Friday, April 19 2019
All day
Renaissance Hotel Midtown
For more information:
Add To My Calendar
Humanistic Perspectives at Technological Universities: A Symposium April 19-20

In the history of the modern university the relationship between the humanities on one hand and sciences and technology on the other has been a contested one. Our symposium means to bring together leaders from across the nation to create an inventory of the opportunities and challenges for humanities scholarship and education at institutions of higher learning primarily focused on science and technology research and education.

Humanistic Perspectives at Technological Universities: A Symposium
April 19-20, 2019
Renaissance Hotel Midtown
Atlanta, Georgia

Following is the schedule for the Symposium and edited summaries of the keynotes. Please explore the full scope of the keynote topics at the Symposium website:

Hosts: John BrowningKaren HeadRichard Utz 

Format: Keynotes 25min; Responses 10min



G.P. “Bud” Peterson, President, Georgia Tech
Chaouki Abdallah, EVPR, Georgia Tech

Letting Tech into the Humanities and the Humanities into Tech

Paula Krebs, MLA
Respondent: Anna Stenport, Georgia Tech

Commentators on Silicon Valley culture, from the Wall Street Journal to the Atlantic, point out what a relatively small percentage of computer tech leaders actually have degrees in engineering and how valuable the humanities perspective is for tech companies that want to break out of their siloed worlds.

Worcester Polytechnic and Olin College of Engineering, in Massachusetts, feature problem-based learning as central to their engineering curricula. They ask students to approach social and material problems from a number of perspectives, using the humanities and the social sciences.

Rhyming the Human, Reading the Signs

Lucinda Roy, Virginia Tech
Respondent: Nettrice Gaskins, Fab Foundation

The dizzying cost of education has resulted in an understandable desire to convert student learning into six-figure salaries, if only to enable them to pay off the onerous debt they’ve incurred. But viewing education as the accumulation of relevant data presupposes that we can always predict relevance. We cannot. Drawing upon observations in her memoir-critique No Right to Remain Silent: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech and her time in administration, novelist and poet Lucinda Roy will explore the urgent, life-or-death challenges we face in higher education as she suggests ways to ensure that our voices, in all their wondrous diversity, are heard.

Making ‘Feminized’ Knowledge Integral to Engineering Education

Marie Hicks, Illinois Tech
Respondent: Lauren Klein, Georgia Tech

The history of technology, which has in recent decades become increasingly attentive to more diverse narratives and perspectives, offers one way in. With the explosion of histories of technology looking at gender, and to a lesser extent race and sexuality, a subfield that has in the past lagged other historical subdisciplines in attention to diversity has come to the forefront in helping to teach engineers how to think beyond the confines of traditional progress narratives, and in opening up new ways of understanding the often-unintended reverberating effects of technological change.

12:15pm – 1:30pm
Lunch Break

Making Games to Make Change


Alexandrina Agloro, ASU
Respondent: Nassim Parvin, Georgia Tech

Why are games so compelling, and how can we harness the power of interactive media for social good? Alexandrina Agloro will discuss how participatory design and community-based methodologies can contribute to the ways we think about organizing and implementing activism using interactive media as a decolonial tool.

The Perils and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Scholarship for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Laura Severin, NCSU
Respondents: Jennifer Hirsch & Ruthie Yow, Georgia Tech

This presentation traces the history of North Carolina State University’s cluster hiring program (The Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program), begun in 2011, and particularly focuses on the challenges of Humanities and Social Sciences faculty, first to be included in the program and, once included, to establish effective partnerships with STEM faculty.

The Dream of an Integral Plan at MIT

Rosalind Williams, MIT
Respondent: Jay Bolter, Georgia Tech

Much professional education is organized around a stratified plan where a general undergraduate education is followed by concentrated professional training.  This is the typical pattern in law and medicine, and in Europe it has generally been true also of engineering education.  MIT was founded instead on an integral plan for engineering education, which proposes that it is possible and desirable to combine a sound general education and a sound foundation for professional practice in one undergraduate program.  But how is it possible to do this without offering only “the mere smattering of humanities,” which would be “wholly inadequate for future leaders of technology and business, who will have to grapple with social problems more important than strictly technical problems?”

Guidance and Restoration: Some Timely Opportunities for Humanities Scholar-Educators and Students at Technological Institutions

Paul M. Goldbart, UT Austin
Respondent: Lisa Yaszek, Georgia Tech

For some 250 years after The Enlightenment, the arc of the societal universe generally bent towards an embracing of science as Carl Sagan’s Candle in the Dark, and did so, by and large, at an ever-increasing rate. In the present millennium, however, two societal challenges to this trend – neither of them broadly anticipated – have emerged, which humanists’ scholarship, instruction, and very presence as partners at technological institutions makes them well positioned and well armed to combat. What are these challenges? What remedies can humanists engender when they are present as thoroughly woven-in threads of the intellectual fabric of the technological institution?

6 – 7 pm
Reception and Visualization



G.P. “Bud” Peterson, President, Georgia Tech
Chaouki Abdallah, EVPR, Georgia Tech

‘Almost Unintelligible’: Practical Approaches to Interdisciplinary Education in STEM Contexts

Julia M. Williams, RHIT
Respondent: Colin Potts, Georgia Tech

Mutual unintelligibility in an analysis of interdisciplinarity in higher education puts language at the center of the work. In fact, mutual unintelligibility may serve as a controlling metaphor for this discussion of practical approaches to interdisciplinary education. In examples of how interdisciplinarity is constructed on my campus, I will highlight the importance of language, both as communication and as a structure for knowledge.

Grand Challenge Seminars: General Education that Integrates the Humanities Rather than Isolates Them


Richard Scheines, CMU
Respondent: Joycelyn Wilson, Georgia Tech

In revising our general education program at a college of humanities and social sciences that is embedded within a highly technological university, we eschewed requiring that Humanities be taken in isolation and instead designed a curriculum in which they are explicitly integrated into multi-disciplinary courses that focus on topics rather than subjects.   

Rhetorical Studies Goes Tech: Working in the Archives with Digital Technologies

Jacqueline Jones Royster, Georgia Tech
Respondent: Rebecca Burnett, Georgia Tech

What happens when academic traditions meet technology?  In the case of those of us who do archival work in rhetorical studies, we rejoice.  This presentation will focus on one set of examples that illustrate ways in which digital technologies have energized what it means to work in archives.

Symposium Ends

Click images in enlarge.