Proud of Our Humanities

Dear Emory alumni and friends,

This issue of Emory Magazine hits especially close to home for me. Throughout my years spent at universities, I’ve enjoyed many strong connections with faculty in the humanities — including my brother and sister-in-law, who are professors of literature and English at Northwestern University. But it’s my wife, Carmel Martinez Fenves, who has opened my eyes to the transformative power of art and creative expression through her textile works and her search for inspiration during our four decades together. In my time as a university president, I have relied most heavily on knowledge tied to the humanities rather than the engineering training I focused on as a student and professor. I have seen, over and again, how the humanities and sciences are complementary.

A major reason why I joined Emory in 2020 is because the university is an extraordinary liberal arts college and research powerhouse all in one. Emory is uniquely positioned to undertake scholarship, groundbreaking research, artistic expression and teaching that explores the human condition like few other universities. And a commitment to the humanities is at the center of an Emory education.

Across our nation in recent years, there has been a disturbing trend of universities pulling back on the humanities. At Emory, we are doing the opposite. This year, under Provost Ravi Bellamkonda’s leadership, we started the Initiative for Arts and Humanistic Inquiry, which will bolster the humanities and arts by recruiting up to 30 faculty across Emory College of Arts & Sciences, Oxford College, Candler School of Theology, Goizueta Business School and Emory School of Law. These scholars will bring essential perspectives to Emory and apply their expertise to take on a range of ambitious challenges and opportunities.

The world is changing rapidly, and the work of humanistic scholars and artists will help us understand who we are and where we are headed. They will also enable us to continue elevating the education we offer our students, providing a well-rounded experience with substance and depth that will serve students throughout their lives.

In October, I saw the lifelong impact of an Emory education on full display during our annual homecoming festivities in Atlanta. It was phenomenal. It seemed like every square foot of the campus was electric, filled with thousands of enthusiastic Emory alums, students, parents, families, faculty and staff. As is often the case, parents asked me about the Emory experience and how we are preparing their students for the future, namely, the kinds of jobs they could get with an Emory degree! I explained that an Emory education is meant to be timeless and, yes, their students will be well prepared for their first jobs, but even more important, they will also have strong fundamentals in learning, critical thinking and communicating, which will prepare them for future jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

Career paths change. Yet the ability to make sense of the world through history, languages, the arts, philosophy and so much more will be valuable forever. At Emory, we are preparing future leaders who know how to harness cutting-edge technology, but also have the analytical skills and creativity to make contributions regardless of the trends of a given moment.

As you’ll see in this issue, they can only do that with knowledge and inspiration from the humanities. That’s a specialty here at Emory and one we’re very proud of.

Gregory L. Fenves 
Emory University

Email the Editor