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Register for the Brass Tacks Social Media Workshop!

Flashback Friday with the Brass Tacks team on Friday, November 5 12pm-2pm for a one-shot workshop into how to create and post a Twitter thread. Every participant will leave with a 10-15 post thread to post. Will we go viral? We’ll see!

In addition, this is a BYOLunch event. You’ll need a laptop to work on your thread. You *may* want a snack to enjoy the porch and the wonderful fall weather.

Brass Tacks is a new project of HPG and the Southern Futures Initiatives that invites attendees to sharpen their skills in a series of professional development opportunities with special guest teachers. Along with a group of peers, attendees will gain confidence that’ll serve you in the academy and beyond.


Pulling Threads: Unraveling #AcademicTwitter and Turning Research into Twitter Threads
Friday, November 5, 12-2pm

This workshop with digital content scholar KC Hysmith looks at the practical intersection of social media and academia and walks you through repackaging and sharing your research for a short-attention-spanned digital audience.

Love House Front Porch*
410 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27599

About the Instructor:

KC Hysmith is a Texas-bred, North Carolina-based writer, photographer, content creator and strategist, and currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of American Studies at UNC. Her dissertation and larger body of work look at the intersection between food, gender, and the digital landscape. Her writing and work have appeared in numerous print and digital publications including The Boston Globe and Gastronomica and she has a chapter on her work in social media in the forthcoming Food Instagram: Identity, Influence & Negotiation (April 2022, Illinois Press). She has hosted numerous workshops and classes on social media management and strategy for academics and alt-acs alike and believes in making social media work for you and your work.

Sign up for the Thread-In.

*Location may be subject to change. We are monitoring the ongoing COVID situation and will make decisions in the best interest of the health and safety of our students and instructor.

HPG VIPs: An Interview w/ Molly Worthen

Public writing teeters paradoxically in the modern academic imagination. On one hand, in a scramble for relevance and departmental survival, scholars in the humanities are urged to make their ideas legible and digestible to interests outside the narrow circumference of their own field. On the other hand, public writing is frowned on or undervalued by some tenure committees, which may view non-refereed production as an unserious distraction from the “real,” if also insular work of the traditional academic. Though she actively practices both, Dr. Molly Worthen doesn’t think that one of these forms of writing is any more valuable than the other, and pointed out to me in a recent conversation that we risk forgetting what makes both modes differently potent when we romanticize one to the exclusion of the other.

A contributing opinion writer for the New York Times as well as the author of a slew of respected academic publications focusing on contemporary American religious and intellectual history, Dr. Worthen is an example of a scholar who actively lives in and toggles between both worlds. That said, it should be noted for aspiring public writers that Worthen’s dual citizenship has been long in the making. In college, Worthen became interested in journalism simultaneous to the development of a set of intellectual and existential interests in the history of religion and theology. Raised in a secular, agnostic family, Worthen realized around the same time as she started writing as a columnist for her campus newspaper and interning at metro daily news outlets that “for a lot of human beings over the course of our species history, religion has been this incredibly important framework.” “It was so alien to me in many ways,” she observed, “but also compelling: who doesn’t want a set of answers to the big metaphysical questions?” With this in mind, during the summer following her sophomore year, Worthen used a research grant to spend several weeks in rural Alberta, where she lived alongside an isolated, schismatic community of Russian Orthodox old-believers. This experience was her first exposure to the practice of field work, which has continued to inform both her public and academic writing, as well as to intimately suture these two modes together. The experience was additionally formative in that it was for Worthen her “first experience in the exercise of trying to get as close to inhabiting the perspective of someone who is very different than yourself.” “This took place in the context of religion,” she continued, “but the endeavor to inhabit other perspectives is what I see as being central to the humanities as well as to good journalism. It’s what I find so energizing about doing a great interview with an interesting person who comes at the world differently than I do.”

Given this early yet powerful confluence of her interest in religion with her interest in journalism, I asked Worthen why she felt it was important to write about religion for the public, specifically in a specialist capacity. Here’s how the rest of our conversation unfolded:

MW: “In surveying the writing on religion in the early 2000s, I thought that a lot of it kind of caricatured conservative Christians, and didn’t really take their theology seriously, tending to treat it as pious varnish for base motives of various kinds. I constantly question this, and try to take people’s self-proclaimed ideas very seriously. I thought there was more room for nuance and history. Since 2016, I think every piece I’ve written on religion could be summed up under the same headline: ‘Hey, New York Liberals: There are some evangelicals over here who don’t like Donald Trump and who are more complicated than you think! They’re interesting, and you should get to know them!’

In many ways public writing is the same intellectual exercise as teaching an undergraduate survey course, in that you have to simplify a complex phenomenon in a short space for a general audience, all in a way that hopefully engages them. But I also feel that journalism makes me a better historian, especially a better historian of religion, because I can talk to people who are living members of a community I’ve studied remotely in order to test out some of my ideas and my application of their own in-house vocabulary. In the graduate and undergraduate classes that I teach, I’m also able to draw on field experiences as a journalist. So, when I lecture on Mormons to undergrads, I can talk about my reporting trip to a big Mormon pageant in upstate New York. Or I can talk about gender politics in the Christian right. Or I can talk about some profiles I’ve written about women bible teachers. I think this makes the history come alive for students in a way that it might not otherwise.”

KR: “It strikes me that your field of study, or the themes that you’ve chosen to make your life’s work, lend themselves really well to engaging with a public audience. So, because you’re thinking about the contemporary intersection of American religion and politics, your object of study is immediately accessible to field work; you can go and integrate yourself in a given community, then import your insights into scholarship and public writing. I’m curious if you have any advice for academics or scholars whose work doesn’t engage the contemporary. Do you see the task of public writing as being perhaps more difficult for this group? If not, what are some ways that people in this position can rethink their relationship to the contemporary moment?”

MW: “I should preface my answer to your question by saying that I do worry about some of the extreme attitudes toward public writing in academia. We’ve talked about the fact that there is a lot of suspicion of and disdain for it. But on the other hand I worry about the tendency to lionize it, to treat it as a pinnacle. I hate the thought that somehow people who do public writing have the right to look down upon those who write for the guild or a specialist audience. We’re all in academia because we believe that this space preserves something essential to civilization. And it’s not journalism. It’s work that doesn’t have the immediate cash-value pay-off for the uninformed reader. I think that’s something we lose sight of when we talk about getting better at communicating to a public. Writing for the public, of course, is important; it’s just not the only thing.

I absolutely believe I have an easier time making these kinds of connections. I structured my approach to my studies in order to facilitate it. But I have friends who are scholars of first-century New Testament history, or other fields that are even more remote, who manage to do a fair amount of this kind of public work. I think a lot of it is attitudinal. Whatever you study, you’re drawn to it because it unfolds before you problems and themes that are really central to what’s important in human life. This is as true if you study third-century Persia as if you study the twenty-first century United States. That’s not to say that every area of study produces the same number of brainstorm firecrackers, but I think the key thing is to start cultivating a habit of mind where you begin to think in terms of broad themes, perhaps keeping a list of connections between things you read in the news or encounter in daily life, and the themes you encountered in the eighteenth-century novel you read the other day for your work. I absolutely think that there are opportunities for scholars in any field who want to do this kind of writing. It’s just a matter of getting your mindset right.”

KR: “Some of the discourse surrounding the notion of public writing among academics can feel–to me at least–a little top-down or paternalistic, where the specialist is viewed as distilling or disseminating a wealth of knowledge to the unwashed masses. But I wonder if there’s anything to be said for reversing this model. It sounds like you do it constantly: when you don your on your public writing hat, it sounds like you’re thinking a lot about what you can learn from the public, rather than vice versa.”

MW: “This is why I do reported pieces. I don’t do op-eds where I’m trying to download information. In fact, my editor has described something of the tone you’ve just summarized: the expert on the mountaintop casting a gaze across the landscape really turns him off. It’s hard to pull that off unless you’re an eighty-five year-old McArthur winner or whatever. I’m teaching a course right now called Public Writing for Scholars. One of my goals is to get students to think beyond the conventional op-ed and learn some basic reporting skills so that they can experiment with diverse relationships to their subjects and write using a range of different genres. These types of articles are really more fun to read and write, and provide an expert with more means of transmitting an argument in a way that is more likely to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ in a didactic fashion.”

KR: “I noticed this in your most recent piece for the New York Times, “What would Jesus do about Inequality?” I was struck right off the bat by how much it read like reportage.”

MW: “I’m really a magazine writer. I wrote for TIME magazine in grad school. Though I don’t have as much time anymore to do long reporting trips necessary to produce this kind of work, I have an editor in the Sunday Review who is himself a refugee from the magazine form, and he lets me do more magazine-y pieces. Often the feedback I get from his colleagues is, “this is great, this is really interesting, but we need the argument to be stronger– this is the op-ed page!” It took me a long time to get used to revealing what I think or revealing my politics, since you can’t do this kind of writing and conceal your views on things. It still gives me the willies, frankly, and I would rather be doing magazine pieces where I can hide behind the stories and characters a little more.”

Spring semester 2020 marked the rollout of Dr. Worthen’s inaugural Public Writing for Scholars course at UNC. Worthen believes that talking about the process of pitching an article to an editor and getting it into print “elucidates very interesting conversations and questions about why we’re doing this, like ‘What’s the point? What is the state of dialogue in the public square? Is there even such a thing as dialogue anymore? When you write for any publication, whether it’s on the right or the left of the political spectrum in today’s America, are you always preaching to the choir? Are you ever actually stirring the public debate in a productive way? How do we gauge the impact of our scholarship? Is it about the number of readers? Is it about being able to measure quantifiable change in someone’s life?’” These are key questions not just for students of scholarly and public writing, but for lifelong practitioners as well. In some ways, the awkward relationship between academic and public writing helps intensify productive anxieties over questions of accessibility and public dialogue that may not otherwise occupy a writer’s mind. If nothing else, the tense bridge-work negotiated by “public writing” empathetically sensitizes humanists to the shared themes and questions deeply at play in their research, regardless of how remote that work might initially seem to be from the commonplaces of the everyday.

Job Posting: Humanities for the Public Good Initiative Communications Specialists

Humanities for the Public Good Initiative Communications Specialists


The Humanities for the Public Good Initiative (HPG) implements mini-granting, curricular, and fellowship programs to enhance the culture of humanities engagement on UNC’s campus. HPG seeks two graduate students for communications assistance. Position pays $25/hour; the hours will vary somewhatbut will likely average ~5/week.

The HPG newsletter is run on Campaign Monitor. Familiarity with it, as well as WordPress and Google spreadsheets, or capacity to quickly become familiar, is helpful. Successful applicants will have a once-weekly meeting with HPG Initiative director; otherwise, hours and work locations are flexible.

The work:

  1. Compile, write, and format monthly newsletter from template with materials supplied by HPG Initiative Director, including maintainenance newsletter subscription lists
  2. Devise standards and solicit entries for HPG blog
  3. Keep HPG website up-to-date

The right candidate(s) will be reliable, have great diction and a strong sense of the interesting, and an interest in (and interest in deepening understanding of) the public humanities. To apply, please use this web form to upload a short cover letter (no more than one page) and C.V. or resume.

Why We’re Here: HPG Symposium – May 3rd-4th, 2019

See the registration page & form to propose breakout sessions for Saturday – forms no longer active


The Sympoisum

The Humanities for the Public Good Initiative brought together students, artists, scholars, cultural practitioners, and people interested in using humanistic knowledge to forward publicly engaged scholarship, for two days of events on Friday, May 3rd & Saturday, May 4th, 2019. All events were free, and unless otherwise designated on the registration form, open to the public. More on the conference theme and the “unconference” break out sessions below.

Schedule of Events

 Friday, May 3rd 
Before Lunch: Graduate Summit
8:30 a.m.-10 a.m.
Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library
Engaged Grad Breakfast Forum: Talking Mentorship, Project Support, Career Pathways

Robyn Schroeder, Humanities for the Public Good
Rachel Schaevitz, Carolina Public Humanities
A breakfast discussion connecting engaged humanities graduate students & strategizing about HPG investing in grad priorities
10 a.m.
Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library
Meaning-Making for Engaged Graduate Students Mini-Workshop

Maria Erb, Diversity & Student Success, Graduate School
An opportunity for graduate students with public scholarship goals to reflect on their social impact priorities and how they are or aren’t connected to graduate study
11 a.m.
Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library
Doing the Dissertation Differently: Resources, Evaluation, & Graduate Lightning Talks

Charlotte Fryar, American Studies
Sarah George-Waterfield, English & Comparative Literature
Grant Glass, English & Comparative Literature
Kimber Thomas, American Studies
Helen Orr, Religious Studies

Facilitators: Philip Hollingsworth, Institute for the Arts & Humanities; Dwayne Dixon, Department of Asian Studies
Examples of new, innovative humanities and social science dissertations on campus, with reflections on the available and needed practical and intellectual resources for supporting them
12:30 p.m.
Lunch, Carolina Inn
Mentoring Graduate Students for Professional Success Beyond the Tenure Track

Facilitators: Rachel Schaevitz, Carolina Public Humanities; Robyn Schroeder, Humanities for the Public Good
A lunch conversation, in breakout groups, between grads, faculty, and staff about challenges and needs in mentoring grad students for professional success (as grads’ themselves define it).
After Lunch: Campus Summit
1:30 p.m. (Panel A)
Donovan Lounge, Greenlaw Hall
HPG Engaged Project Spotlight

Stories to Save Lives (Sara Wood & Rev. William Kearney)

Migration Stories: Linguistics & Belonging Among Refugees from Burma (Becky Butler, Jennifer Boehm, and Amy Reynolds)

National High School Ethics Bowl (Steve Swartzer)

UndocuCarolina (Rubi Franco Quiroz, Ricky Hurtado, and Barbara Sostaita)

Facilitator: Daniel Fisher (National Humanities Alliance)
Reflections on the first round of “Migration & Mobility” community collaborative projects funded by the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative.
1:30 p.m. (Panel B)
Pleasants Family Room, Wilson Library
Digital Public Humanities Roundtable

ArtBot (Elizabeth Manekin & Kristen Foote)

Red Record/Carolina K-12 Teacher’s Development Institute on Difficult History (Seth Kotch, Christie Norris)

Digital Portobelo (Renee Alexander Craft)

Facilitator: Dan Anderson, Digital Innovation Lab
Reflections on the sustainability, outreach, and programmatic challenges and possibilities and the intersections of digital and public humanities.
3 p.m. (Panel C)
Incubator Room, Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Knowledge, Access, and the Public

Elaine Maisner (UNC Press)

Elaine Westbrooks (UNC Libraries)

Lovey Cooper (Scalawag Magazine)

Tammy Baggett (Durham County Library)

Facilitator: Meli Kimathi, Communication
All. Contemporary library & publisher approaches to making new knowledges accessible against technological and resource barriers.
3 p.m. (Panel D)
University Room, Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Supporting Local Arts & a Healthy Arts Ecosystem ft. Orange County Public Art Commissioner

Amanda Graham (Carolina Performing Arts)

Fred Joiner (Carrboro Poet Laureate)

Katie Murray (Orange County Art Commission)

Susan Harbage Page (Associate Professor, Women & Gender Studies)

Facilitator: Elizabeth Engelhardt
How do we characterize the local arts economy, and what is (and ought to be) the university’s role?
5:30 p.m.
Ackland Art Museum
Wine & Snacks Reception Event Co-Hosted by Orange County Art Commission and the College of Arts & Sciences

Featuring Culture Mill et al
An opportunity for scholars and staff to mingle with local artists and performers

Featuring local performers including Culture Mill
 Saturday, May 4th 
9 a.m.
Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities
BreakfastBagels, fruit, and coffee
10 a.m.
Incubator Room, Hyde Hall

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Courtney Reid-Eaton, and Sangodare
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Sangodare, and Courtney Reid-Eaton will lead a participatory keynote accompanied by a Black feminist book installation.
11am, 12noon, 2pm & 3pm - Concurrent with Sessions Below

Incubator and Seminar Rooms of the Institute for the Arts & Humanities, Hyde Hall
**Unconference Style Breakout Sessions**
Topics TBA
Propose a Breakout Session here:
Participants will have the opportunity to vote on topics in person on Saturday morning.
11 a.m.
University Room, Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities

Becoming Allies: What Makes a Good University Partner

Joseph Jordan (Sonja Hanes Stone Center)

Della Pollock (Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving & Making History)

Susan Brown (Chapel Hill Public Library)

Facilitator: Kim Allen, Kenan Scholars Program Director
Reflections from long-standing local cultural leaders about the practical challenges and imperatives to form lasting and meaningful partnerships.
12:30 p.m.Lunch
Grab a boxed lunch and find a spot with your new friends!
A lunch conversation, in breakout groups, between grads, faculty, and staff about challenges and needs in mentoring grad students for professional success (as grads’ themselves define it).
1:45 p.m.
University Room, Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Organizing Culture: Making Change with the Humanities

Daniel Fisher (National Humanities Alliance)

Barbara Lau (Pauli Murray Project)

Raphael Ginsberg (Friday Center Correctional Education Program)

Facilitator: Molly Luby, Special Projects Coordinator, Chapel Hill Public Library
Dynamic approach to understanding the many faces of cultural organizing in the broad education & cultural sector.
3:15 p.m.
University Room, Hyde Hall, Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Reckonings: Local History and Racial Equity

Charlotte Fryar, Reclaiming the University of the People

Danita Mason-Hogan & Molly Luby, Remembering the Chapel Hill Nine

James Williams, Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition

Vera Cecelski, Stagville State Historic Site
Spotlight on local history-and-present projects at the campus, town, county, and regional level which are aim to remediate racial inequity.
4:45 p.m.
Closing RemarksRobyn Schroeder, Director, Humanities for the Public Good Initiative

Those with questions may write to the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative Director Robyn Schroeder (rschroeder [at] Don’t be strangers.

Our Theme: “Why We’re Here”

We chose the theme “Why We’re Here” to center the core impulse of the Humanities for the Public Good initiative, which is our collective human urge to promote the well-being of others–to serve the public good itself, and to engage in critical conversations about the histories of doing that well and badly, and forward evidence and experience-based conversations about ongoing and needed changes in higher education and the cultural sector. We invite engaged scholars, humanists, artists, and cultural workers to come together in a democratic spirit for constructive discussion and workshopping. To talk about why we’re here, in or at Chapel Hill, Orange County, or the Research Triangle, is to promote our collective morale by reminding us what the point of higher education in the humanities is in the first place–to improve minds and lives, to learn from each other, and to build the ideas and questions that lead to relationships, problem-solving, and a culture that reflects the best of what we know.

Humanists have much to learn from others and each other about doing engaged project work–whether in public scholarship, engaged teaching, project-based service, or otherwise. We’ve drawn out a schedule which highlights just some of the vectors of experimentation right now, flagging opportunities and resources as well as sources of inspiration. Key topics include:

  • pathways for developing engagement skills
  • making knowledge public and accessible
  • supporting local artists and understanding the problems and possibilities in the local arts economy
  • practical approaches to university-community partnership
  • in keeping with Humanities for the Public Good’s upcoming critical projects theme of “Reckonings and Reconciliation”, learning about projects uncovering local histories of marginalization, anti-blackness, and exclusion

A Note on the Small Group Breakout Sessions: Unconferencing Our Symposium

Many folks indicated an interest in taking time to talk across disciplines and professions about public engagement topics, outside of the panel/lecture format. We set aside the Incubator Room at the IAH on Saturday, May 4th, for one-hour meetings proposed by symposium attendees. Symposium attendees had a chance to read proposals and vote 4-6 proposals into existence over breakfast that day.

Humanities for the Public Good Graduate Coordinator Meli Kimathi (mem [//at//] coordinated this portion.

Before the HPG Symposium: Popular Narratives and the Experience of War

Co-sponsored by Humanities for the Public Good, the Graduate School, the Carolina Veterans Resource Center, the History Department, and the English & Comparative Literature Department, learn more about the panel discussion and veterans’ writing workshop which took place on Saturday, April 27th, under the direction and management of doctoral students Davis Winkie and Paul Blom.

Popular Narratives and the Experience of War: A Public Forum and Veterans Writing Workshop

Are you a veteran?

Have you ever felt a gap between vets and civilians?

Your story can help bridge the gap, and we can help teach you to tell it.

Register for the inaugural UNC Veterans Writing Workshop!

You are invited to a two-part event on April 27, 2019. The first part of the event is an open-to-the-public discussion, where four 1990s/GWOT vets will discuss how American popular culture has influenced the civilian-military divide in their personal experience. The current panelists are:

  • Joe Kassabian (author of The Hooligans of Kandahar, host of the Lions Led by Donkeys Podcast)
  • Eric Burke (Civil War historian and OIF/OEF enlisted infantryman)
  • Kate Dahlstrand (Civil War/Reconstruction historian, director of UGA’s Student Veteran Oral History Project, GWOT enlisted combat vet)
  • Michelle Moyd (East African military historian, early/mid ’90s USAF officer)

After the panel discussion, all workshop participants will receive a free catered lunch, courtesy of UNC Humanities for the Public Good. Then you’ll transition into a writing workshop, with writing prompts partly-inspired by the public discussion. The workshop will feature trained facilitators (most of whom are military affiliated) who will help you learn narrative and story-telling skills. If you’re proud of the stories that we help you tell, there is a possibility that our collaboration can continue, building towards publication in an online archive or even an edited book!

Your POC for any questions is co-organizer Davis Winkie. He can be reached via email at He’s pretty responsive, but don’t hesitate to follow up on anything that goes 24 hours without a response.


Location: UNC-CH Campus, Carolina Union, Room 3408 (Free parking available on Stadium Drive on weekends)

Date: 4/27/19

Time: 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Price: Free

Administrators: Davis Winkie, Paul Blom

Point of Contact: Davis Winkie,


Event Sponsors: Humanities for the Public Good; The Graduate School

Support also provided by: The College of Arts & Sciences, Division of Fine Arts & Humanities; The College of Arts & Sciences, Division of Social Sciences & Global Programs; Carolina Veterans Resource Center; Department of English and Comparative Literature; Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense; Department of History; Center for the Study of the American South


To register for this event, click here.

Note: Registration is only required for the workshop portion of the event. If you are a member of the public interested in attending the discussion panel, you do not need to register in advance.


For more information and regular updates, check us out on Twitter and Facebook.


Check out our resources and help us spread the word about this event! Download and share Flyer 1 and Flyer 2!


About the Event Organizers:

Davis Winkie is a military history Ph.D. student at UNC. He studies America’s memory of its 20th century wars, with a particular focus on war movies made during the 1950s and 60s. His research also explores how movies and other popular narratives of war potentially affected Vietnam-era service members. Additionally, Davis is a soldier in the NC Army National Guard, and he will commission as a second lieutenant this summer. Davis will be moderating the panel discussion portion of the event.

Paul Blom is a second-year PhD student in English and Comparative Literature, whose research focuses on the ethical and political implications of depicting trauma in literature. This research is partially motivated by his own brother’s combat experiences in Iraq from 2003-2004. Paul has taught and worked with underserved populations overseas and currently serves as a Teaching Fellow at UNC. He is the Fiction Editor for The Carolina Quarterly literary magazine and regularly writes scripts for promotional videos and short documentary and narrative films. He has extensive experience teaching composition, writing, and rhetoric.