been tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Strategic Review Committee and to expand the scope of trans-institutional research and teaching in the Humanities.

In Fall 2019, the Humanities Center will host “Humanities 20/20,” a day-long working conference for Humanities-centered faculty members from across campus. This conference will inform the Strategic Plan for the Warren Center. 

“These efforts converge together to expand our focus on society’s original and essential forms of connection: the arts and humanities. The arts and humanities are critical to our leadership in discovery and learning.” – .”
– Susan R. Wente, Interim Chancellor and Provost

Trans-Institutional Capital Planning

In the spring of 2018, the Provost launched a discovery process to understand the university’s current facilities and capabilities that serve the Humanities, as well Social Sciences in the Arts and Science historic core of campus, and to develop a trans-institutional plan for the future. Day-to-day leadership for this project transitioned to the College of Arts & Science in the fall 2018. While largely focused on A&S, synergies and opportunities for collaboration were explored with the Central Library as well as the Blair School of Music and the Divinity School. After several months of analysis, data collection and engagement with faculty, students and staff, the process culminated with recommendations that are being developing into short, medium and long-term plans for renovating and expanding upon the A&S Historic Core buildings.

The “Online” Face of the Arts & Humanities at VU

To boost visibility of Vanderbilt’s arts and humanities globally and to ensure that the depth and breadth of the humanities is showcased, a robust web portal was designed to showcase the humanistic work being done at Vanderbilt. This portal serves as a gateway to relevant faculty resources across campus and is part of a larger effort to promote other categories of research and scholarship in broad categories such as the Biomedical and Life Sciences, the Physical Sciences and Engineering, and the Social Sciences across schools and colleges as part of the trans-institutional One Vanderbilt vision. This new Arts and Humanities portal complements the Center for Digital Humanities outreach, which continues to provide support and intellectual community for creative and scholarly projects that explore the intersections of digital technology and humanistic inquiry.

Opportunities to Develop New Courses

The Humanities Manifesto called for the creation of a course that allows students the opportunity to explore the existential question “what is human.” Currently, in addition to school-based special topic courses, two programs exist that offer faculty the opportunity to innovate and develop new courses for students and could be leveraged for this purpose. iSeminars, launched in spring 2017, provide first-year students the opportunity to pursue passions and explore topics of interest through a series of optional, one-credit Immersion-related seminars. The iSeminars are designed to help students begin thinking about what their immersion plan might be. The University Courses program, meanwhile, allows faculty to reach beyond departmental and school/college boundaries to deliver innovative classes on significant subjects to a diverse cross-section of undergraduate and graduate students from each of Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges.

Global Fellows Program

Reports made by the Chancellor’s Humanities Committee, the International Strategy Working Group and the Vanderbilt University Research Council all call for visiting faculty fellow programs of varying types. Availability of suitable accommodations for visitors is a key challenge cited by these many campus groups. The construction of the 305-foot, 20-story iconic tower in Residential College-A creates an opportunity to dedicate space on campus for both housing and programming for visitors brought to campus through various programs. A university-sponsored visitors fund will provide existing or new programs a source of co-investment funds to bring distinguished individuals to campus, and an opportunity to house them and hold related meetings and events in the tower. The draft framework is being developed along with a timeline for implementation.

Space for the Arts in Residential Colleges

Bronson Ingram includes a dance studio and an art gallery. Residential College-B will have a black box theatre. Putting space for the arts in such close proximity to students not only meets a significant demand it demonstrates the priority the university places on the arts. Additional opportunities to include space for the performing, literary and visual arts will be considered in the design phase of all future residential colleges.

Trans-Institutional Task Force for the Digital Humanities

The College of Arts and Science, in partnership with Blair College, Peabody College and the School of Engineering, has launched a trans-institutional task force aimed at integrating the Digital Humanities at Vanderbilt.

Co-chaired by Madeleine Casad, Center for Digital Humanities Executive Director, and Lynn Ramey, Center for Digital Humanities Faculty Director and Professor of French, the task force will focus on identifying and addressing the needs of faculty outside the STEM fields who use digital technologies for research, public engagement, scholarly communication, artistic expression and innovative teaching. The committee will recommend ways to build synergies among the diverse set of disciplines that comprise Vanderbilt’s academic community.

In addition to faculty from the College of Arts and Science, Blair College, Peabody College and the School of Engineering, the committee includes representatives from the Wond’ry, the Data Science Institute and the Vanderbilt Library.

Digital Commons

A Digital Commons is planned for the 1101 19th Avenue building which is currently undergoing renovations. The Digital Commons is defined as the home for trans-institutional digital technicians who enable faculty innovation and creativity. The Digital Commons will help the university stay at the cutting edge of the rapidly evolving landscape of education technologies and digital discoveries impacting faculty research, scholarship, and teaching.

Plans for the Digital Commons include a state-of-the-art media lab classroom, a green room for producing videos, an editing room and digitization space, in addition to open office and collaboration space. The commons will include a new home for the Digital Humanities Center and will bring together trans-institutional digital technicians and resources from other units across campus.