The Miami University community is invited to explore a “big idea” as FOCUS — a new multi-year initiative —launches this fall.
There will be many ways to join the discussion in this year’s inaugural theme, Race and Racial Justice. It offers an exploration of race as a social concept and racism as a powerful and persistent feature of societies and social institutions, including Miami.
“FOCUS gives us a way to ask tough questions about a critical social issue while providing substantial programs and encouraging community outreach,” said Timothy Melley, director of the Humanities Center and professor of English.
Replacing what was Miami’s Summer Reading Program, FOCUS will examine new themes each year. Most importantly, FOCUS is for the entire Miami community and brings together resources, ideas, and activities from departments across the university.
All programming is supported by the Office of the Provost, with this year’s theme led by the Humanities Center and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Each year, a university center will take the lead on different themes.
“What makes Miami amazing is how we take a ‘big idea’ and create ways to make things happen,” said Carolyn Haynes, senior associate provost. “We wanted to give resources and time to faculty, staff, and students to not only generate ideas but put them into action.”
This year’s FOCUS program includes dozens of lectures, performances, readings, workshops, and symposia featuring leading thinkers such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste. Keep up to date with the FOCUS events calendar:
These activities will be woven into more than 50 Miami University courses, diversity elements of the Global Miami Plan, research collaborations, co-curricular programs, and community outreach projects.
The FOCUS programming for the coming year "is a great example of how we can work to embed discussions of race and racial justice institutionally, providing engaging educational opportunities for all in our community to reflect and move Miami forward in our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion," said Cristina Alcalde, vice president for institutional diversity and inclusion. "I am excited about the opportunities the program will provide for everyone in our community."
Melley hopes the program has lasting effects. The Humanities Center’s previous themed inquiry programs have resulted in permanent courses and programs of study.
“The FOCUS program,” said Melley, “is designed to model the deep purpose of higher education. We are here to ask meaningful and difficult questions, to study them rigorously from many points of view, and to collaborate on making our world better.”
“Conversations about race and racial justice are not always easy, but we urgently need to have these conversations,” Melley said. “Confronting our history openly and honestly now is essential to our collective future.”