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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 Assistant Vice Provost for the Humanities 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

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.

You can read more about Professor Rishi Jaitly here.

Rishi Jaitly, Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Practice

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

 Dominique Francesca, Business Manager

Dominique Francesca, Business Manager

Dominique Francesca, Business Manager
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.

Jason Higgins, Digital Humanities and Oral History Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Jason A. Higgins is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities and Oral History. He recently earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying Modern US/Global and African American History, and specializing in the Vietnam War, trauma, and Veterans Studies. He is the director of the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project and the co-editor of Service Denied: Marginalized Veterans in Modern American History (UMass Press, 2022). 

Dr. Jason Higgins, Digital Humanities and Oral History Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dr. Jason Higgins,  Digital Humanities and Oral History Post-Doctoral Fellow
Dr. Jason Higgins, Digital Humanities and Oral History Post-Doctoral Fellow

Rebekah Mui, Graduate Assistant

Rebekah Mui, Graduate Assistant

Andreza Jorge
Rebekah Mui, Graduate Assistant

Rebekah Mui is a PhD student at ASPECT from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She previously researched Web 2.0, communities of practice, and professional development for early childhood educators in Malaysia and Ireland for her honors and master's theses. Her current research interests are anarcho-pacifism, religion, and empire.