Initiatives will take University of Georgia researchers into Athens community

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ATHENS, Ga. — Research in the hard sciences gets the most attention, but the University of Georgia’s Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts is putting a spotlight on UGA researchers in the arts and humanities.

A recent reception highlighted six faculty research clusters, which will get grants of up to $25,000 from the UGA Research Foundation for projects that include delving into the history of Athens music, a digital humanities laboratory, and one called “neuroimaging, movie trailers and spectator cognition,” designed to explore how people’s brains process music, color, sound and other aspects of mainstream movie trailers.

All the projects are meant to cross disciplinary boundaries, but also to bring UGA research out into the Athens community like the Athens Music Project, co-directed by UGA music professors Susan Thomas and Jean Kidula.

Most people associate rock music with Athens music, but historically and now, there’s a lot more to the Athens music scene, Thomas said.

“The community is much more diverse than they think,” Kidula said.

The program’s central focus is downtown Athens’ Morton Theater, the first U.S. vaudeville theatre built, owned and operated by an African American, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The three other initiatives include the EcoFocus Film Initiative, Ideas for Creative Exploration, and International Modernism.

The initiatives are one part of a new UGA push to promote more interdisciplinary research and to build up UGA research and graduate education in general, according to David Lee, UGA’s vice president for research, and UGA President Jere Morehead.

“I hope in the very near future the president’s office and the provost will be announcing some new initiatives,” including some new faculty hires, Morehead said.

Morehead said he had met with his senior administrators recently to talk about three related goals – how to build up UGA research, how to grow graduate education, which has been flat in recent years, and an upcoming capital campaign.

Morehead said he wants to focus less on money for buildings than in the past.

Instead, he wants to build up UGA endowments that will raise UGA professors’ pay though named professorships, and provide money for student scholarships and fellowships.

Morehead recently announced he would donate $25,000 a year of his own for a scholarship fund to help UGA students afford the cost of a semester of study in UGA’s Washington, D.C., program.


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