Q&A with Terry Rhodes on 'Carolina's Human Heart'
Terry Rhodes, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities, talks about the “Carolina’s Human Heart” initiative with Kim Weaver Spurr, associate director of communications in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Tell us about the new “Carolina’s Human Heart” initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences.
We will be living the arts and humanities throughout the 2016-17 year as we celebrate events, lectures, speaker series, academic courses, new initiatives, performances, exhibitions and more. We wanted to highlight and augment the great work that’s being done on campus and beyond and the synergies that are already happening among faculty, staff, students and alumni. I’m also hoping that there will be some legacy aspects to this initiative that will live on beyond this academic year.
You’ve chosen six themes as the focus for “Carolina’s Human Heart”: social justice, an enlightened citizenry, tolerance and understanding, global engagement, food and the environment, and storytelling. Why these?
The steering committee of faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students thought it was important to show how the arts and humanities open people’s hearts and minds to different perspectives, whether the subject is politics or the environment.
In this effort, we have capitalized on the ethos of this campus. Our Carolina community has a passion for social justice, for instance, and we are skilled storytellers, from our creative writing program to the Southern Oral History Program and PlayMakers Repertory Company. These six themes are in Carolina’s DNA.
In the fall 2016 issue of Carolina Arts and Sciences magazine, you can read highlights about some of the extraordinary programming, courses, concerts, plays and other events happening on campus, which we’ve grouped by theme. And be sure to bookmark our website celebratehumanities.unc.edu.
Many College departments and entities have been providing arts and humanities programming for years. Why this dedicated initiative?
Our dean, Kevin Guskiewicz, is a neuroscientist who understands that the arts and humanities are essential to a well-rounded education. From the outset, he wanted to make all of the important and exciting work going on in these areas more visible to everyone. “Carolina’s Human Heart” is designed to promote and amplify that work.
We also wanted to encourage more conversation and collaboration — to connect the dots across disciplines. Many of our programs already rely heavily on partnerships and cooperative endeavors, such as the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and the Program in the Humanities and Human Values, which provide support to faculty and offer enriching programs to the region and the state. We hope this initiative can jumpstart even more of those types of partnerships.
There’s a big emphasis at Carolina on innovation and finding solutions to the world’s greatest problems. How are the arts and humanities contributing to that conversation?
We drew inspiration from the report, “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences,” completed by the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
We know that the humanities and social sciences teach critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills that will help our graduates contribute to an increasingly global, interconnected world. We value the importance of learning a new language and of being exposed to diverse cultures and experiences. This is all a part of what makes Carolina great.
You are a former music department chair and a soprano who has performed all over the world. How do the arts and humanities speak to you?
This is my life’s passion. I’ve been a UNC faculty member for almost 30 years. I’m moving into my fifth year as senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities, and I’ve been teaching and performing for a long time. I see on a daily basis the way arts and humanities can create bridges of understanding. I know how a book or play or performance or op-ed can really have an impact and make significant differences in people’s lives.
I was a Fulbright artist-in-residence in Eastern Europe in the ’90s, and I have been invited back to Macedonia this fall to present concerts and master classes as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Conservatory of Music in Skopje. My residency there more than 20 years ago certainly provided transformative experiences for me and I believe also benefited those with whom I interacted, through exchanges that enabled us to have a deeper understanding of one another and of our respective cultures and societies.
The humanities and arts continually provide these types of opportunities — enriching lives, bridging differences and helping us understand what it means to be human.
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