Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Asian University for Women (AUW) plans to launch a new liberal arts major for university students. The Mellon grant, along with support from other sources, will enable AUW to hire nine graduate students to develop and teach this new humanities initiative.
The humanities major will include the study of literature, history, philosophy, and comparative religious studies. Unlike existing majors at AUW, the Humanities major will only be available to students who also study one of the natural sciences and mathematics at AUW and produce a thesis that integrates knowledge from the humanities and sciences. Kamal Ahmad, the founder of AUW noted that “Too often the humanities are seen as a leisure activity. At AUW, we believe that the humanities are at the heart of our entire existence. Our sense of imagination, joy, dignity, and unbreakable will are all rooted in the humanities. By systematically studying history, literature, philosophy, and religion, the AUW community will strengthen both its intellectual breadth and examine more rigorously the fundamental issues that affect our society. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for so generously supporting AUW in these endeavors.”
AUW’s new leadership adds an amazing breadth of knowledge in the humanities to this invigorating moment. Joining as Vice-Chancellor of AUW in February 2022. Rubana Hook she brings a humanitarian perspective to the university position with a PhD in English Literature from Jadavpur University and her career as an accomplished poet in addition to her success in business. David Taylor also joined AUW in 2022 as dean of humanities and is leading AUW’s new humanities program for its first year. David Taylor previously served as the long-standing director of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations at Aga Khan University and holds a PhD in political science from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, with a focus on South Asian history and politics.
Rubana Haq and David Taylor spearheaded the humanities initiative and share an optimistic vision for the future role of the humanities at AUW:
“The humanities program at AUW will provide a foundation for discovering and understanding the human experience. Through the humanities program, scholars will gain meaningful insights and plan with creativity and intelligence. We hope that AUW humanities scholars will strive to preserve the past, understand the realities of today, and use knowledge to shape tomorrow.”
Rubana Hook, AUW Vice-Chancellor:
“The study of the humanities means sharing the hopes and aspirations of people around the world and throughout the ages. It should be understood that the human mind, individually and collectively, can create radically different worldviews, forms of social organization at all levels from the family to the nation, and ways of relating to the natural world. Humanities students will learn that it is important to understand the past and the present in order to build a better future for themselves and all the inhabitants of planet Earth.”
David Dennis Taylor, AUW Dean of Humanities:
AUW is pleased to partner with institutions and distinguished scholars in the humanities around the world to support the program. Sunil AmritRenu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History at Yale University, has taken a key role in developing the humanities program and its integral role at AUW:
“AUW’s new humanities program is an inspired effort to harness the power of the humanities to enhance AUW’s commitment to educating future leaders. The program will promote intercultural understanding by expanding students’ imaginations; it will instill in them a sense of how history shapes the present; it will help them develop lifelong skills that could not be more vital: critical intelligence, clarity of expression, and deep empathy. It gives me hope to see the AUW taking this bold new initiative at a time of such strife and suffering in the region and around the world.”
Sunil Amrit, professor of history at Yale University:
Selected fellows will be named AUW Andrew W. Mellon Endowment for the Humanities Fellows. In addition to scholarships, awardees will receive research support, travel, and be mentored by a senior scientist in their field. They will be based at the AUW campus in Chittagong, where furnished faculty accommodation will be available. After the fellowship period, there will be opportunities to apply for assistant professorships at AUW.
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