Campus News

NHAF names UGA’s Willson Center a national model for building humanities communities

Willson Center house
Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts

Athens, Ga. – The Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia has been profiled as a national model for fostering successful humanities communities as part of a new initiative by the National Humanities Alliance Foundation.

The Willson Center was selected to be the first organization profiled for the initiative after representatives of the NHAF visited UGA for the dedication of the Willson Center Digital Humanities Lab in April. The Willson Center-together with Georgia Humanities, the statewide affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities-will lead the working group for the state of Georgia, the first launched under the initiative.

“The humanities are flourishing at the University of Georgia, with the Willson Center paving the way toward the future,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. “I am pleased that this pioneering academic center is being recognized as a national model for collaboration by the National Humanities Alliance Foundation.”

The Humanities Working Groups for Community Impact Initiative is a national project supported by the Whiting Foundation—which issues grants to develop and refine programs to serve the humanities and literature—that “aims to strengthen and expand support for the humanities by showcasing the impact that humanities organizations achieve at the local level,” according to the NHAF.

The NHAF will facilitate the organization of a working group in a selected community in each state to develop agendas and work with participating local organizations and individuals. These groups will coordinate on a national level to identify and disseminate best practices for the cultivation of resilient and energized humanities communities.

“We are deeply impressed by how the Willson Center has drawn UGA faculty and students together with local community members in order to advance world-class humanities research while simultaneously enriching community life in and around Athens,” said Stephen Kidd, executive director of the NHA and the NHAF. “Successes like these point the way toward stronger humanities communities nationwide, and we are delighted that the Willson Center and Georgia Humanities are leading the working group that will explore the further expansion of such work in the state of Georgia.

“It is difficult to imagine a better launching pad for our national initiative, and we are grateful for the collaboration of such exemplary partners.”

Georgia Humanities President Jamil Zainaldin added, “This is a powerful collaboration involving dynamic university leadership, a humanities center with a bold vision and a national association committed to advancing the humanities in the nation. Georgia Humanities is delighted to partner in such a worthy initiative.”

The Willson Center recently formed a local Board of Friends to increase public engagement and support; launched the Digital Humanities Lab in partnership with the UGA Libraries and the UGA Press, which will be an instruction space and incubator for publicly engaged digital humanities projects; and, with the support of Morehead and David Lee, UGA’s vice president for research, relocated to a historic house on the UGA campus that will serve as a gathering space for conversations on the humanities that include communities within the university and beyond.

“The University of Georgia is a public institution of global significance, and the Willson Center represents its diverse and accomplished community of research and creativity in the humanities and arts,” said Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center. “We are honored to partner with the National Humanities Alliance Foundation as part of our commitment bringing together diverse communities in the production of new knowledge in a fast-changing world. We look forward to joining a national conversation about the humanities’ part in the creation of resilient research communities that benefit the citizens we serve.”

The National Humanities Alliance and the NHAF, its sister foundation, are based in Washington, D.C., and work to advance and strengthen humanities education, research, preservation and public programs at the national, state and local levels.

For more on the Humanities Working Groups for Community Impact Initiative, visit

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