Christopher McKnight Nichols, an associate professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts, has been named director of the Oregon State University Center for the Humanities.
The Center for the Humanities is an interdisciplinary research center with the primary mission of advancing the vitality and quality of humanities research at OSU. Nichols assumed his new role Jan. 1; he succeeds David Robinson, Oregon Professor of English at OSU, who retired in December after leading the center for more than 15 years.
“The Center for the Humanities is a real gem at Oregon State University and I am honored to be taking on the center’s directorship,” Nichols said. “Given the university’s growing strengths in the humanities, this is a great time to enhance our support efforts in this area through such crucial organizations as the center, which helps demonstrate the value of scholarship in the humanities.”
The center offers fellowships and grants to support influential, innovative scholarship by OSU faculty pursuing projects related to the humanities. It also sponsors activities on campus and in the community that explore issues across cultural and disciplinary boundaries and demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to a wider public.
The center was established in 1984 as an outgrowth of the Humanities Development Program, which had been creating original interdisciplinary courses since the 1970s. It is based at the The Autzen House, 811 S.W. Jefferson Ave., where there is space for fellows of the center to work; meeting rooms for a variety of activities, including a popular lecture series, space for public talks and areas for curated art exhibits and displays.
“Working with my colleagues at OSU and beyond, I hope to develop new grant and fellowship programs that promote cutting-edge scholarship; establish new partnerships in the community, across the state and the nation; and launch innovative and diverse programs that bring the humanities to bear on pressing contemporary challenges,” Nichols said.
Nichols teaches history in the School of History, Philosophy and Religion. He is an expert on the history of the United States and its relationship to the rest of the world, particularly in the areas of isolationism, internationalism and globalization, and is the author numerous works, including the book “Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age,” which traces the origins of modern American isolationism and internationalism.
He also launched the “Citizenship and Crisis” initiative at OSU in 2014. The initiative began as an effort to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I and expanded to include a wide array of programming focused on domestic and global aspects of citizenship and politics as well as engaged democracy.
Nichols said he plans to draw on insights from that experience in his new role as the center seeks to support research in the humanities and connect in new ways with broader audiences through a public humanities focus.
Nichols, who joined OSU in 2012, earned his doctorate at the University of Virginia. In 2016, he was selected as one of 33 Andrew Carnegie Fellows, a prestigious academic fellowship for social sciences and humanities scholars. His fellowship is supporting cholarly research aimed at addressing urgent challenges to American democracy and the international order.
Nichols is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of trustees of the Oregon Historical Society and vice president of OSU’s newly formed chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
~ Michelle Klampe