The UC Humanities Network: A New Humanities Initiative for the 21st Century

In the University of California, as in the State of California, the humanities play a crucial role in preparing our students for the challenges of citizenship both at home and in our global society. More than ever, California, the nation, and the world need citizens who understand the languages, traditions, values, and histories of other cultures as well as our own. Globalization and our increasing cultural diversity at home call for the knowledge and comparative methods of the humanities, which are essential to building and sustaining multicultural and multilingual societies and a strong democratic culture. Understanding what it means to be human today and in the past can help us to define both identity and difference.

Our citizens need many forms of literacy in the 21st century: not just cultural literacy but also information literacy, to make sense of the information we retrieve at unprecedented rates and volume; visual literacy, to understand the power of old and new media; and ethical literacy, to think clearly about the difficult choices that we face charting the future of medical research, stem-cell research, nanotechnology, educational policy, human rights, and environmental and social sustainability. The stakes are high: rapid globalization and technological change require citizens who can make informed ethical choices in an increasingly complex and dangerous world.

In response to changing conditions, the new UC Humanities Network was developed and funded in 2009 by a 5-year grant from the UC Office of Research and Graduate Studies, incorporating and expanding the original UC Humanities Initiative launched by UC President David Gardner in 1986. This new initiative of the UC Office of the President is designed to support, stimulate, and facilitate excellence in humanities research across the University of California. Representing a dynamic new structure and vision for multicampus engagement and collaboration, the Network links together the Humanities Advisory Committee, composed of humanities deans from each of the campuses; the UC Consortium of Humanities Centers, represented by the faculty directors of the campus-based humanities centers and the nationally renowned UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI); and the UC President's Society of Fellows in the Humanities, a multi-tiered program of research fellowships for faculty and graduate students.

The Humanities Network is flexible and responsive to the needs of humanities research and humanities researchers. Leveraging the collective and collaborative strengths of our ten campuses, while respecting each campus's individual profile, it situates the humanities at the crossroads of important disciplinary and interdisciplinary discussions and debates, while promoting knowledge, discovery, and modes of understanding crucial to California and its local and global communities. Informed by a strong vision of intellectual engagement and intellectual community, this new initiative contributes to the excellence of the University of California and helps it to fulfill its mission as a great public research university.