Within the warm, terra-cotta-colored walls of her office in Dodd Hall, Charlene Villaseñor Black has assembled a whimsical mini-museum of Mexican folk art that includes two baby Jesus dolls, a sacred heart painting, a tiny Frida Kahlo chair and a wooden skeleton with moveable arms and legs.
By Margaret MacDonald
A $1.65 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will strengthen UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative. The program, initially launched by a $2 million award from the Mellon Foundation in 2013, is dedicated to studying contemporary issues in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai and Mexico City.
The new funding will help UCLA provide graduate and undergraduate students with vital scholarly skills, support curricula and new faculty research on historical as well as contemporary urban issues, and pay for scholars to travel to cities around the Pacific Rim.
Together, the two Mellon grants are the largest received by UCLA for curricula that span the School of Arts and Architecture, the Division of Humanities, and the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The grant continues UCLA’s participation in the Mellon Foundation’s Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities initiative, which since 2012 has provided funding to a total of 16 institutions in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
At UCLA, urban humanities scholars use innovative means to study cities, merging approaches from architecture and urbanism with historical-critical approaches from the humanities and, in particular, cutting-edge film and mapping techniques from digital humanities.
“The study of urban life in the Pacific Rim embraces global issues that are particularly situated and made visible through the overlapping lenses of design, history, ethnography, visual and literary studies, and spatial analysis,” said Dana Cuff, a UCLA professor of architecture and urban design.
Cuff is the project’s lead principal investigator, along with Todd Presner, a professor of digital humanities; Maite Zubiaurre, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese; and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning.
In its first three years, the Urban Humanities Initiative engaged 75 graduate students from across campus in a certificate program, supported more than 30 faculty members, held symposia and produced numerous publications. The program will be extended to undergraduate students in the next three years. After the Mellon funding concludes, it will be administered jointly by the deans of the schools of arts and architecture and public affairs, and the humanities division in the UCLA College.
“We are immensely gratified that the Mellon Foundation is continuing to support our efforts, ensuring that this excellent program will continue to serve our students for many years to come,” said David Schaberg, dean of the humanities division.
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.
UCLA professor and recently named Guggenheim Fellow Zrinka Stahuljak spent the last three years helping the J. Paul Getty Museum bring an important 15th-century Flemish manuscript to life for the general public.
By: Todd Presner, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director, UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Arnold Band, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California at Los Angeles, delivered the Annual Arnold Band Distinguished Lecture in Jewish Studies, on May 12th to a crowd of 150 people at UCLA. Coinciding with Israeli Independence Day, the lecture was sponsored by the UCLA Alan. D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and honors the research and teaching of Band, one of the leading scholars of modern Hebrew literature in the world. His lecture was entitled: “The First Decade of Israeli Literature: The Case of Aharon Appelfeld.” Rabbi William Cutter, Steinberg Emeritus Professor of Human Relations at Hebrew Union College, moderated and gave a response.
Band, 86, has taught at UCLA for over 50 years. He founded the department of comparative literature and also established the recently endowed Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and was the first director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Band is the author of Nostalgia and Nightmare: The Fiction of S.J. Agnon (1968) and The Tales of Nahman of Bratlav (1978), as well as more than 125 articles in Hebrew and English on a wide range of topics in modern Jewish literature and Jewish cultural life. Center Board member and major donor, Alan D. Leve, said “I’m delighted that on this Israeli Independence Day the Center presented a program with distinguished professor Arnold Band, the Center’s founding director.”
The lecture was based upon research Band undertook at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to investigate the nexus between Hebrew writers S. Y. Agnon and Aharon Appelfeld. He showed how the writing styles and themes of Nobel Prize laureate Agnon, widely considered the leading Hebrew prose writer of the 20th century, influenced the literary works of Appelfeld, who is universally recognized as the most significant Holocaust writer in Hebrew.
Far from forgotten or ignored, Band showed how the Shoah emerged as a central theme in Israeli literature during the crucial first decade of state formation. The history and memory of the Shoah was integral to Israeli collective identity, he argued, and this is reflected in the literary continuity shared between Agnon and Appelfeld. At the same time, Band suggested that the further we advance from the first decade, the more we realize that Israeli literature is more varied and richer than early historians have described it.
For the Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Band’s lecture caps an extraordinary year of programming that also saw the inauguration of a new series in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel. Organized by Aaron Burke (Associate Professor of the Archaeology of the Levant and Ancient Israel in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department and a faculty member with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA), the inaugural lecture drew nearly 100 people and was delivered by one of the founding figures in biblical archaeology, Professor Lawrence E. Stager (Harvard University), Dorot Professor in the Archaeology of Israel and former director of the Harvard Semitic Museum.
Expressing his appreciation of the work of the Leve Center, David Schaberg, UCLA Dean of the Humanities, said that “the Center’s diversity of programs in all aspects of Jewish Studies – from biblical times to the present-day – reflects the goals of the Center to educate, engage, and reach the broadest possible community.” He added that the “vibrancy of its programming is a testament to its strength and purpose as part of public research and teaching institution.”
Band’s lecture was made possible by a generous endowment by Leve Center Board Member, Milt Hyman, a former student of Band’s, and his wife, Sheila. Cosponsors included the UCLA Y. & S. Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. More information can be found online: http://cjs.ucla.edu
Jared Diamond, UCLA’s Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of geography and an astute intellectual observer of human life in multiple practices, faced a standing-room-only audience who came to hear his compelling lecture titled “The Evolution and Function of Human Religion” at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Religion.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced the election of 213 new members who include some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers and artists.
A trio of UCLA faculty members are among a distinguished group of 178 of scholars, artists and scientists from the U.S. and Canada to receive 2016 Guggenheim Fellowships.
Copying and syncing digital files is easy now — perhaps too easy. A mere $10 a month buys you identical copies of a digital song on every device and computer you own.
Universities today face a daunting challenge: how to serve new generations of increasingly diverse students whose ways of learning reflect our era’s rapid changes in technology and educational access.
Marcia Howard ’54 considers UCLA her second home – no great surprise given that 20 campus committees and organizations have benefited from her leadership, advocacy and philanthropy for more than 60 years. Most recently, she contributed a lead campaign gift of $1 million to establish the Marcia H. Howard Term Chair in Literary Studies – with a preference given to environmental humanities or Shakespeare studies – in the English department. The inaugural holder of the Howard Chair is English professor Ursula K. Heise, who holds a joint appointment in UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
A retired insurance broker, Howard is a member of the Dean’s Centennial Campaign Steering Committee and past recipient of the Alumni Association’s University Service Award. In addition to the humanities, she has supported many other units and initiatives on campus, and she underwrites an annual faculty recognition event for the Fiat Lux undergraduate seminar program.
But it is her fervent belief in the importance of a humanities education that compelled her to endow a chair in the English department.
“The study of humanities is essential to all aspects of life,” Howard said. “It teaches us to think, reason, write, and explore the meaning of what it is to be human.”
Dean of Humanities David Schaberg said, “We are incredibly fortunate to have in Marcia Howard such a vocal and passionate advocate for the humanities. Her recent gift has highlighted the importance of endowed chairs, which recognize the work of our most distinguished faculty.”
Longtime love of UCLA
A native Angeleno, Howard made frequent childhood visits with her family to UCLA from their home in west Los Angeles. In particular, she recalls building a snowman in the main quad after a rare snowfall. Much later, as an undergraduate, Howard was involved in several campus organizations including the homecoming and junior prom committees. She worked closely with Bill Ackerman, head of Associated Students from 1933 to 1967 and for whom Ackerman Union is named, who used to joke that she “majored in activities.”
Howard studied at the Center for European Studies in Strasbourg, France, during her junior year, igniting a lifelong love of travel and European history and literature. After graduating with a B.A. in history, she resisted her mother’s advice to go into teaching and worked as an activist in Georgia in the budding civil rights movement. Returning to Los Angeles in 1961, she found a job at an insurance company where she not only discovered her vocation but also met her future husband, Herbert, with whom she spent many happy years until he passed away in 2007.
Professor Heise awarded inaugural chair
Howard was gratified to learn that Heise, a renowned scholar in environmental humanities, would be the first to hold the chair. Environmental humanities is an emerging interdisciplinary field that brings together anthropologists, philosophers, geographers, literary scholars, historians, and new media scholars to study the influence of cultures on how we define nature. The field prepares graduates for a variety of careers including museum work, civic engagement, community organizing, nature education, literacy education, advocacy, business, writing, and the arts.
Heise received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011 and is past president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary environmental culture, literature and art in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan; theories of modernization and globalization; literature and science; and the digital humanities.
Heise, who currently works on stories and images of endangered species in different countries, said, “You cannot even begin to think about these issues without knowing something about the sciences. In addition, you often have to know about certain social sciences and about the legal, governmental and historical dimensions that frame our concerns with endangered species. But the narratives are crucial: In the end, biodiversity conservation comes down to values, ideas and stories we tell about what animals and plants we want around, and which ones we’d rather do without.”
Bringing literary scholarship to environmental discussions
According to English department chair Ali Behdad, literary scholars have until recently been left out of the debate regarding the environment, a field dominated by scientists.
“I believe that literary scholars like Ursula have a lot to contribute by educating citizens to make better decisions in an era of rapid environmental and social changes,” Behdad said. “We are grateful to Marcia Howard for helping us to increase the visibility and impact of this important field.”
Since joining the faculty in 2012, Heise has helped UCLA become a leader in the field, capitalizing on its location in a city marked by dense and diverse populations as well as an impressive mix of environments, from a thriving metropolitan region to ocean and desert landscapes and mountain ranges.
“Marcia’s gift is very forward-looking,” Heise said. “I so appreciate her belief in my work, which I hope will help people better understand and appreciate biodiversity and the stories we tell about endangered species.”
For her part, Howard is convinced that faculty like Heise are vital to educating well-informed citizens of the future, and she feels privileged to have been able to make an impact.
Howard’s philosophy is very simple. She said, “By making a gift, you receive a gift, and UCLA has certainly been a great gift to me.”
For more information about supporting the Humanities at UCLA, please contact Sarah Murphy at (310) 794-9005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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