As part of Pomona College’s comprehensive efforts to provide a balanced liberal arts experience for all students, the College has established a dynamic, collaborative faculty-student workshop: the Pomona College Humanities Studio, which opened its doors on the second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Building in September 2018. The Studio supports innovative, interdisciplinary humanities research among both faculty and students at the College.
In the sciences, the laboratory is the site of collaborative research: the scientist’s work is made public and visible in lab practice, and students have best practices modeled for them as they apprentice with faculty mentors. But humanities research is still largely conducted in private, “off the clock,” without student participation or even student awareness. As a result, while the products of humanities faculty research are to varying degrees visible to our students, the process remains hidden—and their growth as researchers suffers.
Student research collaboration with faculty is rare in the humanities disciplines, and for good reason: given the qualitative nature of the majority of the work, as well as the central role of writing in both the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, humanities research is not easily adapted to the model of a lead faculty member working with a group of student researchers.
The studio model, borrowed from the arts, instead seeks to create a non-hierarchical, open, and mutually supportive space of discovery and innovation. A studio is cooperative, communal; it is characterized by an informality charged with sociable intensity—a place for creativity and discovery. Its organization is horizontal, “flat”—not vertical—and its work iterative and process oriented.
Research within the Pomona Humanities Studio takes place under a “parallel projects” model and is organized around an annual theme. Faculty members with scholarly projects falling under the Studio’s theme and students whose senior thesis projects make them good candidates (regardless of home department or discipline) will be appointed as Fellows and will share a collaborative working space and a year-long seminar; the College’s current Mellon Chau Postdoctoral Fellows are also invited to join the seminar. Each Fellow pursues his or her own particular questions, while all together share insights, resources, methodologies, and multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives.
The Humanities Studio:
- showcases innovative humanities research on campus;
- fosters conversations across the humanities disciplines among an annual, interdisciplinary group of Humanities Studio Faculty, Postgraduate, and Undergraduate Fellows. This core group of Pomona faculty and students engage in significant projects addressing the Studio’s annual theme;
- facilitates faculty research and collaboration across campus;
- involves humanities students in more intensive research experiences, through faculty modeling and mentoring;
- supports the College’s initiatives to diversify the student body and faculty, such as the Mellon Mays Undergraduate and Mellon Chau Postdoctoral Fellowships;
- establishes an administrative infrastructure for humanities programming, including hosting visiting speakers and events, sponsoring professional development workshops for faculty and students, and programming student and faculty-development activities during the summer; and
- creates opportunities for Pomona faculty and students to collaborate with significant off-campus researchers
Among the Studio’s key components:
- The seminar, which meets for three hours weekly each semester, in which Fellows read and discuss together seminal texts with broad humanities application and genuinely interdisciplinary scope, as well as the best examples of scholarship from within Fellows’ home disciplines.
- A yearlong lineup of visiting speakers—some the authors of the books and articles selected for the seminar—invited to come to the College in conjunction with the discussion of their work.
- The Humanities Toolkit, professional development events both for Faculty, Postdoctoral, and Undergraduate Fellows, and for the larger campus community. Events will focus on such topics as book proposals, placing an article with a general-readership magazine, applying for grants and fellowships, and applying to graduate and professional schools.
- Resources for faculty and student research over the summer—providing, for instance, a place for humanities students with SURP funding to work together with support from the Studio’s Director and in the Studio’s space, or a week-long article or book chapter completion workshop for faculty. The Studio will also provide the ideal infrastructure and administrative support for programming such as NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for college and university faculty or K–12 teachers.
- Public-facing humanities programming. If the humanities are truly to thrive—not just at Pomona College, but as part of a national cultural conversation—then humanists must do a better job of communicating the value and sharing the excitement of humanistic study with our various publics.
- Beyond the studio walls, various campus, Claremont Colleges, and Southern California resources will be brought in to collaborate. Some partnerships—with the Claremont Digital Humanities Center and the new Pomona College Museum of Art, for instance—are close at hand. Fruitful collaborations also are planned with, for instance, the Getty Museum, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, and many others.
Pomona College has long been renowned for its rigorous undergraduate science education. The Pomona College Humanities Studio now enables us to match for our students in the humanities the commitment we have made to our science students and create a central hub for the humanities, positioning the College as a national leader in innovative undergraduate humanities education.