We ended the academic year in a way none of us could have imagined when we began it. Faced with the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, ASU moved its entire operations online, and we in the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) transitioned with the campus to online programming. Although some lectures and events had to be postponed, we credit and thank our staff for the efficiency with which we were able to continue to offer our programming through digital media and for their imaginative suggestions for how to enrich that programming as we faced a health crisis, an economic crisis and the unravelling of our social fabric when stark images brought the realities of social injustice into our lives and gave long-overdue momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement, giving us hope that the long arc of history does bend toward justice.

The immediacy of present crises and uncertainty about what to expect in the coming months make a retrospective look at the year past challenging. But we are pleased that we in the IHR have continued to build on the momentum established last year. Prescient to our current moment, Distinguished Lecturer Kathryn Yusoff gave the talk “Geologies of Race: unearthing the ground of the human,” and we celebrated ASU professor Julian Lim who was awarded the IHR Book Award for “Porous Borders: Multiracial Migrations and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.”

We have offered important workshops to assist faculty and graduate students with their research and writing: Russell Wyland from the National Endowment for the Humanities counselled faculty on grant applications, Bill Germano provided substantive advice on writing a book proposal and ASU historian Chris Jones continued to bring faculty and students together in weekly sessions dedicated to scholarly writing. 

Through our many funding programs we have allocated monies to support the innovative research of our colleagues in the humanities. And we continue to sponsor and co-sponsor public events, talks and lectures that showcase the vital role of humanities inquiry in safeguarding a future in which we all prosper.

Our ongoing initiatives in Digital Humanities, Environmental Humanities and Health Humanities continue to thrive, and to those we have added Desert Humanities, an initiative of Dean Cohen, and Humane Technologies. These new initiatives, like those before them, bring vital attention to questions that the humanities are uniquely empowered to answer: how can we best ensure and safeguard the ongoing well-being of individuals, communities and our democratic institutions?

We eagerly anticipate next year when the IHR will welcome a new director. Elizabeth will take on a new role as Director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, and Ron, serving as Associate Director and joined by Assistant Director Liz Grumbach, will ensure a smooth leadership transition in the IHR. We thank all of our constituents — faculty, students, staff, the administration, our donors and community members — for your support this past year and look forward to working with you in the coming year.