ASU's new Center for Public Humanities names scholar Elisa New as director


August 5, 2021

This fall, the humanities division at Arizona State University will welcome scholar Elisa New as the first-ever director of the Center for Public Humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The new center will join the division's 11 existing centers, with the goal of bringing the best of humanities teaching and learning to worldwide public audiences.

New, a scholar of classic American literature and poetry, was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1989 to 1999. Since 1999, she has served as the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University. Elisa New, a scholar of classic American literature and poetry, has been named the first-ever director of the Center for Public Humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy of Rose Lincoln, Harvard University. Download Full Image

In line with her personal mission to bring humanities content to broader audiences, she established a nonprofit educational media production company that produces a nationally airing PBS series called “Poetry in America,” a multiplatform educational initiative that brings poetry into classrooms and living rooms around the world. The show, now going into its third season and filming for a fourth, is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and will function as a development lab for educational content she will offer at ASU.

“We are excited to welcome Professor New into our community. The humanities we practice at ASU are inclusive and founded on a principle of access for all,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College. “The Center for Public Humanities will assist us greatly in realizing that mission at scale, enabling many more students and lifelong learners to join us in the study of these disciplines essential to the creation of a just future.”

The Center for Public Humanities will be headquartered in Durham Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus and will partner with all of ASU’s existing humanities schools, centers, departments and interdisciplinary humanists working across the university to create programming in the form of dual enrollment, credit, noncredit, continuing education and professional education courses.

Through a partnership with Learning Enterprise, the center will enable high school students to take ASU humanities courses for college credit. By drawing on existing partnerships with institutions around the country and world, the center will deliver content to the public through events, exhibitions, outreach and more.

As director New said it is her priority to support ASU faculty in the humanities to create engaging digital educational materials for the widest audiences possible.

“Music, dance, great works of visual art, great works of architecture, the poem that speaks right to your heart, that novel you can't put down, the Shakespeare soliloquy you memorized, the film you will never forget: few of us don't love at least one of these — and most of us, before and after as well as in college, actually look to the arts and humanities for wisdom, for comfort, for enlightenment,” New said.

“Any talented teacher can teach a wonderful course to 12 students, or even to 120 students. But what about the 12,000 students who also might have had a transformative experience by taking that course? Digital tools allow us to provide that access to many more of these students,” she added. 

“To meet the varied needs of students from differing backgrounds from across the country and around the world, you need an institution with ambition and vision — and a commitment to investing in the infrastructure necessary to achieve that vision. ASU has the blue-sky belief in access and scale, and the readiness for innovation I was looking for.”

New received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brandeis University in 1980, as well as three degrees from Columbia University including a master’s degree in English in 1982, a Master of Philosophy with an emphasis on English in 1985 and a PhD in 1988.

She has authored and published numerous articles and four books including “The Regenerate Lyric: Theology and Innovation in American Poetry,” “The Line’s Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sigh,” “Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore: A Memoir in Five Generations” and “New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of America’s First Literature, A Wiley Blackwell Manifesto.” Her two forthcoming books include “How to Read American Poetry” and “The Public Humanist.”

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU professors provide language lessons to high school students

The faculty taught Portuguese, Italian to the students through interactive lessons that included language, culture


August 5, 2021

This summer, faculty from Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures provided lessons in Portuguese and Italian to a group of 86 students participating in Friendly House’s Talent Search college and career readiness program.

Friendly House’s TRiO program is the only nonprofit of its kind in Arizona, serving primarily middle and high school first-generation students from low-income families. The program seeks to support and encourage these students toward a path of higher education.

“Language isn’t something that people generally hear when talking about higher education,” said Vanessa Sandoval, college and career readiness TRiO adviser. Group of heritage Spanish speaking high-school students Group of heritage Spanish-speaking high school students at the Friendly House’s TRiO program. Download Full Image

Not only did the summer camp sessions provide students an opportunity to learn a different language, but it also exposed them to more possibilities in higher education.

Friendly House offers many programs with adult education, immigration, family services, and workforce development. The TRiO program in particular works primarily with middle and high school students in the Phoenix Union District, providing them with support and guidance for college enrollment.

“I wanted to integrate a cultural education aspect with this year’s summer camp. Exposing them to different careers that are out there, specifically to different languages, is so important because students really don’t know what other careers are out there (in higher education) besides sciences,” Sandoval said.

ASU organizers and participants include former Assistant Director of Academic Services Barbara Fleming, Assistant Professor of Portuguese Ligia Bezerra, Senior Lecturer of Portuguese Cezar Augusto Ponti Medeiros and faculty and students from the Italian program.

“I met with the students over Zoom and taught them Italian vocabulary, how to introduce themselves and about the diverse languages and regions in Italy. I was inspired by my professors and the Italian department to share this beautiful language with other students,” said Chloe Larson, a chemistry and Italian senior at Barrett, The Honors College. Larson is also the president of the Club Italiano at ASU.

The professors provided interactive lessons in Portuguese and Italian, highlighting not only language but culture. Lessons included discussions of the demographics of various regions, from the food that they eat to the sports that they play and the music that is most popular. Some students were even able to recognize many of the artists. At the end of each session, the students had the opportunity to converse with the professors in breakout rooms, forming both sentences and paragraphs.

Many of the TRiO students were heritage Spanish speakers and lessons on Portuguese and Italian cultures proved to be relatable to them.

The lessons, according to Sandoval, “tapped into their hobbies and interests — music, sports, food — and expanded those horizons of what’s possible.” 

At the end of the summer camp, TRiO students took home some school-branded bags and certificates proclaiming them future Sun Devils.

“What the professors shared of their own experiences helped motivate the students as well,” Sandoval said. “ASU is a university that many of these students already know. I think a message that many of them might take away is that this is within reach. ASU is where these professionals come from, and it’s somewhere that I want to go.” 

This article was written by Raegan Mills, co-editor of the School of International Letters and Cultures newsletter, in collaboration with Enrique Martín-Bonneville, communication specialist in the School of International Letters and Cultures.

Enrique Martin-Bonneville

Communications specialist , School of International Letters and Cultures

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