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HF9: Humanities Engagement with Public Policy


This working group focuses on building skills and strategies to connect humanists with community groups, NGOs, nonacademic professional organizations, government agencies, and policymakers.

Open to New People

Active since: 2022

  • University of Rochester
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Hobart & William Smith Colleges

Collaborative Goals

Taking cues from fieldwork in the social and natural sciences, this group develops a form of engaged humanities practice to pursue collaborative work with non-philosophers over an extended period of time. The working group provides support and opportunities for peer guidance for humanists who seek to develop research partners outside of academia and have an impact on decision-making. First, this group helps participants identify what they can contribute to communities of practice, whether this is ethical evaluation, storytelling, conceptual analysis, historical or cultural interpretation, or another humanities perspective. In addition, the group will develop strategies for initiating collaborations, contributing productively to decision-making goals, translating between communities, and facilitating discussion. The working group may also evaluate methodological questions for humanists involved in engaged research, such as maintaining objectivity, as well as practical questions, such as how to create academic outputs related to community engagement. A long term goal is to create a faculty community that is involved in working with communities and policymakers. Events will include workshops and invited speakers.

Group Organizers

Evelyn Brister

Professor, Department of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

James Johnson

Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester

Kal Alston

Professor of Education; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Scott Brophy

Professor of Philosophy, Dean of Hobart College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Group Members

  • Lauren Hall, Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Benjamin Yost, Cornell University
  • Laura Stamm, Assistant Professor, University of Rochester
  • David Martins, Associate Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Kristoffer Whitney, Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Michelle Chun, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Blaize Gervais, Assistant Professor, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • David Emmanuel Gray, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo
  • Ryan Muldoon, Professor, University at Buffalo

Group Outcomes

Our workshop was held April 15, 2023--just one month before writing this report--so we are still formulating follow-up plans. We are setting up a listserv for students and faculty interested in sharing information and experiences about community-engaged and policy-relevant humanities. A subset of people are teaching in new PPE (Philosophy/Political Science/Economics) programs or are interested in developing those programs. The workshop served to forge those connections with plans for follow-up. The workshop also served to build connections between academics and two community groups in Rochester. And we made cross-border connections with neighbors at McMaster University and The/La Collaborative. The core organizing committee was too occupied with planning the workshop to apply for next year's CNY Humanities Corridor funds, but we are constructing plans to apply for NEH funding for a future activity as well as a possible collaboration with the University at Buffalo's PPE program. We will apply for CNY Humanities Corridor funding in the following round. The graduate student participants have requested that we follow up with them and give them the opportunity to provide feedback in about a year on how the workshop served them. They suggest the group provide targeting training and advice for novice researchers in the future.