PRF 22-23: Engaging Humanities


PRF is excited to announce that two of its co-founders, Molly Hiro and Jen McDaneld, have won a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for their project “Core Humanities: Integration Through Curriculum, Campus, and Community.” The grant will fund the development of engaged humanities core Exploration courses and the foundational planning of an Engaged Humanities Hub to support the long-term advancement of the humanities on UP’s campus.

What are the Engaged Humanities?

The engaged humanities make connections between the humanities and the world. For the humanities to be “engaged” simply means that they interact with other fields of inquiry and life beyond the classroom in concrete ways.

Why do we need an Engaged Humanities Hub?

The practices of the humanities build meaningful knowledge and skills, but they often remain hidden behind classroom walls; this is partly responsible for the (mistaken) belief that the humanities don’t have real-world value. The engaged humanities provide one way to counteract this problematic narrative, bringing the humanities more visibly into the other spheres of our lives, approaching timely issues by collaborating in our communities, reaching across scholarly disciplines, and linking to vital professional skills.

PRF’s Humanities Foundations

Since its kick-off in 2019, PRF has advanced the humanities through innovative undergraduate research and collaborative work that crosses disciplinary and campus boundaries. In the program’s first year, faculty and student fellows explored the meanings of the women’s suffrage centennial through public-facing research projects; in Year 2 the program supported both research and teaching fellows as they developed work interrogating the theme of Displacement & Justice. This past year we experimented with hosting three interdisciplinary working groups that developed their own topics and outcomes, including a website featuring narratives of local food cultures, a study measuring the connections between art and wellness, and an archive of the UP community’s experiences during the pandemic. Broader programming this year zeroed in on the interdisciplinarity that the working groups exemplified; we hosted events and workshops exploring the challenges and opportunities of connecting the humanities to the STEM and social science fields. With the help of the NEH grant, the program is poised to build a lasting, sustainable Hub that can weave together the threads of PRF’s past work and develop it in exciting new directions.

PRF 22-23 Theme: “Engaging Humanities”

To that end, we introduce PRF’s 22-23 theme: “Engaging Humanities.” Across the year we plan to feature examples of innovative humanities-based research and teaching that connects scholarship with wider publics, non-humanities disciplines, and the world beyond academia. For example, in September English and Integrative Health and Wellness faculty will collaborate to bring poet Naomi Shihab Nye to campus for workshops that explore the integral role of creative writing and reading in building emotional, mental, and physical vitality. We hope to support and showcase several other examples of engaged humanities work across the year.

Do you have an idea for an event, project, or workshop that explores what “engaging humanities” means from your perspective? Is there a community organization or local connection to your humanities research or teaching that you’d like to collaborate with? We would love to hear from faculty, staff, and students as we feature innovative examples of engaged work and its impacts. We invite you to email Molly Hiro ( and Jen McDaneld (, the grants directors, with any and all ideas and queries.