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Thursday, June 13, 2024 — Houston, TX

Shumway selected as HUMA dean

By Hallie Jordan     5/16/10 7:00pm

As the search for a new dean of undergraduates begins, the search for a new dean of humanities ends, a year after it began, with the selection of Nicolas Shumway, who will become the new dean of humanities beginning July 1. Shumway will be replacing former dean of humanities Gary Wihl, who resigned last year. Allen Matusow, a history professor who served as Rice's humanities dean for 14 years in the 1980s and early 90s, has worked as interim dean for the past school year.

Currently a professor of Spanish- American literature at the University of Texas at Austin, Shumway has also served as the director of the Institute of Latin American studies at UT and been the chair of the Spanish and Portuguese departments.

After working in the humanities since he graduated from Brigham Young University, Shumway said he brings a broad commitment to the field of humanities, as well as his own definition of humanities.



"I understand it to be the study of what humans do and produce," Shumway said. "When we look at [our creations] we see a reflection of ourselves. In a sense it's a study of what it means to be human and we learn this by what humans create."

The humanities is a study of all the different fields of human production, Shumway said.

Shumway found his interest in Latin American studies after studying abroad in Mexico during his undergraduate career at BYU. There, Shumway said he became interested in Mexican culture, literature and history. Later, he went on to live in both Brazil and Argentina. Shumway has also taught at Indiana University Northwest after doing his doctoral work at the University of California, Los Angeles. He then went on to be a full time professor at Yale University for 14 years before moving to UT.

The search committee wanted to find someone who had excellent scholarly credentials, good leadership skills and who would be respected by the faculty and feel a partnership with them, Yekovich, Dean of the Shepherd School of Music said.

"We wanted someone who supports and nourishes faculty development and someone with a vision for the humanities and who understands the challenges of the field," Yekovich said. "I think Rice and the School of Humanities are very fortunate to engage Shumway."

With his international background, Shumway plans to prioritize creating and finding opportunities for students and faculty to go abroad.

"The goal is not just spending time abroad, but to give students an opportunity to become really conversant in another culture and not just language proficient," he said.

Shumway's other goals for his new position include increasing collaboration across disciplines, both within the humanities and between the humanities and other fields, he said.

"I am very interested in cultivating conversation across disciplines," Shumway said. "There is some element of the humanities in everything."

Ethics, he said, is an example.

"We have ethical concerns bearing on almost everything we do - business decisions for example," Shumway said.

Rice has 10 departments listed under the School of Humanities, including art history, linguistics and foreign languages. Matusow said the job entails recruiting and hiring faculty, working with the other deans on projects, helping raise money for the school and providing intellectual leadership.

A faculty member since 1963, Matusow said he is ready to go back to being a professor of history.

"Being a professor is so much different and it's what I like the best," Matusow said. "Rice students are really smart, challenging and fun - I miss them the most."

Shumway said he also hopes to strengthen connections between Rice and Houston, but said he must first learn the culture of Rice.

"I am going to do a lot of intense listening," Shumway said, "I've taught at three universities and they were all very different. Every university has a different culture.



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