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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Humanities Center open, ready for student designs

<rleton’s three-year-old virtual Humanities Center is about to get physical. Since the start of the 2011-2012 school year, the innovative center that was designed to foster the college’s intellectual and cultural life now has a tangible office in the Weitz Center for Creativity. 

“For the past three years, we’ve been a virtual center,” said Susannah Ottaway, chair of the history department and the director of the Humanities Center. “Now, my big challenge is to figure out how to best use this space.”

Planning for the Center began six years ago, when Carleton was awarded the New Initiatives Grant. With this, faculty started to think about what could be improved on campus. After a little research, they had their answer.

“Some of our other liberal arts peers have very well-endowed humanities centers because of generous gift donations,” said Ottaway. “That got us to look around to see what would work for Carleton.”

In 2008, the Center opened online after the project received former President Robert Oden’s approval. The main mission of the Center has been to combine multi-disciplinary subjects through the Humanities Faculty Research Seminar, which allows student-faculty collaboration through Summer Research Assistantships.

“That’s really the center of the Humanities Center,” Ottaway said. “We have people from psychology, biology, chemistry, political science, economics and music, all talking together.

 “That’s an amazing richness.”

Students and faculty can work together to come up with research projects that interest both parties. Instead of solely learning through lectures and classroom discussions, students can engage in research that goes beyond coursework; it truly lets them experience a field of study that interests them with a professor who is willing to lead the way.

“We don’t just cross departmental boundaries, we cross generational boundaries,” Ottaway said of this unique feature of the Center. 

The Humanities Center will host events that will be open to the Northfield community. These gatherings will take the form of a talk or shared seminar on a particular topic that a professor has been researching.

Ottaway said they plan to have one major event per term. 

But for now, the new space is calling for decoration. Since the Weitz Center and, by extension, the Humanities Center are fairly new, the office needs a boost of ornamental creativity. Ottaway put out a call for community creativity through the “What Do the Humanities Look Like?” art competition, where students are encouraged to paint, draw or sculpt their visions of the humanities, to be put on display in the Center.

Submissions are due Nov. 18; winners will not only get eternal fame, but a $100 prize as well.

“It’s a positive way to use the space,” Ottaway said. “We can now have a physical space for the humanities, which is not something that people at Carleton have in one place.”

For more information on how to submit a piece of work for the competition, email [email protected].

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