What We Do


The IHC’s mission is to advance knowledge about human experience in cultural, historical, and social contexts and to do so through programs that foster human agency, social connectivity, and civic empowerment.

The IHC provides research funding to faculty and graduate students through a variety of awards, including collaborative research grants, faculty release-time awards, graduate student fellowships, and visual, performing, and media arts awards. The IHC funds a number of research units. Research Focus Groups meet several times each quarter to share research on a given topic. The IHC also provides support to a range of sub-units who receive funding from outside the IHC and whose mission supports the IHC’s commitment to interdisciplinary engagement. Interdisciplinary courses are also offered each quarter at the IHC.

A cornerstone of the Center’s activities is its year-long public events series, which features scholars, community members, public figures, and performing and visual artists, who explore topics and issues of far-reaching concern through perspectives and practices unique to the humanistic disciplines. Organized around a different theme each year, the events series reaches audiences on the UCSB campus and in the Santa Barbara community. IHC events also include lectures, seminars and conferences organized by IHC research focus groups and sub-units as well as events cosponsored with campus departments.

The IHC also funds programs in Public Humanities that advance civic engagement through scholarly and creative work in the humanities and arts. UCSB faculty and graduate students engage with community partners in the Santa Barbara area and beyond in collaborative problem solving and public creation and discovery.

The IHC’s funding opportunities, events, and public humanities programs advance interdisciplinary dialogue among the departments and programs on campus and between the university and local community. As a member of UC Humanities Network, the IHC serves as a link between the campus community and the University of California system, while its affiliations with other humanities organizations enable collaborations on a national and global level.


The IHC was founded in 1987 to implement the Humanities Initiative begun by the President of the University of California. The Center was originally located in the UCSB library and hosted faculty seminars, luncheon forums, and research conferences, administered a visiting scholars program, and distributed grants to faculty. In 1990, the IHC’s pre-doctoral fellows program for graduate students was established, and in 1994, the IHC established its Research Focus Group program, which supports faculty members and graduate students pursuing common research interests. The IHC moved to its current location in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building in summer of 1996. The IHC’s conference spaces, the McCune Conference Room and the Crowell Library, opened in that year, funded by generous endowments from the McCune and Crowell families. The IHC’s Idee Levitan endowment was established in 1997. The Taubman endowment in Jewish Studies was established in 1999. In 2008, the IHC began its current model of structuring its public events series around an annual theme.

A visual history of the IHC logo, from 1999 to today


Gerald J. Larson, Religious Studies: 1987-1988
Paul Hernadi, English: 1988-1992
Simon Williams, Theater and Dance 1992-2000
Porter Abbott, English: 2000-2002
Dick Hebdige, Film & Media Studies and Art: 2002-2008
(Interim) Ann Bermingham, History of Art and Architecture: 2008-2012
Susan Derwin, Germanic and Slavic Studies and Comparative Literature: 2012-