“We know that the humanities and social sciences teach critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills that will help our graduates contribute to an increasingly global, interconnected world.”
A Q&A with Terry Rhodes ’78, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities
Q: Many College departments and entities have been providing arts and humanities programming for years. Why this dedicated initiative?
A: Our dean, Kevin Guskiewicz, is a neuroscientist who understands that the arts and humanities are essential to a well-rounded education. From the outset, he wanted to make all of the important and exciting work going on in these areas more visible to everyone. “Carolina’s Human Heart” is designed to promote and amplify that work.
We also wanted to encourage more conversation and collaboration — to connect the dots across disciplines. Many of our programs already rely heavily on partnerships and cooperative endeavors, such as the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and the Program in the Humanities and Human Values, which provide support to faculty and offer enriching programs to the region and the state. We hope this initiative can jump-start even more of those types of partnerships.
Q: You’ve chosen six themes as the focus for “Carolina’s Human Heart”: social justice, an enlightened citizenry, tolerance and understanding, global engagement, food and the environment, and storytelling. Why these?
A: The steering committee of faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students thought it was important to show how the arts and humanities open people’s hearts and minds to different perspectives, whether the subject is politics or the environment.
In this effort, we have capitalized on the ethos of this campus. Our Carolina community has a passion for social justice, for instance, and we are skilled storytellers, from our creative writing program to the Southern Oral History Program to PlayMakers Repertory Company. These six themes are in Carolina’s DNA.
In the stories that follow, you can read about some of the extraordinary programming, courses, concerts, plays and other events happening on campus, which we’ve grouped by theme.
Q: There’s a big emphasis at Carolina on innovation and finding solutions to the world’s greatest problems. How are the arts and humanities contributing to that conversation?
A: We drew inspiration from the report, “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences,” completed by the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
We know that the humanities and social sciences teach critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills that will help our graduates contribute to an increasingly global, interconnected world. We value the importance of learning a new language and of being exposed to diverse cultures and experiences. This is all a part of what makes Carolina great.
Q: As a former music department chair and a soprano who has performed all over the world, how do the arts and humanities speak to you?
A: This is my life’s passion. I’ve been a UNC faculty member for almost 30 years. I’m moving into my fifth year as senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities, and I’ve been teaching and performing for a long time. I see on a daily basis the way arts and humanities can create bridges of understanding. I know how a book or play or performance or op-ed can really have an impact and make significant differences in people’s lives.
As a Fulbright artist-in-residence in Eastern Europe in the ’90s, I have been invited back to Macedonia this fall to present concerts and master classes as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Conservatory of Music in Skopje. My residency there over 20 years ago certainly provided transformative experiences for me and I believe also benefited those with whom I interacted, through exchanges that enabled us to have a deeper understanding of one another and of our respective cultures and societies.
The humanities and arts continually provide these types of opportunities — enriching lives, bridging differences and helping us understand what it means to be human.
- Interview by Kim Weaver Spurr ’88
Several stories in our cover package highlight events happening on campus as part of “Carolina’s Human Heart.” Here are a few more of special note. You can find many more on our website, celebratehumanities.unc.edu.
Nov. 11: Debut of UNC’s new Carolina Bluegrass Band with the Steep Canyon Rangers
Nov. 18-19: Long Story Shorts One Act Festival
Feb. 25: Spectrum Concert (Hill Hall reopening celebration)
April 20: Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín
April 21: Maynard Adams Symposium on the Humanities: philosopher Martha Nussbaum
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the “Carolina’s Human Heart” magazine cover at our photo shoot!
Published in the Fall 2016 issue | Features
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