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Virginia Tech Humanities Week

What is Humanities Week? 

Virginia Tech Humanities Week highlights the essential work happening in the humanities at Virginia Tech and around the world. Members of the Virginia Tech community and beyond are invited to attend programs throughout the weeklong celebration scheduled for Feb. 20-24, 2023. Events will include the Giovanni-Steger Poetry Prize, panel discussions with leading experts in the humanities, and much more. Humanities Week is sponsored by the Center for Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Sign up for this year's events HERE and follow the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences on social media for updates.

Attending Humanities Week events? Share photos and posts on social media with the hashtag #VTHumanitiesWeek!


Events and Speakers

All events will have virtual viewing options available.

Humanities, History, and Culture

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Event: “Key-Concept Thinking: How to Think about What to Think about Next to Keep Your Thinking on Track to Its Goal" With Lee Pierson, Director of the Thinking Skills Institute.

Knowledge is both the product and the fuel of thinking, but the knowledge needed to keep your thinking moving toward its goal does not always come to mind automatically or by simply “trying harder.” In this session, you will interactively learn how to get more out of your thinking — whenever you choose — by introspectively-guided attention to Key Concepts in cognitive activities such as comprehension, creative problem-solving, and critical thinking (including the overriding of implicit biases such as those of race or gender). 

Time: 1 p.m. 

Location: Shanks Hall, Room 370/380, 181 Turner Street N.W.

Photo of Maria del Carmen Cana Jimenez

Event: "The Politics and Praxis of Flamenco" with Professor María del Carmen Caña Jiménez

In this experiential presentation, we will learn about the history and styles of flamenco dance and music, and its deep connections to Spanish culture and politics. We will focus on the origins, evolution, and uses of flamenco to cultivate a national identity. The event will conclude with a hands-on workshop on basic flamenco steps and clapping.

Time: 2 p.m.

Location: West Ambler Johnston Hall, J E 2323, 720 Washington St. SW

Photo of Ashley Shew

Event: "Disability Technology and Humanistic Reflection" 

  • Ashley Shew, Professor in STS 
  • Khadijah Queen, Professor in English
  • Amanda Leckner, Student in Political Science 
  • Hannah Jane Upson, Student in Political Science
  • Nataliya Brantly, Ph.D. Candidate in STS
  • Hanna Herdegen, Ph.D. Student in STS 
  • Matthew Schrage, Student in Architecture
  • Jillian Weise, Visiting Scholar at Virginia Tech and Professor of English at Florida State University

Good technology requires humanistic reflection - one has to know 'the good' and have practical wisdom on how to get there. This panel brings together a number of researchers from the humanities who are using humanistic methods to address questions of disability and technology. Typically, when we hear about technology for disability, the supposition is that this is tech for good. But, as reflected by Melvin Kranzberg Jr: "technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral." As humanities researchers, we're interested in how disabled people grapple with technologies aimed at them, how disabled people DIY and hack around hostile systems, how some of us manage to create and resist and make new narratives about what is good. 

Time: 3:30 p.m. 

Location: Carol M. Newman Library, multi-purpose room (Rm. 101), 560 Drillfield Drive

Matt Gabriele and David Perry with a photo of their book, The Bright Ages

Event: Book Discussion on "The Bright Ages" with Matthew Gabriele and David Perry

Virginia Tech Professor Matthew Gabriele joins his co-author David Perry to discuss their recently published book The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe. Join these authors as they shed light on surprising aspects of Europe’s so-called Middle Ages, from the varieties of religious traditions to fascinating histories of war to the rule of queens.

Time: 5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.

Location: Zoom-only Presentation

Humanities Education for All 

Robert Newman

Event: A Conversation with Robert Newman, President and Director of the National Humanities Center

Robert Newman, President and Director of the National Humanities Center, will speak on the role of humanities in  twenty-first century education. Why is humanities as urgent today as ever? What is the future of humanities education? What role must humanities play in higher education versus K-12? Newman will draw on his experience at the helm of the National Humanities Center, a unique independent institution supporting our nation’s humanities scholarship and public programming.

How can the transformative power of humanities play a role in the lives of incarcerated learners? Newman’s talk will be followed by a panel on humanities as part of prison education. This panel will co-convene a human rights worker, two formerly incarcerated students who have studied humanities, and an employee at a higher ed technology company who was formerly incarcerated and who is now working to make education accessible to incarcerated students. 

Time: 12 p.m. — 1:30 p.m.

Location: North End Center, Room 2420/2430, 300 Turner Street

Lunch will be provided, guests are also welcome to bring their own food. 

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Event: "Humanities Unlocked: Education for Incarcerated Students" with Margaret Breslau, Co-founder of the Virginia Prison Justice Network

This panel, moderated by Margaret Breslau of the Coalition for Justice, will feature formerly incarcerated students who will share their experience of the difference that education can make in the lives of incarcerated people and its implications for our entire society. The panel will include attention to the value of humanities education in particular as a major force for positive change.

Time: 2:30 p.m. — 4 p.m.

Location: North End Center, Room 2420/2430, 300 Turner Street

Nikki Giovanni

Event: Giovanni-Steger Poetry Prize Ceremony

Renowned author and University Distinguished Professor of English, Nikki Giovanni, established the poetry competition in 2005 and named it for its first benefactor, the late Charles W. Steger, who served as the university’s president at the time.

The prize honors the work of student poets at Virginia Tech. The Giovanni-Steger Poetry Prize Committee selects multiple winners, who read their poems as part of the celebration.

All undergraduates of any major are eligible for the competition, which is considered one of the most prestigious undergraduate literary prizes in the nation. 

Time: 5 p.m. - Reception to immediately follow in the main lobby

Location: Moss Arts Center, 190 Alumni Mall

Humanities and The Future of Our Media

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Event: "Open Access and the Humanities: Making Sense of a Sea Change in Scholarly Publishing" with Peter Potter & VT Panelists

The open access movement has been around for decades but only recently has it gained a foothold in the humanities. How should we assess this development? Should all humanities scholarships be OA? This roundtable brings together Virginia Tech faculty who have successfully published their work in a variety of OA venues to share what they’ve learned from their experiences and consider what the future holds. Q&A is encouraged.

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Location: Newman Library, Room 124 (The Athenaeum), 560 Drillfield Dr.

Photo of Professor Suchitra Samanta

Event: "Mithila Artists’ Critiques of Women’s Roles and Status in Society" with Professor, Suchitra Samanta

Suchitra Samanta, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, will speak on recent changes in an ancient, 600-year-old women’s folk tradition from the Mithila region, Bihar state, in Northeastern India. These women artists comment critically through their art on topics such as lack of education for girls, early (illegal) marriage, the (illegal) abortion of female fetuses, and, in general, the patriarchal norms subscribed to by society overall. As a cultural anthropologist who is Indian herself, and has long worked and published on Hinduism, and later on female literacy in India, Samanta will comment on the critiques, and the social and cultural norms that underlie these contemporary themes in Mithila art. 

Time: 1 p.m. 

Location: Zoom-only Presentation

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Event: "Is Technology Value-Laden?" with Professor, Joseph Pitt

Joseph Pitt, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy, will speak about whether technology is value-laden by examining some of the pros and cons, and then suggesting a third option. It is people who have values which are seen in terms of the actions people undertake; This then raises the issue of, which values should people act upon? Pitt’s answer is, “individuals need to engage others to bring about a world which exhibits their common vision and this is what the humanities force us to face.”

Time: 1 p.m.

Location: Major Williams Hall, Room 225, 220 Stanger St. 

Michael Slaby

Event: "Humanities and the Future of our Politics" with Michael Slaby, author of "For ALL the People: How did we get here? Where do we go from here?"

How did we get here? Where do we go from here? Michael Slaby, a major architect of digital media for communicating ideas in politics, has written with circumspection about the failed promises of social media to democratize public expression. What lessons have we learned from the past decade of digital technology and public discourse? What challenges will the future bring? Join us as Slaby explains the role of humanities in securing the future of American democracy and the public sphere.

Time: 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Location: Holtzman Alumni Center Assembly Hall, 901 Prices Fork Road

Humanities and the Future of Technology

Photo of Elena Lahr-Vivaz

Event: "Blogging on (and Beyond) the Palenque in the Transnational Cuban Archipelago” with Elena Lahr-Vivaz, associate professor of Spanish, Rutgers U-Newark

In order to spark a discussion about race, technology, Caribbean studies, and decolonial thought throughout the Americas, Elena Lahr-Vivaz's talk will engage both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as the general public. Lahr-Vivaz is the author of "Writing Islands: Space and Identity in the translational Cuban Archipelago" (U of FL P, 2022). The topic of her presentation is Blogging on (and Beyond) the Palenque, a study of a blog written by Black Cuban poets during the 1990s, the Cuban Special Period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lahr-Vivaz examines the ways in which these writers connect with other artists within and outside of the Cuban archipelago. She shows how this venue outside of the official purview becomes a place of political discussion that touches on the topic of racial inequality. This lecture (in English) will provide students and the general public with a nuanced view of the complexity of Cuba‚ A revolutionary regime seventy years later. This talk will be timely, as this issue gives context to the current political unrest in Cuba. In addition, students in Professor Andrango-Walker's SPAN 3474 (Modern Spanish Caribbean) courses (about 30 students) will be assigned a chapter on this topic as a course reading ahead of time. 

Time: 2 p.m.

Location: East Ambler Johnston Hall, Room 1340, 700 Washington St. SW

Photo of Anna Zeide

Event: "US History in 10: Foods, Animals, and Laborers" with Anna Zeide & VT panelists

How might we see history differently if we looked at it through new lenses? In this panel, four presenters will each share 10 slides in 10 minutes, telling stories of foods, wild animals, condiments, and technological workers that can make us rethink U.S. history and the people, foods, and environments of which it is comprised. These talks will be engaging, fast-paced, and accessible entry-points for anyone to think about our past in new ways. Theme-appropriate refreshments will be served.

Time: 4 p.m.

Location: Newman Library, Room 101S, 560 Drillfield Dr.

Rishi Jaitly, Laura Belmonte, Scott Hartley Collage

Event: Marquee Panel: “Humanities and the Future of Technology” with Rishi Jaitly, distinguished fellow in the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities; Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and Scott Hartley, author and entrepreneur.

Scott Hartley, a successful technology entrepreneur and Silicon Valley expert, has literally written the book when it comes to the urgency of humanities in a technological world. In a dynamic conversation with Laura Belmonte, the dean of the Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Hartley draws on his experience in developing and leading the innovation economy to explain why the liberal arts will rule the digital world and why the knowledge and skills that the humanities cultivate is vital to the future of talent in an innovation economy.

Time: 5:30 p.m. Reception (multipurpose room), 7 p.m. Panel Discussion (in auditorium), event will end at 8 p.m. 

Location: Graduate Life Center, 155 Otey Street

Humanities and Leadership

Photo of President Tim Sands and Scott Hartley

Event: A Conversation with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Scott Hartley, author and entrepreneur.

Technology is bringing massive changes to our society, what does this all mean for leadership? What future opportunities and challenges must society's leaders be prepared to meet in the coming years as we encounter the human edge of innovation? Join us as Virginia Tech President Tim Sands and Scott Hartley engage in a lively discussion moderated by Dawn Jefferies.

Time: 10 a.m.

Location: Haymarket Theatre, 290 College Ave.

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Event: Reading Together: Surprised by Joy! with Professor Shoshana Milgram Knapp

In this miniature version of the humanities experience, we will take time to read, together, two early short stories by O. Henry. We will pause in the middle to reflect on what we know, what we guess, what we fear. Then, as we finish reading each story, we will revise our incorrect assumptions, and learn that O. Henry’s world is brighter than we imagined.

Time: 1 p.m.

Location: Shanks Hall, Room 370/380, 181 Turner Street N.W.

Photo of Mae Hey and event guest

Event: "Evergreen, Bone Broths, and Other Gifts From Land for Winter Wellness" 

Join Mae Hey, assistant professor of history, and special guest, Mohawk Chef Dave Smoke-Mccluskey, and the rest of the garden family to learn about gifts the land gives us for staying healthy and for healing during the winter months. This cooking event will be focused on evergreen and bone broths with other gifts from land for winter wellness. All are welcome to attend. 

  • Shuttle van with limited seats available for those needing a ride from campus, please also consider carpooling if possible. 
  • Please consider bringing a reusable plate, bowl, cup, and utensils to help us lower our impact on the land. 

Time: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Location:  Shadow Lake Village Community House, 1741 Ginger Lane, Blacksburg VA, 24060

Registration is REQUIRED, sign up below:


Virtual Option (Registration still Required): 

Other Upcoming Humanities Events 2023

Saturday, Feb. 18 | 2 p.m.