Graduate Certificate

The Public Humanities at UW-Madison

Public Humanities is the extension of humanistic work and research into spaces and conversations beyond the university, in a sharing of ideas that enriches both higher education and the broader community.  It fosters ongoing projects that deepen the relationships between universities and wider publics, including those with the least access to or familiarity with higher education.

The public humanities builds upon what is already a longstanding tradition cultivated by the Wisconsin Idea, through which Wisconsin became the site of the first educational radio station in the country; some of the first extension programs for farmers, mechanics, and families around the state; and a campus whose boundaries became “the boundaries of the state.” Across Wisconsin and beyond, the public humanities participate in an emergent global conversation on the humanities, higher education, and the public.

Goals of the Public Humanities

The public humanities encourages graduate scholars to see public engagement as integral to their lives as intellectuals and teachers. It seeks to help them rethink and reimagine who, what, and where the public is, and what work public engagement can do, while drawing on the skills, practices, and questions that have long been essential to scholarship in the humanities. It recognizes that the increasingly dynamic and diverse population within institutions of higher education has transformed the scholarly paradigms of literary, philosophical, historical, aural, and visual studies, and seeks to build on this awareness to spark further creativity, reflection, and engagement.

Reflecting the trend towards university and non-university collaboration, public humanities-themed courses and workshops continue to be developed at UW-Madison to introduce graduate students to the changing vocabularies, methodologies, and approaches being defined by reciprocal models of higher education. Through their own departments and the Center for the Humanities' public programs, students can gain first hand awareness of the practices, ranging from digital studies to alternative research and to more traditional community service, by which the public humanities is increasing the visibility and relevance of textual, narrative, and creative inquiry through extensive partnerships. At the Center for the Humanities, public humanities events and programs allow students to transition and translate between various professional contexts, languages, and audiences.

Graduate students across the university should find the public humanities an exciting area  of practice and theory to pursue. It should be of interest to students seeking an interdisciplinary approach for professions including those in academic, non-profit, public service, media, and fine arts sectors. Please contact Jeff Kollath at for more information about how to get involved.


In order to assist students who are interested in the public humanities, we produce a list of courses each semester that have public humanities themes or that require non-traditional academic projects. These course lists are not exhaustive, but are rather intended to give students an idea of how the public humanities can become a part of their program of study at UW-Madison. More information about how these courses have been selected can be located here, on our Course Criteria sheet.

Spring 2015

Offered in Spring 2015: Core Course in the Public Humanities

Inter-LS 700: Public Humanities: Theories, Methods, Cases
Tuesday – 1:00 to 3:30pm – University Club Building, Room 313
Sara Guyer

This course will introduce graduate students to a range of methods, theories, and cases that represent the emerging field of the public humanities. Students in the seminar will be expected to read, practice, and experiment.  You will be asked to think about the limits, audiences, and outcomes of your research, about the possibility of “translational” research in the humanities (to borrow a term from the sciences), and also to engage critically with a variety of examples which may include public events, strategic reports, or institutions.  The final project will involve the design and in some cases implementation of a project based upon your scholarly research. 

Fall 2014

Spring 2014

Fall 2013

Spring 2013

Fall 2012

Spring 2012