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New UGA Faculty Research Clusters to focus on humanities, arts

Willson Center research cluster directors
Participants in the UGA Faculty Research Clusters

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia’s Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts launched its new Faculty Research Clusters initiative at a public reception Aug. 29 in the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. The program supports groups of faculty organized to address large-scale humanities and arts questions in partnership with colleagues from allied departments, colleges, centers and institutes.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Vice President for Research David Lee gave remarks at the event. Willson Center Director Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, introduced the directors of the six clusters.

“The arts and humanities are a vital component of a well-rounded education,” Morehead said. “The Willson Center and its new research clusters will play an important role in highlighting these disciplines on the UGA campus and in attracting research funding, a critical goal of my administration.”

The clusters have been organized around interdisciplinary research initiatives that can serve as bridges between the university and off-campus communities. Some of them have been established for years while others are in the planning stages, but all were selected for their potential to communicate innovative academic research in the humanities and arts at UGA to other public and peer institutions.

“The research clusters offer a new way to think about the organization, progress and outcomes of humanities and arts research at the university,” Lee said. “I am pleased to support this initiative, which involves faculty and students from across departments and colleges. These clusters offer UGA pillars of research activity that will keep us grant-competitive and innovative.”

The research clusters program is funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research through the University of Georgia Research Foundation. Each cluster is funded for a period of up to 36 months with a maximum 12-month budget of $25,000. Funding is reviewed every 12 months.

“The Willson Center is the hub of humanities and arts research at the university, and the gateway for our faculty and students to the latest innovations in their fields,” Allen said. “We are delighted to launch these research clusters as the next stage in establishing the University of Georgia as a globally competitive and intellectually relevant institution.”

Richard Neupert, the Wheatley Professor of the Arts and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Theatre and Film Studies, is working with the group studying neuroimaging, movie trailers and spectator cognition.

“The Willson Center research clusters are already opening productive new avenues for interdisciplinary collaborative research,” he said. “These grant opportunities are extraordinarily valuable to the teaching, research and service missions of UGA’s humanities and arts. But the results will also reach far beyond Georgia’s borders. As for our project, it is truly remarkable that UGA can bring together the worlds of brain science, psychology, computer science and cinema studies and also provide access to a powerful fMRI bio-imaging lab.”

The 2013-2014 funded research clusters and the faculty for each are listed below.

• Athens Music Project: Susan Thomas, co-director, associate professor, Hugh Hodgson School of Music and Institute for Women’s Studies; Jean Kidula, co-director, associate professor, Hugh Hodgson School of Music and African Studies Institute

• Digital Humanities Lab: Stephen Berry, co-director, Amanda and Greg Gregory Professor in the Civil War Era, history department; Bill Kretzschmar, co-director, Harry and Jane Willson Professor in Humanities, English department; Claudio Saunt, co-director, Richard B. Russell Professor in American History, history department

• EcoFocus Film Initiative: Sara Beresford, director

• Ideas for Creative Exploration: David Z. Saltz, executive director, associate professor and head, theatre and film studies department; Mark Callahan, artistic director, senior academic professional, Lamar Dodd School of Art and Willson Center associate academic director for innovation in the arts

• International Modernism: Jed Rasula, director, Helen S. Lanier Distinguished Professor, English department

• Neuroimaging, Movie Trailers and Spectator Cognition: Tianming Liu, co-director assistant professor, computer science department; Richard Neupert, Wheatley Professor of the Arts and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Theatre and Film Studies; L. Stephen Miller, co-director, professor, psychology department

For more information about Willson Center research clusters, see

Willson Center for Humanities and Arts
The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts is a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Research at UGA. In the service of its mission to promote research and creativity in the humanities and arts, the Willson Center sponsors and participates in numerous public events on and off the UGA campus throughout the academic year. It supports faculty through research grants, lectures, symposia, publications, visiting scholars, visiting artists, collaborative instruction, public conferences, exhibitions and performances. For more information, see