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Father Jenkins Appointed to National Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences

Author: Dennis Brown

Father Jenkins

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, has been appointed to a national commission that will examine how to bolster teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.

Created by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences includes prominent Americans from those two fields, as well as the physical and life sciences, business, law, philanthropy, the arts, and the media. It is co-chaired by Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, and John Rowe, chair and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp.

The commission was formed in response to 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 have asked the AAAS to respond to 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,” Father Jenkins says. “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.

“This commission includes some of our nation’s leading thinkers, and I very much look forward to working with them.”

The commission will draw on past research efforts, data from its Humanities Indicators, and the experience and expertise of a multidisciplinary group of national leaders to recommend specific, actionable steps to maintain the nation’s excellence in the humanities and the social sciences. It will focus on education, research, and the institutions critical to advancing the humanities and social sciences in the nation. A report is expected in 18 to 24 months.

Father Jenkins, now in his sixth year as Notre Dame’s president, is a professor of philosophy who specializes in the areas of ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, and the philosophy of religion. The author of Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

Among the 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 Emmylou 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.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,300 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.

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