Creating Connections: UF’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere celebrates a decade of fostering cross-discipline collaboration

This year, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere is marking a major milestone: 10 years of creating connections across disciplines through funding opportunities, individual and team teaching awards, events, workshops, lecture series, writing retreats and more.

On April 5, directors of humanities centers from across the state of Florida will come together with the center and special guests here at UF for a 10-year anniversary celebration. In addition to presenting research projects in the humanities, the event will feature remarks from UF President Kent Fuchs, Florida Humanities Council Executive Director Steve Seibert and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Jon Parrish Peede.

As part of the celebration, a free grant workshop and office hours (by appointment) with Jeff Hardwick, deputy director of the Division of Public Programs at the NEH—one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S.—will be held on April 5 before the event.

“The initial idea for the center was to support those working in the humanities at UF and provide visibility and a sense community regarding these efforts in the public sphere,” said Rothman Chair and Director Barbara Mennel, who is also an associate professor of English and German.

Founded in 2005 and launched in 2009, the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). Its trifold mission is to facilitate and promote the research programs of humanities scholars at UF; provide a space within UF and CLAS for critical and collaborative discussions of the humanities that reach across and beyond individual disciplines; and provide a place for outreach to the community in which its collaborators live and teach.

At the very heart of the center’s mission and the pursuit of humanities in general is the question: What does it mean to be human? Explorations in the humanities are those that seek to understand, evaluate and communicate human experiences, values and aspirations to improve the human condition, encompassing everything from asking questions about how climate change affects people to exploring the relationship between people and the technology that we use. Though the traditional humanities fields are history, philosophy, literatures, languages, film, religion and the theory and history of theater, dance and art, humanities involves inquisitive endeavors across a vast variety of disciplines.

At the very heart of the center’s mission and the pursuit of humanities in general is the question: What does it mean to be human?

One of the center’s many achievements since its founding was receiving $400,000 in funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Intersections: Animating Conversations with the Humanities,” a three-year initiative in which four interdisciplinary groups of UF faculty and doctoral students from the humanities and allied fields are working together to address grand-challenge questions in their research and teaching. Participants are already engaging in scholarly exchanges about how values and the complexities of the human condition inform behavior in changing contexts, with each group being responsible for developing an undergraduate general education course proposal for the forthcoming UF Quest program.

“We consider the center an opportunity to connect conversations involving humanities scholarship and teaching that are already happening across campus as well as to inspire new collaborations,” said Mennel. “We really enjoy getting to see people learn from each other, share ideas and communicate across boundaries.”

Learn more about the center and its upcoming events at To be added to the center’s email list or to see if there is space left to attend the 10th anniversary celebration, email

Pictured above: Associate Director Sophia Acord (at left) and Barbara Mennel