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A Message from the Dean

Welcome to the latest edition of the College of Humanities magazine. The stories inside reflect and demonstrate our college’s commitment to academic excellence and critical thinking. In these pages, we highlight the intellectual leadership and innovative research our faculty publish and produce every year. This year we ask a new question: how will Artificial Intelligence change what we do in the College of Humanities? You may be surprised to learn that we have been thinking about AI for years, long before ChatGPT came on the market. We are actively engaging with AI. We are also actively engaging with our past. Jim Tabery, professor of philosophy, published a significant article revealing the impact of coerced sterilization in Utah. He shows how 830 men, women, and children were victims of legal eugenics laws that allowed some state institutions to sterilize “unfit” patients as a way to mold the human population up until the 1970s. You will read about faculty from each of our seven departments engaged in scholarship that may surprise you and will definitely intrigue you. Their research covers topics such as the meaning of memory scholarship and why it’s important; an exploration of Afrofuturism; the misguided views of Black history and its consequences for Black Americans; understanding how language structures are built; bridging the gap between science and humanities; Jewish communities in Africa; and the complicated issues facing victim/survivors of domestic violence. You will read also about our new Great Books course that began fall 2023 and is already a success. A course for first-year students, the class features seven Humanities faculty members teaching works that have been influential in each of our college’s departments, including Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” Nora Ellen Groce’s “Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language,” John Durham Peters' “Speaking into the Air,” and José Medina’s “The Epistemology of Resistance.” The Tanner Humanities Center—the epicenter of our humanities research, outreach, engagement, and education—celebrated its 35th year by hosting a cohort of 10 research fellows from diverse fields and presenting an engaging lecture series on topics such as gaming, gender, Iranian politics, Indigenous poetry, economic inequality, the free market, climate change, mental health, and the role of science fiction in shaping collective futures. We hope you come away seeing how studying the humanities offers the best path to fulfillment, leadership, and a lifetime of engagement with the fundamental questions of our experience on this planet. One of the greatest pleasures of my position is experiencing powerful student energy as they explore history, storytelling, our ways of communicating, our deep thoughts, and ways of knowing. Humanities students are our future leaders, chroniclers, and knowledge-makers. We trust in them and will provide them with the tools they will need to succeed.


Hollis Robbins

Dean, College of Humanities
University of Utah
Last Updated: 10/30/23