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Engagement emerged as a key theme among the past, present and incoming directors of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities during a Feb. 10 conversation at Hyde Hall.

UNC College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karen Gil welcomed more than 50 faculty fellows, friends and supporters to the panel discussion about the institute’s origins, highlights and future direction.

The panel featured IAH Director John McGowan, founding director Ruel Tyson and incoming director Mark Katz. Jane Brown, retired UNC journalism professor and former director of IAH’s Academic Leadership Program, moderated.

“I think of Hyde Hall as one of the most important centers for faculty excellence on our campus,” Gil said. “It brings together faculty and gives them an opportunity to collaborate, to think, to imagine, to develop a vision and then to execute it all.”

Gil applauded founding director Ruel Tyson for identifying the need for the Institute and making it a reality and McGowan for expanding IAH programs and funding during his eight-year tenure. She welcomed incoming director Mark Katz, chair of UNC’s music director, who will take the helm July 1.

“You are an innovative teacher, scholar, fundraiser and administrator, which are all things you’ll need,” Gil said.

Tyson, asked about the Institute’s origins, recalled a provocative statement made by a former provost that “the future of UNC was in the sciences.” That was the catalyst that prompted Tyson to mobilize faculty to shape a vision and create a center that would strengthen and support liberal arts scholarship and faculty, he said.

McGowan pointed to the lack of formal sabbaticals for liberal arts faculty and the emergence of interdisciplinary scholarship for steering the new institute to the faculty fellowship model and a focus on interdisciplinary conversation.

The incubator, McGowan said, most symbolizes for him the spirit of the institute as “the place on campus where new ideas can be thought, big dreams can be dreamt, we put them into practice and, by that practice, become an example of how intellectual work is done.”

“What the institute exists to do is to make sure that Carolina continues to bring incredibly creative, innovative, forward-thinking faculty to this university, and then when they get to this university, they are given what they need to succeed and do what they want to do,” McGowan said. That includes helping them make connections to other faculty, alumni, students, resources and opportunities, he said.

Katz said his vision for the institute draws on that vision and a letter from Tyson, who noted that Hyde Hall has two entrances – one that faces campus and one that faces outward, to the town.

“That really symbolizes what this institute is all about,” Katz said. “To move forward, we have to look outward and make our case to the public…I think engagement is the future of the institute.”

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