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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Arts and Sciences has formed the University of Tennessee Humanities Center, a new program dedicated to facilitating and improving research opportunities in humanities disciplines.

Starting in the 2012-2013 academic year, the center will offer four faculty research fellowships to UT faculty members and two dissertation-completion fellowships to UT graduate students.

Thomas J. Heffernan, the Kenneth Curry Professor in the Humanities and interim director of the center, said this is a step that was long overdue.

“All of our national peer universities have similar humanities centers,” he said. “As we work toward making UT a Top 25 university, we simply must offer greater support for research into the humanities.”

The need for greater funding for humanities research extends to the national level, Heffernan said. “The National Endowment for the Humanities has a $170 million budget, which must also be spent on maintaining museums and historical homes, in addition to funding humanities research projects. Meantime, the National Science Foundation has a $6.8 billion annual budget. So there’s a lot of ground to cover.”

The center will be a place of collaborative research, Heffernan said. Faculty and student fellows will receive funding for a year of extended research and writing time, as well as private offices and a collaborative work space. With additional funding, Heffernan said, the center will expand to six faculty fellows and will offer support for undergraduate research.

“We want to provide faculty and students with resources, a place, and time to pursue scholarly interests and bring projects to fruition,” Heffernan said.

The center received $700,000 in start-up funding from the College of Arts and Sciences, and additional support from the Office of the Provost and the Office of Research.

The goal, Heffernan said, is to raise $6.5 million in five years through a combination of grants earned by participating faculty and donations to the program and the college, and to become completely self-sustaining in seven years.

One of the requirements for faculty and students applying for a fellowship is to have a track record of seeking additional national funding.

“We ask the applicants to have applied for national funding because we want to help them develop a national profile,” Heffernan said. “Instead of looking inward toward their departmental colleagues, we want them looking outward to their peers across the US and around the world.”

During the year, fellows will hold a series of interdisciplinary seminars that will be open to the public.

The center will officially open in fall 2012 with a kickoff address by Kwame Anthony Appiah, an internationally renowned professor of philosophy at Princeton University. Appiah also will lecture to undergraduate students in the humanities.

For more information on the University of Tennessee Humanities Center, visit


Thomas J. Heffernan (865-974-6968,

Charles Primm (865-974-5180,