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UC San Diego Announces Inaugural Directors for the Institute of Arts and Humanities


  • Cynthia Dillon

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  • Cynthia Dillon

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UC San Diego Professor Luis Alvarez. Photo by UC San Diego Department of History

University of California San Diego’s Division of Arts and Humanities launched a new initiative last fall by establishing the Institute of Arts and Humanities (IAH)—a cultural hub that fortifies academic, administrative and community outreach efforts within the division. Now, the division has appointed the institute’s first new director and associate director—Luis Alvarez and Mark Hanna, respectively. Both are faculty members in the UC San Diego Department of History. They assume their new leadership posts July 1.

“We were thrilled to have several strongly qualified faculty members apply for the director position so we decided to carve out two positions instead,” explained Cristina Della Coletta, dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities. “I am so enthused about the strength in academic background and the complementary leadership skills that Luis and Mark bring to IAH.”


UC San Diego Professor Mark Hanna. Photo by UC San Diego Department of History

According to interim director of the institute Tara Knight, the new leaders, who will continue in their roles as associate professors within the history department, will galvanize the many programs functioning within the institute.

“We have more than a dozen programs operating and more in development, plus we have the Center for the Humanities, so to appoint a director who animates the dean’s vision and an associate director who coalesces community support is a vital next step toward the institute’s long-term success,” noted Knight.

As IAH director, Alvarez will contribute to shaping the vision and mission of the IAH and the Center for the Humanities, which promotes interdisciplinary research and other activities in humanistic lines of inquiry at UC San Diego. Alvarez will also create appropriate programmatic initiatives, such as lecture series and workshops that support interdisciplinary and cross-divisional research projects. Hanna, as directing counterpart, will serve an outward-facing role that maintains and expands connections within the campus community and with university alumni and the public.

“My vision stems from a commitment to the trans, cross and intra,” said Alvarez. “In summary, the trans emphasizes transdisciplinarity that values exchange, discovery and reciprocal scholarship. The cross accentuates arts and humanities less as rigid specializations than a vibrant collection of related fields that interrogate the humanistic enterprise, and the intra underscores the IAH as a UC San Diego project, first and foremost.”

Among his initial plans as director, Alvarez said that he aims to grow existing seed grants, research clusters, and graduate student and junior faculty professionalization seminars, as well as programs and fundraising.

“The goal is for IAH to emerge as a leader in helping students, faculty and the campus at large navigate the very real and human challenges facing our university,” said Alvarez.

Hanna, who has experienced the Center for the Humanities as a resource for working with faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, views IAH as a place that brings people together.

“The center hasn’t had the resources to do everything the faculty deserve, but it has served as a wonderful facilitator for many initiatives,” noted Hanna, who has presented numerous talks within the greater San Diego community from places ranging from the Natural History Museum to the San Diego Yacht Club, and who also holds an endowed chair position at the San Diego Maritime Museum. “I will use my public relationships to ask for support for the IAH’s initiatives, including financing its grants and fellowships.”

The UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities is one of Dean Della Coletta’s key intellectual priorities within the Division of Arts and Humanities. IAH fortifies the critical capacities required to bridge cultural gaps at individual and systemic levels. It buttresses the richly diverse independent programs currently operating throughout the division, elevating the role of arts and humanities on campus through cross-divisional and cross-campus education programs, through centers dedicated to specific regional or cultural studies and through agile lab-style research collaborations and initiatives focused on multidisciplinary themes. UC San Diego Arts and Humanities is listed among the top 33 globally, according to U.S. News and World Report.

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