Jacob Griffin’s first foray into poetry started as a joke in Paul Leslie’s graduate biological anthropology seminar.
“We had to write reactions and summaries for all of the articles assigned in Dr. Leslie’s course,” he said. “One week, we actually surprised him and wrote haikus to accompany the readings and he loved them. Writing haikus for Dr. Leslie became a sort of tradition, and I even included one in my candidacy exams.”
Griffin, now an anthropology Ph.D. candidate eyeing graduation, never dreamed that later he’d end up working with a guest artist to take his poetry to new heights as a participant in “Match/Make,” just one of the exciting offerings for this week’s Humanities for the Public Good Symposium (April 6-9) featuring keynote speakers Anne Helen Petersen and Priya Parker.
For Match/Make, three graduate students worked with three artists to create new pieces inspired by their research. Griffin worked with Jessica Stark, a Vietnamese American poet and scholar recently of the Triangle, now living in Jacksonville, Florida. “Our poem is truly a collaboration of my research and her own scholarship. The poem uses the theoretical framework of my dissertation work to tell the story of Dr. Stark’s mother in a way that is very personal for us both.”
The experience left Griffin thinking about his work and how it connects to others.
“Academic writing is often so inaccessible to those outside of a researcher’s discipline but art is for everyone. Art can put meaning to words and make people feel something. That is something my work never accomplished before collaborating with Dr. Stark.”
The Humanities for the Public Good Symposium, four days of conversation and presentations, will run virtually starting April 6. Bringing together students, artists, scholars and cultural practitioners, the week promises plenty of chances to dig into the ways scholarly work can impact the public. This year’s theme, ‘What Now?” takes that mandate further pushing panelists to really think about this historic moment. What have we learned from this year? And how do we make sure the next one is even better?
Registrants can think through those questions with a myriad of lenses. Tune in April 6 at noon to hear a discussion on public art with university and Chapel Hill stakeholders and then again at 6 p.m. to watch The Whistle, a film about finding belonging in a queer, Latinx community. On April 7 at 2 p.m., learn about Carolina Performing Arts new Feedback: Institute for Performance, an experiment in radical collaboration between artist and audience. That evening at 6 p.m., hear from Patricia Parker as she shares excerpts and stories from her new book, Ella Baker’s Catalytic Leadership.
On April 8, hear from featured keynote speakers, journalist Anne Helen Petersen and author Priya Parker, in conversation at 11:30 a.m. A former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed with a Ph.D. in media studies, Petersen now writes her newsletter, Culture Study, as a full-time venture on Substack. Petersen’s most recent book, Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, looks at how burnout affects the way we work, parent and socialize. Priya Parker is a facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters and the host of the New York Times podcast, Together Apart. Parker joins HPG on the heels of her keynote appearance at the 2021 SXSW Festival. Both Petersen and Parker are looking at how we create meaning in modern life and what we can do to shape it.
Following the keynote presentation, stick around until 1 p.m. for a panel on connecting and collaborating off-campus with stakeholders from the American Indian Center, Asian American Center, The Beautiful Project and Siembra NC. Finally, close out the week on April 9 with Griffin and the students and artists involved in “Match/Make” at noon.
“I am so thankful that I was asked to be part of this new project,” Griffin shared. “I hope the experience of getting to work with such talented artists is one that graduate students will have in the future.”
Want to help make that happen? Your support may make the difference.
Full schedule and link to register: hpg.unc.edu/symposium
By Ashley Melzer, Humanities for the Public Good