Project Humanities explores ways we connect and make meaning

January 25, 2011

Celebration kicks off Feb. 7 with noted author and screenwriter Sherman Alexie

Arizona State University will shine the spotlight on the humanities in a yearlong celebration filled with public events, programs and activities that highlight faculty and student scholarship, research and creative activity. Download Full Image

ASU’s Project Humanities, a universitywide initiative involving all four campuses, in its inaugural year will focus on “Humanities at the Crossroads: Perspective on Place.”

“The idea of place holds many meanings,” said Neal A. Lester, dean of humanities in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who is leading the project. “Within higher education the humanities, particularly foreign languages and cultural studies, have increasingly fallen victim to budget cuts. There is the perception that they just aren’t important. That is not the case at ASU, where the humanities continue to grow and prosper under the leadership of President Crow and Provost Capaldi. They serve a core purpose at our university and we want to tell that story.”

Secondly, said Lester, place is integral to the humanities because it encompasses so much of how people define themselves and their relationships to and with each other. Project Humanities will examine the way place allows people to create, share and organize, as well as practice inclusion and exclusion and foster unity and alienation.

Project Humanities will explore the “humanities in action.” Examples include how studying a foreign language helps one learn about other people and cultures, how critical discussion of literature leads to self-discovery and self-reflection, or how humanities determine the significance of digital media such as Facebook.

Some of the broad topical areas to be addressed during the calendar year will include: What makes us human? How are humans more alike than unalike? How can civil discourse be used to address conflict? What is the role of social media in creating community? Is technology the liberator or the oppressor?

“The humanities – the study of languages, literatures, cultures, philosophy, religions and history – are vital to creating a literate citizen,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “They inform our sense of who we are and our place in relationship to each other. They enhance our lives, give meaning to our professions, and provide us with the tools to think critically about society and transform it in positive and meaningful ways.”

ASU Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi said, “The humanities expose us to the cultural artifacts of other times and places, developing in us the skills of understanding and giving us distance on our place and thinking. They are critical in developing cultural creativity, and important thus not just for the university but for society.”

Project Humanities kicks off with a week of activities Feb. 7-11. Keynote speakers include noted author and screenwriter Sherman Alexie; Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association of America; and Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Other upcoming public events include blues concerts, scholarly lectures, art exhibitions with conversation, conversations with artists, and the multimedia event, The Langston Hughes Project featuring the Ron McCurdy Quartet.

At the end of this year, ASU will produce a publication of original faculty, student and community work relating to the project.

For more information on Project Humanities events, as well as stories on humanities scholarship and research, visit the website

Sharon Keeler

ASU School of Dance presents Transition Projects I & II

January 25, 2011

Transition Projects I & II encompass a combination of complex performance and innovative choreography studies by ASU School of Dance undergraduate seniors, faculty, alumnae and special guests.

Claudia Murphey, School of Dance professor, is the artistic driector of the performances to take place Feb. 18-20, on the ASU Tempe campus. Some pieces from Transition Projects I will be included in Transition Projects II. Download Full Image

Transition Projects I

Sustainability and soil erosion are subjects examined in a three-part work, Exhausted Abundance. Choreographed by Karen Schupp, School">">School of Dance faculty member, and performed by seniors Mandi Karr and Emily Zakrzewski, the piece explores these subjects in site-specific and theater settings.

In Endless River, choreographed by Mary Fitzgerald, associate professor in the School of Dance, and in collaboration with seniors Madeline Wilcox and Tara Wrobel, the dancers endlessly separate and come together in an intimate duet about closure and change.

New York-based choreographer Nina Buisson presents Tear of Stone, a solo performed by graduating senior Samantha McHale.

For Her Smile Is Painted On, choreographed by Jenna Kosowski, School of Dance alumna and a solo performance by senior Renee Zuccola, is influenced by the storybook character, Raggedy Ann created in 1915. This was around the period in U.S. history when women fought for equal rights. The piece plays between the ideas of freedom and femininity. The flow and fluidity of the movements show “freedom” and the overall piece is focused on the “feminine” qualities of dance.

Revolutionary Alarm is choreographed by senior Melissa Britt with the collaboration of senior Paige Mayes, and spoken-word artist Tomas Stanton, and conveys multiple characters through Tomas' spoken words that are designed to captivate the audience in an experience of recreating words and movement at the same time.

Choreographer and senior Alyssa Brown uses minimalist movement in fixAted. This piece depicts a clear focus as the dancers become enthralled with something offstage. It is an attempt to draw the audiences to what is happening both on and off stage, and create an obsessive fixation with something unknown.

Pushing Forward explores and embodies movement through the discussion of transitioning. Choreographer and senior Tara Wrobel, in collaboration with the performers, demonstrates how they are discovering their individual process through their time here at ASU and into their future outside of school.

Transition Projects II

Alumna Cheri Burns-McDowell reveals a new work, White Noise, exploring Electronic Voice Phenomenon through a mysterious woman in white portrayed by Janelle Fehser, graduating senior. In collaboration with Eileen Standley, School of Dance clinical professor, seniors Mandi Karr and Alyssa Brown use movement as a metaphor for society drowning in “over-stimulation” due to the accessibility of technology.

Seniors Emily Millizer, choreographer, and Ashleigh Leite present Sweetheart, a collaboration of the exhilarating movement of Leite and her self-produced video work that explores the inner self of an Arizona State University sorority sweetheart.

Seniors Laura Pellegrino and Kasey Fletcher invite the audience to participate in their piece, The Game Is In Action..., an installation which examines the game Twister through live game-play and video.

Editor’s note: The Endless River, Revolutionary Alarm, and Pushing Forward pieces from Transition Projects I also will be presented in the Transition Projects II program.

Transition Projects I performances are scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 18 and 4 p.m., Feb. 19. Transition Projects II performances are scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 19 and 2 p.m., Feb. 20.

All shows will be performed in the Margaret Gisolo Dance Studio, 611 E. Orange St., in the Physical Education Building East (PEBE) #132 on the ASU Tempe campus. Tickets are $8-$21. Contact the Herberger Institute Box office at 480-965-6447, or visit" href="

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(480) 965-1208

ASU School of Dance

Wendy Craft

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