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Center for Public Humanities

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The mission of the Center for Public Humanities is to cultivate social connections and civic engagement within southeast Michigan. We seek to foster knowledge and understanding about human experiences through programming and networking within the humanities.

Since its founding in September 2019, the Center has worked to create an environment in which Oakland University scholars can both contribute to and learn from our local communities. We aim to reduce access barriers and allow all people, on and off our campus, to engage with crucial conversations in arts, culture, and history.

The Center solicits programming ideas directly from the public, as well as from its Advisory Board members. If you have thoughts, ideas, or questions that you’d like to share, please reach out to [email protected].

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All events are free and open to the public.

Kidada Williams

Professor Kidada Williams from Wayne State University will speak about her recently published book, I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction. This is a gripping, emotion-packed account of the early post-Civil War years, known as Reconstruction, from the vantage point of Black Americans attempting to give meaning to their freedom. Consider purchasing a copy through local bookstore Pages Bookshop.
This event is made possible by The Judd Family Endowed Fund.

When: Tuesday, September 26, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Where: 242 Kresge Library (The Nyberg Room), Oakland University - and via Zoom. Link will be posted prior to the event.

Rose Hackman

Rose Hackman, a British journalist based in Detroit, will speak about her recently published book, Emotional Labor: The Invisible Work Shaping Our Lives and How to Claim Our Power. Emotional labor is essential to our society and economy, but it's so often invisible. In this groundbreaking, journalistic deep dive, Rose Hackman shares the stories of hundreds of women, tracing the history of this kind of work and exposing common manifestations of the phenomenon. But Hackman doesn't simply diagnose a problem - she empowers us to combat this insidious force and forge pathways for radical evolution, justice, and change.

When: Thursday, November 2, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Where: 242 Kresge Library (The Nyberg Room), Oakland University - and via Zoom. Link will be posted prior to the event.

Spreading the Word: Revisiting Dr. Johnetta Brazzell and the Pontiac Oral History Archive

The Pontiac Oral History Archive was created as a result of Dr. Brazzell's interviews in the 1970s with elderly African American residents of Pontiac, Michigan. This event will highlight important new work emerging from this oral history collection, including excerpts from podcasts based on the recordings, comments from living relatives of those interviewed decades ago, and a digital tour of the Pontiac Oral History Archive, publicizing its availability for community use.

When: Thursday, January 25, 2024, at 12 p.m.
Where: 242 Kresge Library (The Nyberg Room), Oakland University - and via Zoom. Link will be posted prior to the event.

Deirdre Mask, The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal about Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power

When: Thursday, February 8, 2024, at 12 p.m.
Where: Zoom. Link will be posted prior to the event.

Women Rapping Revolution

Kellie and Rebekah will discuss their book, Women Rapping Revolution: Hip Hop and Community Building in Detroitwith performances by Piper Carter, NiqueLoveRhodes, and Stacye J.

When: Thursday, March 28, 2024, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Oakland Center, Founders Ballroom A, Oakland University - and via Zoom. Link will be posted prior to the event.

Headshot - Daniel Clark
Daniel Clark, Director
Daniel is a historian whose research involves oral history, interviewing people about their experiences. He also enjoys raising vegetables in a community garden and running on trails.

Headshot - Kimmie Parker
Kimmie Parker, Associate Director

Kimmie is an artist, professor, graphic designer, and writer. Her practice oscillates between the practical and the theoretical, the intellectual and the emotional, the Apollonian and the Dionysianwith endless curiosity as the common thread.

Headshot - George Sanders
George Sanders
is an associate professor of sociology at Oakland University. His research explores the ways people establish meaningful interpersonal relationships through cultural and creative expressions.

Meaghan Barry is an associate professor of graphic design and the chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Oakland University. She is a partner and creative director at Unsold Studio, an award-winning Detroit-based branding firm. Barry's work focuses on design as an economic driver for communities, with an emphasis on branding for small businesses and nonprofits.

Emily Spunaugle is a humanities librarian at Oakland University. She partners primarily with professors and students in the Department of English, Film Studies and Production, and the Honors College. She also works to make the OU library's collections in these areas more familiar, visible, and accessible.

Jessica Payette is associate professor of Musicology at Oakland University. Her scholarly interests address opera in Austria, fin-de-siècle Vienna and the emergence of Expressionistic music and choreographic music.

Graham Cassano is an associate professor of sociology at Oakland University. He is an accomplished scholar, musician, and photographer, and he is the founder of the Pontiac Oral History Project. He has recently earned an MFA in Photography from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and his co-edited (with Teressa Benz) book, titled Urban Emergency (Mis) Management and the Crisis of Neoliberalism: Flint, MI, in Context, was published in 2021.

Mike Doan is a Canadian-born father, activist, and philosopher. He joined the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership in 2016 while working with Detroit Independent Freedom Schools and Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management. He is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oakland University.

Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Anti-Racism

The Center for Public Humanities acknowledges the pain and loss that Black and brown citizens disproportionately endure due to racist violence and police brutality. The activism in response to the murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans has been precipitated by the ongoing systematic manifestation of anti-Black violence. The Center commits to a steadfast position of anti-racism to support our students, staff, faculty, and community members. We support journalists and all citizens who exercise their freedom of speech to expose and oppose institutional racism to build a more just society. We continue to seek and support conversations across campus and the region to strengthen our position against racism in all its forms.

Land Acknowledgment

Niinwe nmiigwechendaanaa maanda aki.
Maanda Oakland University teg.
Pane gwanda Ojibwek, Odawak miinawa Bodwe’aadamiinhak.
Giibidaawok maanpii.

We acknowledge that the land on which Oakland University stands is the ancestral land of the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and the Potawatomi Nations.

A land acknowledgment offers a way to open a dialog. We at the Center for Public Humanities see this acknowledgment only as a beginningwe recognize that the arts and humanities have been practiced in Southeast Michigan long before the arrival of Europeans. As we learn how best to serve residents of the Tri-County Area, we pledge to be a positive voice to celebrate past achievements and amplify present and future contributions by Indigenous and Native American artists and humanists in this region.

We extend our sincere gratitude to Kenny Pheasant of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians for translating the land acknowledgment into Anishinaabemowin.

Recent Events

  • The Flawed Victory of Women's Suffrage

    September 8th, 7:00 PM. ONLINE.

    OU history professor Karen Miller examines what women's suffrage accomplished, and what it failed to achieve.

    Supported by the Department of Women and Gender Studies and the Center for Civic Engagement.

  • Creativity and Community during Covid-19: A Look at Chinese Social Media

    October 12th, 5:30 PM. ONLINE.

    Bowdoin College Associate Professor Belinda Kong shows how ordinary people in China use social media to create community amidst Covid-19.

    Generously funded by Student Affairs & Diversity.

  • Great Michigan Read Book Club: What the Eyes Don't See

    November 18th, 2:00 PM. ONLINE.

    Join us for an online book club to discuss Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's What The Eyes Don't See, a powerful first-hand account of the Flint water crisis. Facilitated by Professors Adolfo Campoy-Cubillo, Mark Navin, and Michael Doan. Space is limited! Please register by September 28th.

    This project is funded by Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

January 18, 2020 (Saturday)
Webinar: Envisioning the Public Humanities at OU

  • Dr. Susan Smulyan, Professor in the Department of American Studies at Brown University and the Director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, offered an engaging keynote talk. Dr. Smulyan offered different definitions of "public humanities" and shared case studies from Brown University. Guest speaker and OU alumna Kara Noto offered an account of her experience in the MA program in Public Humanities at Brown. Though initially planned as a luncheon, this event was rescheduled as a webinar to accommodate for inclement weather.

October 17, 2019 (Thursday)
Toni Morrison Film Screening

  • Coinciding with National Arts and Humanities Month, the Center screened the acclaimed 2019 documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am to pay homage to the Nobel laureate writer and tireless advocate of the humanities. Kresge Fellow and poet Nandi Comer introduced the film and premiered her poem, "In Praise of More Important Things: For Toni Morrison."

Recent Press

Hill, Katelyn. "Snow Can't Stop the Public Humanities.The Oakland Post, January 22, 2020.

"New Oakland University Center for Public Humanities the First in Michigan.Oakland University News, October 7, 2019.

College of Arts and Sciences Advising

100 Fitzgerald House
614 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-4567


College of Arts and Sciences
Dean's Office

Varner Hall, Room 217
371 Varner Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2140
Fax: (248) 370-4280
[email protected]