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Center for the Humanities director Dr. Jennifer Borland. Photos by Jason Wallace.

New director, faculty researchers propel Center for the Humanities to new heights

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Oklahoma State University’s Center for the Humanities got its first director in 2023 with the appointment of Dr. Jennifer Borland.

Prior to being named director, Borland served as interim director for the center, was the founding director of the Digital Humanities Initiative and taught art history in the Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History for 16 years.

“I’m utterly thrilled to be the first director,” Borland said, who will also occasionally continue to teach art history courses. “This is the culmination of over seven years of work with an amazing group of collaborators. It is extremely rewarding to see the work over several years materialize into the establishment of the center, and I’m excited to move forward with all our plans.”

The center, a College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) initiative that formally launched in 2022, aims to increase the visibility of humanities research on campus and foster production of new interdisciplinary projects.

One such project Borland is looking forward to expanding is the Research Group Fellowship program launched earlier this year.

“This flagship program provides support to facilitate collaborative interdisciplinary research in areas like medical humanities, environmental humanities and digital humanities,” Borland said. “Very few universities have this type of program to foster new research, and I can see OSU’s ambitious and unique model becoming one that is emulated by other institutions.”

This year’s medical/health humanities research group includes Dr. Reanae McNeal from Interdisciplinary Programs, Marqua Harris from the College of Education and Human Sciences and Vanessa Oliphant from the Department of Psychology. Their research topic is “Reenvisioning Community Engaged Research for Black Women” with a focus on health justice and Black women.

“Due to the current backlash of anti-Black gendered oppression and the severe health disparities and inequities, the need to attend to Black women’s health and healing is urgent,” McNeal said. “Our research objective is to call for the creation of sacred spaces for Black women to engage in embodied communal healing.”

The environmental humanities research group includes Dr. Cailey Hall and Komal Nazir from the Department of English and Dr. Rebecca Kaplan from the Department of History. Their research focus is “Food Security and Food Cultures.”

“Food is both essential for survival and full of culturally specific meaning,” Kaplan said. “This project aims to increase awareness of food insecurity on campus and coordinate efforts to address the issue. By designing a comprehensive website that provides up-to-date information on various foodrelated resources available on campus, it will clearly and concisely provide information for students, faculty and staff and help foster connections between members of the OSU community who share food cultures and food interests.”

The digital humanities research group includes Dr. Rosemary Avance from the School of Media and Strategic Communications, Dr. Heather Stewart from the Department of Philosophy and Richard Sylvestre from the Department of English. Their research focuses on “Artificial Intelligence in Academia: Exploring ChatGPT as Risk and Opportunity.”

“Our interdisciplinary team is researching how people understand and talk about the use of ChatGPT in academia,” Avance said. “Our first and primary goal is to get our campus talking about this technology to proactively ensure it is ethically implemented in our teaching and research here at OSU.”

In addition to its researchers’ endeavors, the Center for the Humanities is working toward having a physical home on campus, where it can continue to increase the visibility and reach of the humanities. Nine new research group fellows will begin their work in the fall.

“The center provides an inclusive and collaborative environment in which we want to foster dialogue and engage communities, demonstrating the powerful impact of the humanities to address problems and impact change,” Borland said.

Learn more about the Center for the Humanities and get involved by visiting the center's website


Story By: Bella Vu | CONNECT magazine

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