Center for the Humanities Staff

Russ Castronovo

Position title: Director

Email: rcastronovo@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-890-1055

Megan Massino

Position title: Associate Director

Email: massino@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-890-0013

Marrion Ladd

Position title: Administrator

Email: mmladd@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-263-3412

Danielle Weindling

Position title: Assistant Director

Email: weindling@wisc.edu

Melissa Ulbricht

Position title: Events and Marketing Manager

Email: maulbricht@wisc.edu

Kate Miller

Position title: Intern, Center for the Humanities

Email: kamiller33@wisc.edu

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, and more.

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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, 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 year staff positions at established cultural institutions in Madison where they 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 and undergraduate community-engaged projects, convened outside the boundaries of academia, with partners as diverse as prisons, hospitals, community centers, and public schools. The annual Iwanter Prize offers a $2000 award to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding and interdisciplinary humanities scholarship.

Supporting Faculty and Student Research and Public Impact

The Center’s annual First Book Workshop provides both scholarly and collegial support for junior faculty members revising their dissertations into that all-important “first book.” The inaugural 2010 First Book Workshop recipient Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen saw her book, American Nietzsche, reviewed favorably in The New York TimesThe 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.” The Center’s Borghesi-Mellon Workshops workshops enable faculty, staff, and students to work together outside of the classroom, in working groups focused on research and public-facing projects, centered on an interdisciplinary topic, broadly conceived, drawn from any period, field, or method of research in the humanities.

Hosting Visiting Scholars

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.

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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, and students attend an annual conference hosted on the UW-Madison campus.

Public Humanities Exchange

Begun in 2005, The Public Humanities Exchange (HEX) program funds innovative public humanities projects that forge partnerships between community organizations and UW-Madison graduate and undergraduate students. HEX goes beyond volunteerism to offer both students and partners the chance to build mutually rewarding relationships that cultivate community. Each HEX project is a student-initiated partnership with a community organization that addresses an existing need in the Madison community and draws upon students’ research, interests, and expertise. The HEX program provides participating students training in community partnership, mentoring during project design and implementation, and professional development opportunities. Since 2005, HEX scholars have worked with over 125 community partners.

Public Humanities Fellowships

Our fellowship program provides advanced graduate students in the humanities with experience outside of academia. By placing fellows in partner organizations around Madison including museums, hospitals, non-profits, community centers, and emerging socially-engaged businesses, the program facilitates the reciprocal sharing of resources and expertise, and highlights the significance of the humanities both on and off campus. We aim not only to provide graduate students the opportunity to explore diverse career paths, but also to cultivate a practice of public humanities within their academic work.

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.

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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, historians, and more, 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 Tommy Orange, Sianne Ngai, Margaret Atwood, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Ato Quayson, and many more. Humanities Without Boundaries is made possible by the Brittingham Wisconsin Trust and the Anonymous Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Focus on the Humanities

Our Focus on the Humanities: Distinguished Faculty Lecture showcases current research by 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 lectures are 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.

Nellie Y. 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 African-American studies. The series is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities.

Tẹjumọla Ọlaniyan Memorial Lecture

“Bí a bá perí akọni, a ó fida lalẹ”! When the soul of the beloved is addressed, it is right that the gestures be proper.

This annual lecture was established in honor of Tẹjumọla Ọlaniyan (1959-2019), Louise Durham Mead Professor of English and African Cultural Studies, and the Wole Soyinka Professor of the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In a career that spanned over three decades, Professor Ọlaniyan pursued a unique, capacious, and generous vision of humanistic scholarship in the field of African literary and cultural studies, including the black world as a whole and extending beyond it. “My deep interest,” he once asserted with characteristic precision, “is transdisciplinary teaching and research. My goal is the cultivation of critical self-reflexivity about our expressions and their many contexts.” This series is co-sponsored by the Department of English.

Friday Lunch

Every semester, we host a series of popular Friday Lunch events to support the research of faculty from UW-Madison and the University of Wisconsin System. These informal, dynamic discussions are hosted over lunch at Memorial Union to foster academic discussion and provide a space for interdisciplinary dialogue and community building across campus. Friday Lunches are funded through the generous support of the Anonymous Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
In 2022-23, we were honored to have Friday Lunch with Laila Amine (English, UW-Madison); Claus Elholm Andersen (German, Nordic, and Slavic+, UW-Madison); Gerardo Licón (Latin American and Latinx Studies, UW-Eau Claire); Adam Stern (German, Nordic, and Slavic+, UW-Madison); Ainehi Edoro (English and African Cultural Studies, UW-Madison); and Sarah Ensor (English, UW-Madison).

Festivals and Special Events

In addition to our main lecture series, we host and co-sponsor several special events yearly, including partnerships and collaborations with the Wisconsin Book Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, and Havens-Wright Center for Social Justice, in addition to granting support to departments, centers, institutes, and student groups on campus so that they can bring top public intellectuals to engage with campus and the community.

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Steering Committee

Brian Douglas Benford

Position title: District 6 Adler (Madison, WI) and Success Coach for the UW-Madison Odyssey Project

Email: brian.benford@wisc.edu

Matthew Brown

Position title: Associate Professor of African Cultural Studies

Email: matthew.h.brown@wisc.edu

Joshua Calhoun

Position title: Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of Holding History

Email: joshua.calhoun@wisc.edu

Brittney Michelle Edmonds

Position title: Assistant Professor of African American Studies

Email: bmedmonds@wisc.edu

Eric Hoyt

Position title: Kahl Family Professor of Media Production and Professor of Film, Media, and Cultural Studies, Department of Communication Arts; Director of the Media History Digital Library; Director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Email: ehoyt@wisc.edu

Armando Ibarra

Position title: Associate Professor, School for Workers and Department of Labor Education

Email: aibarra@wisc.edu

Keisha Lindsay

Position title: Associate Professor of Gender & Women's Studies and Political Science

Email: knlindsay@wisc.edu

Grant Nelsestuen

Position title: Professor of Classics, Director of Integrated Liberal Studies, and College of Letters & Science’s Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities

Email: nelsestuen@wisc.edu



  • Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes
  • Humanities Without Walls Consortium


  • Institute for Research in the Humanities
  • UW Madison Libraries
  • Havens Wright Center for Social Justice
  • Center for Culture, History, and Environment
  • Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series
  • Wisconsin School of Business
  • Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
  • Wisconsin Book Festival
  • Wisconsin Film Festival


  • The College of Letters & Science
  • The Brittingham Wisconsin Trust
  • The Anonymous Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • The Evjue Foundation
  • Wisconsin Humanities
  • Nancy and David Borghesi
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Rawson J. and Bertha Pickard Letters & Science Fund
  • American Family Insurance
  • Promega Corporation