On the Humanities

What are the humanities, and why do they matter?

Adam Davis, executive director

"We, as breathing, thinking, caring human beings, do the humanities. We do the humanities whether we like it or not, because we can’t do otherwise. My hope is that we can do them well together—by which I mean that I hope we can wonder about the meaning of our lives together—so that we can live well together."

Jennifer Alkezweeny, program director

"The humanities allow us to tap into imagination. As children, we create other worlds where we can try out different lives and ways of being than our own. We test the boundaries of right and wrong and learn about equity in relationship to one another.  As we age, it’s not uncommon for us to lose touch with imagination and move through life in a narrow plane. The humanities help us to rethink the world around us and our role in it, to carve out time to deeply consider the perspectives, lives, and hopes of others and place those in conversation with our own hopes."

Vicky Hart, development associate

"The humanities encompass the many ways people respond to beautiful and challenging things around us. Collectively or as individuals, the humanities invite us to engage with art, ideas, and ourselves in an effort to build understanding. I hope that we learn to recognize the importance of the humanities in our conversations and relationships—and that they exit academia often enough to enter coffee shops and backyards."

Lucy Solares-Steger, programs coordinator

"When we engage with the humanities, we’re both reflecting on human culture and shaping it. Marginalized people have historically been excluded from the humanities, and that means we need to be intentional about whose stories we tell. I hope we can expand the relevance of the humanities by inviting community in—and that we can use the humanities to create environments where we can learn, grow, and work toward justice for everyone."

Ben Waterhouse, communications director

"The humanities are all about hard questions. How did our society come to be the way it is? How might we live together better? What can we do to get to that better place justly and fairly? These kinds of questions can only be answered by talking, and listening, and thinking, and talking some more."

Carolina Rios, development assistant

"The humanities help us better understand what it means to be human, to make sense of the world around us and how it shapes us. It can be easy for the BIPOC community and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to feel like they aren’t seen or included when thinking of the humanities. So we end up missing voices and miss out on the opportunity to listen to and understand different perspectives. It’s important to me to help cultivate spaces where inclusion is the top priority—where the humanities are available to all, not just a select few."

Karina Briski, communications associate

"The humanities allow us entry points into all of the big questions we face about our world, ourselves, and each other. At the same time, they teach us how to be in conversation: how to ask questions, be curious, and really listen. There’s a tendency to view the humanities solely in terms of academic disciplines or as an abstract field for people with certain credentials. But they're something everybody participates in. That’s why they're so valuable—because they come from us all."

Julia Soto, development director

"The humanities are the story of us as humans—how we act, create, disagree, empathize, fight, feel, and so much more. They can help us to recognize our own behavior and biases—and to be more compassionate about our differences. They push me to keep trying to understand that which I think I already know, and to be curious about that which I don’t."

Dawn Smallman, grants and programs coordinator

"The humanities are our individual and collective cultural experiences as humans—viewed historically, in the present, and as we contemplate our future. I hope the humanities can help restore our relationships to nature and the land—and that humanities disciplines will continue to grow as pathways for the advancement of social justice, equity, and empathy."

Looking for ways to engage with the humanities?