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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 21, 2010

Next round of UI ‘cluster hires’ to focus on digital public humanities

The University of Iowa is taking steps to position itself as a national leader in the growing field of “digital public humanities,” which involves using technology to engage individuals and communities with faculty and student work in fields such as history, literature, philosophy, languages and other disciplines. To support this goal, the UI will hire at least six new tenure-track faculty members over the next two years.

The planned hires are part of the “cluster hire initiative,” a five-year plan to hire faculty in interdisciplinary groups to build on UI strengths and help the university achieve national and international distinction in target areas. Housed in various departments, the new hires will collaborate with current faculty on new and existing projects in the digital public humanities.

“Humanities faculty study how and what people think, act and create. The humanities help us understand ourselves and our communities,” said Teresa Mangum, associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, which fosters interdisciplinary scholarship. She notes that the humanities are defined by Humanities Iowa, the statewide arm of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as “our cultural and intellectual heritage—the sum of human experience, thought and expression.”

“The public humanities,” she said, “are about engaging community partners in collaborative projects that promote that understanding. And in today’s digital world, we can create more and more exciting ways to promote those opportunities.”

This year, the UI will seek an individual to incorporate online communications into its emerging Spanish creative writing program. The new digital component will enhance student skills in technology and cultural competency while enriching the UI’s engagement with Spanish-speaking communities in Iowa.

Another search will seek an expert in “ethnographic documentary” who will help students use the latest technologies to share their experiences and the experiences of others. This professor and his or her students will be involved in community–based writing and media projects.

The new faculty members will join a distinguished cohort of faculty already making a name for the UI in the digital public humanities.

One such leader is Ed Folsom, Roy J. Carver Professor of English and editor of the Whitman Quarterly. Folsom co-directs the Walt Whitman Archive (, a website used by teachers in high school and college classrooms around the country. Thanks to a global group of translators, readers from China to Brazil will soon reap the benefits of this digital project.

Another strong advocate and practitioner of public, digital humanities is Jon Winet, associate professor and head of the Intermedia Program in the School of Art and Art History. He directs the online art and literature project The Daily Palette ( and is working with UI faculty and students in English, computer science, and library and information science to create an iPhone application highlighting Iowa City’s rich literary history.

The Office of the Provost will fund three positions for the cluster, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will fund an additional three. The positions will be filled over the next two years.

A digital humanities steering committee, co-chaired by Mangum and Winet, will work with individual departments and CLAS to coordinate searches for faculty members whose expertise will support departmental needs as well as the cluster.

The Office of the Provost kicked off the cluster hire program last year with a 10-faculty cluster in the field of water sustainability. More information about that initiative can be found at the initiative’s website,

Proposals for the next round of cluster hires, which will focus on interdisciplinary issues related to aging, are undergoing final review. The decision to focus one of the hiring clusters on the digital public humanities emerged from an Office of the Provost-sponsored competition announced last spring.

“This was a standout, visionary proposal,” said Tom Rice, associate provost for faculty, who oversaw the competitive process. “It’s building on a foundation of extraordinary existing strengths, it’s going to have a huge impact on the university’s national reputation, and most importantly, it will make a real difference in the communities we serve.”

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Tom Rice, Provost's Office, 319-335-3565,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,; Writer: Kris Yows