As the new director of the Institute for Humanities Research, I was supposed to arrive at Arizona State University in August 2020, but I could not make it until March 2021. My late arrival was of course due to COVID-19 and the delays it created in visa issuing as well as several cancellations of flights from Australia to the U.S. 

During this delay, however, I was in weekly contact with the team at the institute, and I was impressed by the success of the online programming they had put in place. 

Measured by large attendance numbers by both faculty and community as well as positive feedback, its success was due to the staff’s innovative know-how, professionalism and dedication to the humanities. 

Some highlights of the past year include the Distinguished Lecture on community, identity and belonging by adrienne maree brown; the selection of the 2021 Book Award winner “That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves: 1260-1500,” by Hannah Barker; and Kathryn Yusoff’s “Institute of Inhumanities” seminar.  

Professional workshops were offered to assist faculty and students with their teaching, research and writing. In particular, the institute hosted workshops on grant writing, journal publishing and designing successful book proposals, as well as weekly sessions dedicated to scholarly writing that continued throughout the year.

The institute’s ongoing seed grants and the Fellows program have not only supported innovative and exciting internal research projects — many of which showcased the vital role the humanities plays in safeguarding the well-being of individuals, communities and our democratic institutions — but consequently have generated successful external research proposals.

Our initiatives in Black Ecologies, Desert Humanities, Digital Humanities, Environmental Humanities, Health Humanities and Humane Technologies all engaged important speakers and discussions addressing some of the most current and pressing issues our society is facing, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change and species loss and the impact of the coronavirus on the health of our communities.  

In the coming year the institute aims to continue to support research projects, enable internal and external grants and fellowships and host events that address the issues we are facing today in order to inspire and generate ideas and advance interdisciplinary collaborations. 

I look forward to the institute facilitating significant and innovative contributions and solutions to industry, government, community and the real-world problems of our time, and to increasingly engaging and involving humanities students and faculty across ASU campuses.

A very big thanks to all of our constituents — faculty, students, staff, the administration, donors and community members — for your support this past year, and we look forward to working with you in the coming year.