Letter from Our Director

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I often find the best inspiration for the year ahead is a quick look in the rearview mirror. That’s certainly true for the Obermann Center, where that mirror frames a panorama of fellow travelers—faculty, staff, students, and partners—in 2015–16.

In Summer 2015, faculty with Obermann Interdisciplinary Research Grants created digital models that track early modern publications, improvised imaginative ways to teach media literacy, and filmed a documentary about African American economic challenges and opportunities in Detroit. Professor David Stern gathered philosophers from Britain and the U.S. for the Summer Research Seminar. Together, they drafted essays that will contextualize an important new publication of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s legendary 1930s Cambridge lectures.

Our offices were filled with Fellows-in-Residence from the UI, the University of Kansas, and Augsburg and Grinnell Colleges. They balanced focused research behind closed doors with lively exchanges in the biweekly Fellows’ seminars.

Spanish and Portuguese professors Denise Filios and Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez dedicated the 2015 Obermann Humanities Symposium to the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote. They welcomed fascinating international scholars and, with colleagues across campus, organized concerts, exhibits, screenings, and a wildly successful Senior College class.

The Center also marked important milestones this year. A spring reunion/symposium honored the 10th anniversary of the Obermann Graduate Institute on Engagement and the Academy, a longtime collaboration with the Graduate College. In May, the first two books in the Humanities and Public Life series launched a joint venture between the Center and the University of Iowa Press.

Even as our cross-disciplinary impact stretches across the campus and community through Working Groups, Obermann Conversations, and wide-ranging collaborations, I am proud on our collective behalf that the Center’s work keeps garnering national attention. Membership in the Mellon-funded Humanities Without Walls consortium sent graduate students to Chicago for a career institute. The Mellon-funded Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry partnership with Grinnell College inspired new projects and partnerships. And UI faculty and students benefited from our membership in the National Humanities Alliance, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and the Dickens Project (a collaboration with the UI English Department).

As I explained in a recent Iowa Now article, interdisciplinary work flourishes at Iowa thanks to the fertile imaginations of UI artists, humanities scholars, and social science and scientific researchers. I keep finding that disciplinary differences inspire rather than divide most of us. I welcome you to share your own projects, suggestions, and wildest dreams. Our funds are limited, but we are always happy to offer advice and tap our networks.

I am, as always, indebted to the unfailingly generous and extraordinarily talented Obermann staff—Jennifer New, Erin Hackathorn, and our new colleague Jenna Hammerich. The Center was also enriched by the talents of our 2015–16 graduate assistants, Miriam Janechek and Khoa-Trinh (KT) Nguyen. I also greatly appreciate the support of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, especially Vice President Dan Reed and Assistant Vice President Ann Ricketts, and the collegiality, hard work, wit, and wisdom of our several advisory boards.

Finally, many, many thanks to those who have donated to the Center this year. I hope this report will inspire you to join the Center in championing the creativity, imagination, and achievements of University of Iowa artists and scholars in the years ahead.

For now, don’t miss the pleasure of glancing through Obermann’s rearview mirror.

I eagerly anticipate traveling the highways and byways of intellectual adventures with many of you—faculty, staff, students, partners, and supporters—on another fascinating journey through the coming year.

With warmest gratitude,

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