By Taylor Starkey, Chattanooga, Tenn.– In his three months with the University, Dr. Carl Springer, the SunTrust Chair of Excellence in the humanities department, hasn’t wasted any time in working toward proving the importance and relevance of the humanities in today’s world.
“Although he has been in town just a few months, we already find that he has enriched the department and has come to play a crucial role both inside and outside the classroom,” said humanities department head Dr. Josh Davies.
Springer came to UTC in August after a nation-wide search for the endowed chair. After over 30 years of teaching at universities such as Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University, Springer he saw the chair position as a way to address some of the problems and challenges faced by the humanities.
“Without humanities you’re missing out on some of great things that make up being a human being,” said Springer.
“What I’m trying to do is find ways in which this position could help the University make connections between STEM disciplines and the humanities,” he said.
Springer wants to help not only UTC students, but all members of the Chattanooga community realize why the humanities are still important today.
Springer says he’s still working on a lot of his ideas, but one way in which he hopes to improve this awareness is by holding an interdisciplinary colloquialism. The event will take place in the spring semester and will be sponsored by the humanities department. The goal of the colloquialism is to gather faculty and students from different departments and programs within the University to engage in “vigorous dialogue and discussion” about a specific topic.
Davies has been working very closely with Springer on planning the event and has overseen details of the planning process. Davies said the colloquium was started last year by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. The department held lunches where two faculty members within the humanities department would present their research and then discussion would follow. Like Springer, Davies wants to broaden the event in 2016.
“Too often, scholars in one part of the campus are unaware of the important work being done in departments elsewhere. Although all presentations this year will be made by faculty, we are thinking of creating a space for student presentations in future years,” said Davies.
The theme of the upcoming event will be pain.
“We have also chosen the overarching theme of ‘pain’ to give some unity to the ongoing conversation. The theme seemed promising and appropriate because pain inevitably intrudes into human life and in doing so generates a wide range of responses, reflections, and reactions,” said Davies
The topic was inspired by a course over the same subject that Springer taught, alongside an Oncological pharmacist, at Southern Illinois University. The course was created by Southern Illinois University’s pharmacy school as a way to ensure its students received some exposure to the humanities. Student’s would read and discuss several classic literary works that dealt with pain and suffering, then the pharmacist would lecture on prescription drugs and their different effects on pain.
“We began to get students to problematize pain and see that it’s not a simple matter,” said Springer.
More details about the colloquium will be announced at a later date.
As for individuals that avoid taking humanities courses for the sake of saving additional college expenses, Springer urges them to reconsider.
“Short term it may look advantageous, but in the long term, if you really want to understand something as complicated as pain and deal with people who are in pain in a substantial way and not just superficially,” said Springer, “then long-term, ten years down the road from graduation, you’re going to want those skills normally associated with the humanities; listening, talking, caring.”