About Us

The Center for the Humanities promotes the cross-disciplinary, collaborative, and public humanities across and beyond the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We support traditional and new forms of inquiry in the humanities and engage the public through partnerships that broaden the ways that knowledge circulates.

On Campus

The Center’s impact on campus is profound. We bring national and international visibility to the humanities by pioneering new institutional models, fostering research and collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, and inviting luminaries to campus. We support faculty, students, and staff through fellowships, lectures, grants, research workshops, seminars, and curricular innovations.
Showcasing Outstanding Faculty

By promoting the university’s own distinguished humanities faculty, the Center helps to promote the humanities as essential to teaching, learning, and research. Through its Focus on the Humanities series (co-sponsored with the Institute for Research in the Humanities), the Center invites professors to deliver public lectures several times a year.  From English and African Languages and Literature professor Tejumola Olaniyan on postcolonial Africa's culture and politics, to History professor Mary Louise Roberts on military histories of the dead, humanities faculty continue to prove, again and again, that they can draw a curious, engaged crowd of campus and community members together for stimulating discussions that cut through academic hierarchies, and across disciplinary boundaries.

Offering Student Fellowships and Awards

Each year, the Center places Public Humanities Graduate Fellows in academic or full-year staff positions at established cultural institutions in Madison where they will have the opportunity to use their experience and expertise to develop new programs and expand existing ones. The Center’s Public Humanities Exchange program supports more than a dozen annual graduate research projects, convened outside the boundaries of academia, with partners as diverse as prisons, hospitals, and public schools. For undergraduates, there is the annual Iwanter Prize: a $2000 award to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding humanities scholarship.

Supporting Junior Faculty

The Center’s annual First Book Award provides both scholarly and collegial support for junior faculty members revising their dissertations into that all-important “first book.”  2009-2010 First Book Award recipient Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen saw her book, American Nietzsche, reviewed favorably in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Of the First Book program, Ratner-Rosenhagen said:  "As a junior faculty member, receiving an award to foster emerging scholarship at UW-Madison made me feel especially supported by my home institution.”

Nurturing Faculty Development and Interdisciplinary Work

Recognizing the value of inter-faculty exchange, the Center offers several opportunities for faculty to delve deeply into research, listen, and learn from one another. Faculty Development Seminars are designed to enhance the quality of humanities research at UW-Madison and to promote sustained collaboration and dialogue across disciplinary lines. The Center’s Borghesi-Mellon Workshops workshops enable faculty and graduate students to work together outside of the classroom, in working groups centered on an interdisciplinary topic, broadly conceived, drawn from any period, field, or method of research in the humanities.

Building community across campus

The Center’s Humanities Friday Lunches showcase the work of UW-Madison humanities scholars and faculty and offer an informal opportunity for conversation across disciplines. The series is open to members of the UW-Madison faculty, graduate students, and staff. Visiting scholars and fellows are welcome to attend; others should contact the Center to determine eligibility. Lunches are hosted by the Center for the Humanities with thanks to the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science.

Hosting Visiting Scholars

Jacques Ranciere on democracy. Jacqueline Rose on totalitarianism. Catherine Malabou on plasticity and the brain. Debjani Ganguly on the novel in a hypermediated era. The Center sponsors world-renowned visiting scholars whose work is on the cutting edge of humanities research, providing a welcoming, intellectually fertile environment with many opportunities for small discussion groups, shared meals, and one-on-one conversations with faculty and students, as well as evening talks that are open to the public.

Beyond Campus

We are an international leader in the public humanities. Our partnerships with schools, museums, libraries, nonprofits, and cultural organizations demonstrate the value of the humanities outside of the university and prepare students to transform society – from within the classroom or beyond it.
Great World Texts

This state-wide initiative, begun in 2005, connects UW faculty with high school teachers through the reading of a classic world text over the course of an academic year. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West, and Rousseau's Confessions are just a few of the great literary works taken up by the Great World Texts program. Faculty/teacher workshops throughout the year encourage interaction, on the UW-Madison campus, between high school teachers, their students, and the university community.

Public Humanities Exchange

Since 2004, the Center has supported a select number of graduate student projects convened outside the boundaries of academia.  Each graduate student-led project features collaboration with a community partner.  Now known as the Public Humanities Exchange, the program goes beyond volunteerism and the pure research model, to offer graduate students and partners the chance to form mutually rewarding relationships.  Partners are as diverse as the community itself, including Oakhill Correctional Institute, Veterans for Peace, Madison’s public high schools, Madison Public Library, the Aids Network, community gardens, hospitals, nursing homes, and many more. In 2016, the Center began supporting undergraduate projects as well.

Public Humanities Fellowships

Our fellowship program provides graduate students in the humanities with professional experience outside of academia. Recipients of the Public Humanities Fellowship will be paired with an established cultural institution in Madison for a nine-month (academic year) residency. These residencies will give fellows the opportunity to use their humanities experience and expertise to develop new programs, expand existing ones, and translate their academic skills into the public sphere.

Graduate Certificate in the Public Humanities

The Center for the Humanities offers a Graduate Certificate in the Public Humanities to humanities graduate students intending to explore careers outside of academia and trains students who wish to remain within academia to articulate new horizons for their research. The certificate adds a curricular component to the robust public projects already supported through the Center’s Public Humanities Exchange and Public Humanities Fellowship programs.

In Madison

The Center’s events inspire audiences. Our lectures and public conversations feature diverse ways of seeing the world – past and present. They are always free and open to the public, invigorating cultural and civic life across Madison.
Humanities Without Boundaries

Humanities Without Boundaries is the flagship public lecture series of the Center for the Humanities, drawing large and diverse crowds for talks throughout the year by artists, authors, poets, filmmakers, food writers, philosophers, theorists, and historians whose work crosses boundaries, elevates discourse, stirs curiosity, and invites audiences to inquire, critique, imagine, and engage on a wide range of topics. We've hosted Theaster Gates, Margaret Atwood, Wendy Brown, Michael Warner, Danielle Allen, and many more.

Humanities Without Boundaries is made possible by the Brittingham Fund, Inc. and the Anonymous Fund of the UW-Madison College of Letters & Science.

Focus on the Humanities

Our Focus on the Humanities: Distinguished Faculty Lectures showcase current research by senior faculty in the humanities at UW-Madison, and creates a forum for campus and community members to engage with cutting-edge ideas of historical, political, philosophical, religious, and literary importance.

Focus on the Humanities: Distinguished Faculty Lectures is presented in collaboration with the Institute for Research in the Humanities, and funded through the generous support of the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science.

Humanities NOW

Humanities NOW panels are convened to offer thoughtful perspectives from UW humanities faculty on breaking issues of our times. Our discussions offer a rare opportunity for community members and faculty to sift and winnow together, in the time-honored tradition of the University of Wisconsin, offering deeper insights and perspectives not found in general media coverage of disturbing, urgent events.

McKay Lecture in the Humanities

The McKay Lecture in the Humanities was established in honor of Nellie Y. McKay (1930-2006), Evjue Professor of American and African-American Literature at UW-Madison and pioneer in the field of Afro-American studies. The series is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities.

Festivals and Special Events

In addition to our main lecture series, we host and co-sponsor several special events yearly, including annual presentations as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's common read program, Go Big Read, as well as at the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Wisconsin Science Festival, and the Chicago Humanities Festival.


About the Director

Sara Guyer

Sara Guyer is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, where she has directed the Center for the Humanities since 2008. At the Center, Sara has concentrated on imagining a humanities that draws upon the rigors of critical theory, while encouraging established and emerging scholars to help shape public life. She is committed to research and thinking that reaches across institutional lines both within and beyond the university – and includes the sciences, arts, and professions. This emphasis on the public humanities envisions new audiences for research in literature, history, philosophy, and culture and is part of the reinvention of graduate education in the 21st Century. She is President of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI). During the 2018-19 academic year, Sara will take a sabbatical from her position as the Director of the Center and will return in the 2019-20 academic year.

Center Staff


Marion Ladd

Marrion Ladd has been at UW-Madison for twelve years serving in various capacities. Most recently, Marrion worked with the School of Human Ecology, and previously held positions in the Departments of English and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Marrion is the Center’s Administrator overseeing all financial, administrative, human resources, and payroll functions. A native of Minnesota, Marrion has three children and resides in Madison.

Associate Director

Emily Clark

Emily Clark received her PhD from UW-Madison, where she studied and taught in both the English and Gender and Women’s Studies departments. Her work has been published in journals including Hypatia, Feminist Review, and the Center’s own Humanities NOW blog. Prior to joining the Center, Emily served as Deputy Director of the Center for 21st Century Studies at UW-Milwaukee. She is also a Cleveland native, and LeBron James fan.

Assistant Director of Scholarly and Academic Programs

Megan Massino

Megan Massino received her PhD from UW-Madison, with concentrations in Literary Studies and the History of Science. Her research focuses on mathematic, poetic, and philosophical negotiations of reality and abstraction in the twentieth century. Duringher PhD study, Megan was a Marie Christine Kohler Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and taught courses in writing, literature, new media, and gender studies at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater. Megan grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and she still misses the mountains and telescopes.

Assistant Director of Public Humanities

Aaron Fai

Aaron Fai is a graduate of the creative writing programs at UCLA, UC Davis, and the University of Oregon. He directs the creative writing workshops at The Bubbler in Madison Public Library. He previously worked at the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters and served in Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan.

Events and Marketing Manager

Melissa Ulbricht

Melissa Ulbricht received a B.A. in English from UW-Madison and a M.A. in journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Melissa has over a decade of experience in marketing and communications with a focus on supporting nonprofit organizations that seek to improve the livelihoods of communities.


​Dipo Oyeleye

Dipo Oyeleye is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests are in Black Diasporic Anglophone Literature; African Digital Rhetoric, Visual Art, and Music; African American studies and Foreign Language Pedagogy. Dipo is a literary enthusiast, blogger, and an advocate for connecting scholarship in the Humanities to the needs of the public. He joined the center as the Public Humanities Exchange Program (HEX-U) coordinator for undergraduates. Dipo works with HEX-U scholars to design and implement community projects that draw upon humanities scholarship and methods.


Hannah Widmaier

Hannah Widmaier is an undergraduate student from Elmhurst, Illinois. She is a double major in Philosophy and English Literature and is interested in literary criticism and theory, especially aesthetic theory. Hannah works as a Writing Fellow and edits UW-Madison's undergraduate journals for literary criticism and Jewish studies; she is also active in Madison's Jewish community. Hannah hopes to continue her academic work in graduate school.

Advisory Committee

Faisal Abdu'Allah

Associate Professor of Art

Christy Clark-Pujara

Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies

John Dunne

Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, Center for Healthy Minds

Gregg Mitman

Interim Director, Center for the Humanities (2018-19)
Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies

Névine El Nossery

Associate Professor of French

Russ Shafer-Landau

Professor of Philosophy

Sarah Ann Wells

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies

John Baldacchino

Director, UW-Madison Arts Institute

Susan Zaeske

Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities; Professor of Communication Arts

Mustafa Emirbayer

Conway-Bascom Professor of Sociology

Cindy I-Fen Cheng

Associate Professor of History, Director of the Asian American Studies Program

Steve Paulson

Executive Producer, To The Best Of Our Knowledge

Lisa Martin

Associate Dean of Graduate Education and Professor of Political Science



Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes

Established in 1988, the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) serves as a site for the discussion of issues germane to the fostering of crossdisciplinary activity and as a network for the circulation of information and the sharing of resources.

Humanities Without Walls

Humanities Without Walls is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded consortium composed of fifteeninterdisciplinary humanities centers and institutes at Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pennsylvania State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.

Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life

Imagining America is a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to public scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. Public scholarship joins serious intellectual endeavor with a commitment to public practice and public consequence.

The Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library

UW-Madison is a member of The Renaissance Studies Consortium at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Funds are available for faculty and students to participate in Center for Renaissance Studies programs, to conduct research on medieval, Renaissance, or early modern topics, and/or to organize class visits to the library.


Institute for Research in the Humanities

The UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities sponsors research in the humanities, promotes interdisciplinary understanding of the humanities, and fosters a stimulating research environment of diverse scholars open to learning from each other.

Center for Culture, History, and Environment

The Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) serves as the main home at UW-Madison for the "environmental humanities" - fields that concern themselves not just with the mechanisms of environmental change, but with its human meanings. But the humanities have no monopoly on the claim that human culture - including ideas, behaviors, perceptions and values - matter in understanding anthropogenic environmental change. That is why CHE welcomes natural and social scientists as eagerly as it does humanities scholars: we all need each other to do this complicated and fascinating work.

Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series

Since 1987, Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) has contributed to broadening the educational experience of UW–Madison students and the community by bringing the smartest, most engaging, and influential people to campus, to encourage thought-provoking conversations and ideas.

Wisconsin School of Business

Founded in 1900, the Wisconsin School of Business established one of the first five business programs in the nation. That entrepreneurial spirit remains strong.

Located within one of the world’s leading public research universities, the School is a vibrant community that honors our university’s commitment to research and public service. We believe public research universities hold great untapped potential to address the world’s most complex challenges.

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) experiments with new ways of creating unlikely campus-wide interdisciplinary research teams that generate unexpected discoveries. Researchers at WID are dedicated to fundamental discovery, applied research, and new pathways to collaborations that will contribute to improving the health of people and the food supply in Wisconsin and the world. WID is located in the award-winning Discovery Building along with its partners the private, non-profit Morgridge Institute for Research and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Wisconsin Book Festival

The Wisconsin Book Festival is Wisconsin's premier literary event. Every Fall it draws a local and regional audience of 12,000-15,000 people for four days of author events.  It's year-round series of events has drawn more than 20,000 people to an additional 100 events over the past four years.  Madison's proximity to Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Iowa City makes it an easy addition to any tour through the Midwest.  As the State Capitol and home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison boasts an engaged and active literary community who have shown a dedication to supporting great author programming.

Chicago Humanities Festival

The Chicago Humanities Festival connects people to the ideas that shape  and define us, and promotes the lifelong exploration of what it means to be human. CHF fosters curiosity, celebrates creativity, explores the boundaries of contemporary knowledge and culture, and challenges us to see ourselves and the world anew.