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Jenkins chosen for commission

Observer Staff Report | Monday, February 21, 2011

University president Fr. John Jenkins was recently appointed to a national commission that will examine the future of teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.

The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, created by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), is co-chaired by Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, and John Rowe, chair and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp. The commission includes prominent Americans from the humanities, social sciences, physical and life sciences, business, law, philanthropy, the arts and the media.

The commission was spurred by a bipartisan request from U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) and David Price (D-N.C.). They presented the commission with the following charge:

“What are the top 10 actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?”

“The humanities and social sciences are often seen as having little application to the real world in which we live,” Jenkins said. “I couldn’t disagree more. The liberal arts give us important insight into our past, present and future — in politics, religion, the economy, education and other areas of our collective culture — and are integral to being an informed and contributing citizen of the world.”

The commission expects to publish a report in 18 to 24 months, the press release said. Its members will focus on education, research and the institutions critical to advancing the humanities and social sciences in the nation. The commission will draw on past research efforts, the experience and expertise of its multidisciplinary members and data from its Humanities Indicators to analyze the nation’s excellence in the humanities and social sciences.

Jenkins was elected to the AAAS in 2010. Other members of the commission are Amy Gutmann, John Hennessy, John Sexton, Donna Shalala and David Skorton, the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford, New York, Miami and Cornell Universities, respectively; Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities; documentarian Ken Burns; musician Emmy Lou Harris; retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter; actor John Lithgow; director George Lucas; and Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and former president of MIT.