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Sylvester Johnson, Professor and Director of the Center for Humanities

Sylvester Johnson, Professor and Director of the Center for Humanities

Sylvester Johnson, Professor and Director of the Center for Humanities
Sylvester Johnson, Professor and Director of the Center for Humanities

Sylvester A. Johnson is Associate Vice Provost for Public Interest Technology and Executive Director of the “Tech for Humanity” initiative advancing human-centered approaches to technology at Virginia Tech. He is the founding director of the Center for Humanities, which is supporting human-centered research and humanistic scholarship at Virginia Tech. Sylvester’s research has examined religion, race, and empire in the Atlantic world; religion and sexuality; national security practices; and the impact of intelligent machines and human enhancement on human identity and race. He is a Professor in the Department of Religion and Culture and a design-team affiliate faculty member in Virginia Tech’s socio-technical, transdisciplinary Calhoun Honors Discovery Program. Before joining Virginia Tech, Sylvester held academic appointments in African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University, Indiana University, and Florida A&M University.

Rishi Jaitly, Distinguished Humanities Fellow

Rishi Jaitly, Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Practice

Rishi Jaitly, Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Practice
Rishi Jaitly, Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Practice

Professor Rishi Jaitly is a Distinguished Humanities Fellow in the Center for Humanities and leader of the "Digital Transformations and Scientific Collaboration" area in the Academy of Transdisciplinary Studies (ATS), which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.  Building on his specialization in History and American Studies at Princeton University, Jaitly has championed humanities as an area of growth and transformation. He is a leader of human-centered change and technology whose commitment to public service has led him to embrace multiple roles in society to advance public interest.

Jaitly has led teams at Google and Twitter, and he has co-founded non-profit organizations such as Michigan Corps, an online service platform for Michiganders to give back to their home state no matter where they live. 


Jaitly’s other civic entrepreneurial and executive experiences have spanned a range of sectors. He has served as commissioner of higher education in New Jersey, a director of the Knight Foundation, and director of strategy for the nonprofit College Summit (now Peer Forward) that partners with low-income high-schools and their students to boost college enrollment rates.

Upon leaving Twitter in 2016, Jaitly co-founded and served as CEO of Times Bridge, an investments and partnerships firm with a mission to help the world’s best ideas expand internationally and in India in particular. In 2022, he was recognized by Rest of World as a top 100 Global Tech’s Changemaker

Professor Jaitly’s humanities advocacy has led him to seats on the boards of the National Humanities Center; PRX, a public media company specializing in audio journalism and storytelling; and Virginia Humanities, the commonwealth’s humanities council. He is also a former Trustee of Princeton University.

You can read more about Professor Rishi Jaitly here.

 Dominique Francesca, Business Manager

Dominique Francesca is the Center for Humanities’ Business Manager and Office Administrator. A native of Minneapolis, Dominique came to Virginia Tech in 2019 after a long career in business ownership and management in the New River Valley, as well as in the Mid- and Southwest. She manages the center’s fiscal responsibilities and serves as the primary assistant to the director.

Dominique Francesca, Business Manager

Dominique Francesca, Business Manager
Dominique Francesca, Business Manager

Maria Siddiqui, Graduate Assistant

Maria Siddiqui is a Ph.D. scholar at ASPECT with a focus on anti-Muslim violence in India. Holding a post-graduate degree from Ambedkar University Delhi, her scholarly pursuits are characterized by an examination of the dynamics that underlie prejudice against Indian Muslims.

Before dedicating herself to this research, she began with the study of English literature at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. This foundation equipped her with a nuanced understanding of literary and cultural perspectives, which she now employs in her exploration of the social issues she investigates. Her work transcends disciplinary boundaries, inviting broader engagement and collective reflection on the multifaceted challenges she aims to address.

Maria Siddiqui's Picture