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WVU opens Humanities Center; Claycomb to serve as interim director

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Ryan Claycomb
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West Virginia University is opening a new center for the humanities to support innovative, collaborative, and interdisciplinary faculty research in all humanities fields. Dr. Ryan Claycomb will serve as founding interim director. He most recently served as associate dean of the WVU Honors College. 

“Scholarly research faces defunding from the state and national levels, and the humanities disciplines are vulnerable because their value is hard to quantify,” said WVU Provost Joyce McConnell. 

“We are determined to support our humanities faculty because our world needs their work, now perhaps more than ever, and a humanities center will provide the infrastructure in which this critical research can thrive. Moreover, this effort will support the increasingly important work that crosses disciplines, including medical humanities, environmental humanities and digital humanities.” 

Through its support of faculty research and collaboration, the center will highlight both the caliber of work being done in the humanities at WVU and the impact of humanities scholarship beyond the classroom. The center’s first activities will include establishing an advisory council, pursuing research grants to support faculty projects and hosting and funding interdisciplinary faculty research groups. 

The University is leveraging endowed funds to create the center. 

“Humanities scholarship at a world-class research university can tell us a great deal about how we as a culture have arrived at our present moment.” Claycomb said. “That research is important in the classroom and also has a crucial public dimension. Our humanities center will provide a forum for scholars to collaborate on research as well as a platform from which to speak out on its relevance to our world.” 

Planning for the center has been underway since 2015, when Dr. Melanie Page, associate vice president for creative and scholarly activities in the WVU Research Office, brought humanities faculty together to discuss the challenges they faced in their research. 

The consensus was that a humanities center would be tremendously valuable to both the faculty and the University as WVU aims to solidify its classification as a Research 1 institution. Five other Big 12 schools have humanities centers, while two additional members of the Big 12 have related entities. 

To launch the center, McConnell turned to Claycomb to serve as founding interim director because of his proven effective leadership as associate dean of the Honors College. Claycomb developed the new Honors Foundations Program, established the Honors Faculty Fellows program to foster innovative teaching and helmed the 2017 West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy. 

As he takes on the interim director role with the WVU Humanities Center, Claycomb will also return to a joint faculty appointment as professor in the Department of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and in the School of Theatre and Dance in the College of Creative Arts. 

McConnell anticipates conducting an internal search for a permanent director of the center once the infrastructure is fully established. 

-WVU- 

ms/08/16/17 

CONTACT: Ann Claycomb; Assistant Vice President for Strategic and Academic Communication
304.293.9919; ann.claycomb@mail.wvu.edu

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