Key of Excellence Spotlight: Project Humanities

Arizona State University's Project Humanities earned recognition from Phi Beta Kappa for its leadership in local and national conversations about the breadth, depth, and value of the humanities across disciplines. Initiatives, such as Science Café, The Encoded Textile Project,  Vital Voices, Black Women Walking, and Top 10 Questions the Humanities Will Answer this Year, successfully blend academic research, community outreach, student development, and interdisciplinary approaches into innovative programs enjoyed throughout the community. 


Project Humanities sponsors or co-sponsors approximately 100 programs a year, most of which are available free to the public. Here are just some of the compelling reasons Phi Beta Kappa selected Project Humanities as our inaugural Key of Excellence Award recipient: 


  • Project Humanities Science Café events are free, informal discussions that bring together members of the surrounding communities and university scientists and scholars to discuss how science, technology, and humanities can change the future. In the typical café, a scientists and humanist each speak for 5-10 minutes on a topic, then café attendees can ask questions and present concerns.  
  • Artist Guillermo Bert noticed striking similarities between barcodes and the geometric patterns seen in traditional textiles of native peoples. Collaborating with Project Humanities, the Encoded Textile Project Arizona weaves together bar code technology, ASU students, and traditional language to share the stories of Arizona Navajo elders with new audiences.  
  • Vital Voices brings together individuals and communities to “talk, listen, and connect” through literature, language, and performance in important cultural spaces around the Valley. It supports local artists, exposes new audiences to important cultural spaces, and encourages active participation from audiences.  
  • The humanities help the Mayo Clinic care for patients. Poesía del Sol (Poetry of the Sun) pairs ASU MFA students with palliative care patients at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Student poets interview palliative patients and their families, and create poems based on their conversations with the patients. The poems are then printed, framed, and presented to the patient and his or her family as a celebration of life. 
  • Each fall, Project Humanities sponsors a symposium exploring topics in the humanities using interdisciplinary approaches. Last fall, Humor Seriously explored the science of humor, the business of being funny, and asked if nothing is sacred.  
  • Project Humanities also partners with community organizations like Phonetic Spit, a program that uses spoken word poetry to combat illiteracy. It creates a safe place to empower young people to establish their voice, and use it to become driven and contributing citizens of the world. 
Looking forward, we see tremendous potential for Project Humanities to build on past successes with the forthcoming Humanities 101 series. Providing a clarion call for civic virtues in everyday life, the initiative will create a community-building toolbox geared toward social, political, business, and other contexts.


For more information:
View event highlights, photos and community testimonials
Connect with Project Humanities: 
About Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award:
Recipients of Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award  must demonstrate a strong record of success at engaging the public across multiple disciplines in the arts and sciences. Their work must make highly visible the excellence, range, and relevance of the arts and sciences to their communities through public programming and community outreach. In addition, programs must engage diverse constituencies in program planning and execution while improving the availability of and access to the arts and sciences in their community. Nominate a program here.
Love of learning is the guide of life.