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UNC humanities professors host innovation seminar

It’s often more difficult for history professors or English students to craft solutions to real-world problems than it is for doctors or scientists.

But a panel of 10 humanities professors made a case for the liberal arts Monday afternoon, saying those in humanities fields should take a Socratic approach and ask questions about how their studies can extend beyond the classroom.

“Innovation, Engagement and the Humanities: Models and Methods” featured speakers who praised the idea of engaged scholarship that results in a concrete impact on the world.

The speakers recognized Chancellor Holden Thorp’s call for innovation involving more than just science and technology departments.

The forum was sponsored by the Center for the Study of the American South, the Folklore Program and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

Hannah Gill, assistant director for the Institute for the Study of the Americas, cited a new project with the School of Government. It involves three cities throughout the state developing models of immigrant integration using community-based participatory research and feedback.

“What are the critical issues facing communities today and how can we best respond to that?” she said.

Dan Cobb, associate professor of American studies, cited his research on a Native American political figure and activist that led to an honor from the man’s community in Oklahoma. He added that student involvement in these projects is important.

“Can I cultivate a passion for learning by transforming students into co-producers of knowledge I’m most passionate about?”

For graduate student Beth DeBold, the talk provided an understanding of the potential for humanities outside academia.

“I think everyone’s always asked a lot of questions about, ‘What are you going to do with a B.A. in English and how are you going to justify working in a field that isn’t necessarily devoted to physically saving someone’s life or advancing technologies?’” she said.

“Humanities is changing things every day, but since the outcomes aren’t measurable in the same way, it’s hard to show,” she added.

“It all seems to relate back to investing in human beings and that’s really what humanities are doing.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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