As we reflect on the past six years, I am heartened by the diversity and high quality of research that the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry has funded in the Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Scholars in these crucial fields are dedicated and hard working – blending imagination and academic rigor – yet their work is sorely underfunded. Despite the challenging funding landscape, since 2010, Confluencenter faculty grantees secured $5 million in external investments as individuals or in collaboration with cross-institutional research teams. Compared with the modest $815,263 disbursed by our center as seed funding, this is an incredible six-to-one return on investment.
Beyond the grant money our researchers are bringing to the UA, they are making a scholarly and community impact at the local and global level. Lydia Otero’s collaboration with Elaine Romero and Borderlands Theater to produce The Barrio Stories Project (a 2014-2015 Faculty Collaboration Grant) deeply resonated with the Tucson community by honoring the diaspora of residents whose homes were torn down to build the Tucson Convention Center in the late 1960s. The intellectual and artistic collaboration spoke truth to power and garnered the project local and national media coverage.
Confluencenter’s faculty researchers are producing projects focused on humanity’s grand challenges and are seeking to better people’s lives internationally. Global Human Rights Direct, one of Confluencenter’s Innovation Farm working groups, launched a virtual forum/human rights social media platform with a global database of human-rights stakeholders and a hub for videoconferences and webinars. The Contemplative Traditions (CT) group, another Innovation Farm collective, launched a popular Buddhist Studies minor in fall 2015. CT also initiated a Buddhist Studies lecture series and held its inaugural Southwest Symposium on Contemplative Pedagogies in spring 2016 – an event designed to bring mindfulness to the classroom.
Several of our 2015-2016 Graduate Fellowship projects explored social justice issues from the U.S. to South Africa, with three of our fellows — William White, Angela Storey, and Maki Kitagawa — presenting at our March 2016 Show & Tell. Their projects attracted a large public audience and have resulted in great individual accomplishments, such as Angela Storey’s acceptance of a tenure track position that began fall 2016 at the University of Louisville.
My own work with the Diversity Task Force Committee aligns with the kind of scholarship that Confluencenter has supported for years. The Diversity Task Force Committee is dedicated to collaborating with students and cultural centers to make the UA a safer, more accessible and inclusive place to work and study. For more information about this important initiative, please visit Diversity.arizona.edu.
In January 2016, I was elected to represent the UA and Confluencenter on the advisory board of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, an international forum for sharing and discussing information pertaining to interdisciplinary activity in the humanities. It is a great honor for the Confluencenter to be recognized as a global leader in interdisciplinary humanities alongside a very distinguished group of peer institutions.
All of this great work would not be possible without the support of our generous donors, especially JoAnna and Bill Westcott, and our dedicated staff. I want to express our sincere thanks to UA President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Andrew C. Comrie and Senior Vice President for Research Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy for their support, and to the members of campus and city media for their coverage of our events and projects.
We will continue to make the UA a better place. As we welcome the 2016-2017 academic year, I anticipate the growth of transformative research on campus, and I encourage you to explore ways to join our efforts as a donor, researcher or friend of the Confluencenter.
Javier Duran, PhD
Director, Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry