What is

The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization

W.E.B. Du Bois

The Souls of Black Folk (Of the Wings of Atalanta)

Intersections is a new program at UF that introduces students to grand-challenge questions that face our world now and in the future. These questions are rooted in the humanities. Faculty, staff, and graduate students from across the humanities and allied disciplines are working together in four interdisciplinary Mellon Intersections Groups, which are each tackling one of these complex questions:

  • How do Black and Latinx people shape global and local cultures, politics, and economies?
  • How can we engage ethical issues in public life?
  • What would the world look like without mass incarceration?
  • How do technologies influence our lives, then and now?

In additional to conducting research and organizing activities together, each Intersections Group is translating their research into teaching to introduce undergraduate students to their question, its importance, and how to address it. Each group will reach students through a cluster of courses from different disciplines related to their group topic, as well as propose a new undergraduate general education course for Year 1 of the UF Quest program. Intersections Groups also have the opportunity to create shared course projects for students to complete that may span multiple courses in the cluster (e.g., exhibit-making, shared speakers, digital projects, social media competitions, essay or video collections).

All UF undergraduate students are invited to earn the distinction of becoming an Intersections Scholar, meaning they are uniquely equipped to understand this challenge from multiple perspectives and take it on in their lives and work. To become an Intersections Scholar in a specific topic, students in any major can take three courses from three different departments, centers, or programs in a particular Intersection Group’s course cluster. (This can include the new UF Quest course, but it is not required.) These Intersection Scholars will present on their interdisciplinary course learnings in a biannual Intersections Symposium, and receive graduate regalia and a certificate of achievement. (The first Intersection Symposium will be in April 2020.) (The Intersections Scholar designation is awarded by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere; it will not appear on their transcript.)

Intersections is organized by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere in partnership with George A. Smathers Libraries with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

History of Intersections at the University of Florida

The UF Intersections: Animating Conversations with the Humanities program launched with the award of a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the University of Florida in September, 2017. The goal of the Intersections program is to explore grand-challenge questions rooted in the humanities. The Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere created a formal Call for Proposals for the Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grant to invite proposals from groups of UF faculty members who have an interest in participating in interdisciplinary working groups rooted in the humanities.

To discuss the nature of grand-challenge questions in the humanities, the Humanities Center organized a Fall 2017 kick-off event for the Intersections program featuring Professor Al Brophy (University of Alabama), who discussed the relationships of universities to slavery in the U.S. The Humanities Center also held a Spring 2018 UF workshop and public talk by Libby Roderick (Difficult Dialogues Initiative) who discussed how to approach building dialogue on grand-challenge topics.

At the same time, to encourage connections between faculty and students to identify shared interests and resources for their work, Intersections Leadership Team member Bess de Farber (UF Libraries Grants Manager) facilitated four Intersections Collaborating with Strangers Workshops and Idea Table Cafés. Additionally, the Intersections program circulated a UF Humanities Faculty Research Survey to document existing and recent collaborative projects in the humanities, and interest in forming new collaborations.

Eight applicant groups submitted proposals to the Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grant. Four UF Mellon Intersections Groups received Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grants of $30,000 each in May, 2019 to begin their shared research and course development activities. Each group subsequently invited Doctoral Student Members into their groups. These Intersections Group Doctoral Student Members are conducting related dissertation research to each group grand-challenge question in 2018-2020.


Intersections Leadership Team

Barbara Mennel, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere

Sophia Acord, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere

Intersections Key Administrators

Pat Reakes, Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources and Services, UF Smathers Libraries

Joe Spillane, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs, UF CLAS

Mark Law, Ph.D., Director, UF Honors Program

Angela Lindner, Ph.D., Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs

Intersections Advisor

Dylan King, Academic Advisor

Intersections Staff

Danielle Barrientos, Ph.D. Student, History, Program Coordinator

Brianna Anderson, Ph.D. Candidate, English, Public Relations and Program Coordinator.

Past Program Development

Bonnie Effros, Ph.D., Chaddock Chair of Economic and Social History, University of Liverpool (former Rothman Chair and Director, CHPS)

Brandyn Jordan, Academic Advisor

Laura Beth Lancaster, Academic Advisor

Intersections Consultants

Buffy Bondy, Ph.D., Professor, UF School of Teaching and Learning

Randall A. (Randy) Cantrell, Ph.D., Associate Professor and State (Extension) Specialist, UF Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences

Alexandra Cenatus, Assistant Director of Programming and Public Engagement, Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere

Ann Christiano, Director, Center for Public Interest Communications, UF College of Journalism and Communications

Bess de Farber, UF Smathers Libraries Grants Manager

April Hines, UF College of Journalism and Communications Librarian, UF Smathers Libraries

Heather Maness, Instructional Designer, Center for Instructional Technology & Training

Sarah “Moxy” Moczygemba , Social Media Specialist, UF Smathers Libraries

Paloma Rodriguez, Director, Office of Global Learning, UF International Center

Mickey Schafer, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Writing in the Disciplines and Outreach Coordinator, UF University Writing Program

Eric Segal, Ph.D., Director of Education and Curator of Academic Programs, Harn Museum of Art

Keith Simmons, Communications Director, Florida Humanities Council

Laurie Taylor, Ph.D., Digital Scholarship Librarian, UF Smathers Libraries