Departing the DHI, Looking Back and Forward

Departing the DHI, Looking Back and Forward: A Retrospective Word (or Two) from Outgoing DHI Director Jaimey Fisher

Six years has always felt around the right amount of time to serve as director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute. For me, it has been an absolute privilege to advocate for the humanities and arts in the university and broader community, a privilege I think it is important to share and help pass on. As my time at the DHI comes to a close, I want to thank then Dean Susan Kaiser for giving me the opportunity to serve in this role. I especially want to thank the DHI staff present and past—particularly Kathy Wallerstein, Molly McCarthy, Gina Nunes, Stephanie Maroney, and Elliott Pollard—for their support, help, and good humor throughout. 

I also want to thank all those faculty who served on our boards and all the community members who served on our Humanities Arts Advisory Council (HAAC), our first external board that helped us innovate our public programming and fund some of our new initiatives, especially for graduate students through these difficult COVID times.  

Looking back, I am especially proud of our work on raising the profile of the DHI beyond the university as well as moving the DHI toward supporting undergraduates, including collaborations with the Undergraduate Research Center, Human Rights Studies, and the University Honors Program as well as with the Mondavi’s Mellon-SHAPE courses. Over the past few years, the DHI has also helped reactivate the UC-wide Consortium of Humanities Institutes and Centers, to engage in more proactive dialogue with the UC-wide humanities institute at UC Irvine and with UC Office of the President. A special thank you goes to Professor Ralph Hexter, who is now convening a committee involving all the UC campuses to rethink this system-wide humanities network.

Finally, I am grateful to our STEM colleagues, to both faculty and students who answered the call to engage in an essential dialogue with the humanities and arts, including at the Science Café, in the Mellon SHAPE program, in our transcollege clusters, and in our new NEH teaching grant. It is my full conviction that many of the greatest challenges of our current moment—climate change, the war in Ukraine, structural racism, the degradation of democracy around the world—can only be understood and addressed by collaborative dialogue between the STEM and humanistic and creative fields. For example, how could the scientific consensus on climate change be so overwhelming yet the public understandings of it so divergent? These are questions for which the cultural fields will forever be relevant, even essential.

I depart the DHI for a year of research leave knowing it is in excellent hands with Professor Archana Venkatesan—I wish her well and best of luck in guiding the DHI, although I also know she hardly needs it!