LEADERSHIP: Advocating for the Role of an Emerging University

The Obermann Center represents the University of Iowa in multiple conversations around the country regarding the work of the humanities, the future of the modern university, the evolution of graduate education, and how higher education and local communities work together. With membership in national organizations, including the National Humanities Alliance, the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, and Imagining America, Obermann not only keeps abreast of myriad issues affecting higher education but also shares its exemplary programming with fellow member institutions, which often model their own programming after Obermann’s.

The very active and public face of Obermann is our director, Teresa Mangum, who is the P.I. of the Andrew W. Mellon–funded Humanities for the Public Good Initiative and also the University of Iowa representative to the Andrew W. Mellon–funded Humanities Without Walls Consortium Advisory Board. Teresa serves as Vice President of the Executive Board of the National Humanities Alliance, is co-director of the Public Humanities Network of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, and co-chairs the Modern Language Association Council on the Status of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

Teresa Mangum speaking at lunchtime work session

Additionally, she is a member of the Leading and Learning Initiative of the organization Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life; co-editor of the University of Iowa Press series Humanities and Public Life, and, in the last academic year, served on grant review panels for the Modern Language Association, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

It was by Teresa’s invitation that Paula Krebs, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association, and Jim Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association visited Iowa City in Fall 2019 (the pair is pictured above). They provided a keynote lecture, “Scholarly Associations & Graduate Education: Diversifying Career Planning in the Humanities,” as part of a symposium dedicated to the planning of the Humanities for the Public Good program.

The Center’s staff takes pride in having been invited by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to submit applications for several Sawyer Seminars, including the 2019–20 Imagining Latinidades seminar. This is an honor conferred on centers that have shown that they can effectively organize and facilitate large-scale scholarly symposia. Providing new voices, skills, and opportunities to UI faculty and students is one of our top goals, and one which—we hope—positions us at the forefront of interdisciplinary and humanities centers across the country.

Each spring, Teresa travels to Washington, DC as part of the National Humanities Alliance Advocacy Day. In March 2020, just before the U.S. restricted travel, she and Roland Racevskis, UI Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, visited legislative offices on Capitol Hill.