UK’s New Dean of Arts & Sciences

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Mark Kornbluh, a scholar whose strong interests in history and technology unite the arts and sciences, is the University of Kentucky’s new dean of A&S. Formerly professor and chair of the Department of History at Michigan State University, he also held an appointment there in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Kornbluh began his duties at UK last August.

It’s not unusual for a scholar’s interests to range far and wide, but in Kornbluh’s case how did his focus on American voting patterns and participatory democracy (he wrote a book on this in 2000) evolve to embrace scholarship in cyberspace?

“Well, that might seem like a big jump,” he says, “but what became clear to me 15 years ago was that communications technology is transforming all aspects of our world, and this includes citizen participation in government. As a scholar I wanted to find out how technology could be used democratically instead of just to sell things.”

In 1998 he became the founding director of MATRIX: the Center for the Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences at Michigan State. MATRIX is one of the nation’s largest humanities technology centers. From 1997 to 2004, Kornbluh was the executive director of “H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine,” the world’s largest online scholarly society. Six years ago, his work took an “unexpected and interesting turn,” he says, when he was invited to South Africa to use information technology to chronicle the history of people of color under apartheid.

“Under apartheid, these people didn’t officially exist—and nobody of color was allowed to be an archivist, a librarian. History books in South African schools told of the brave white settlers who came to an empty continent.” In South Africa Kornbluh worked with a team of U.S. scholars, experts in the use of information technology, to help train a new generation of curators and librarians to capture and preserve the story of South African history and culture.

At UK, Kornbluh is focusing on three areas: expanding the use of information technology in the humanities, internationalizing the campus, and building interdisciplinary connections. “Knowledge is no longer bounded by departments, and a major draw for me to the University of Kentucky was that the administration and faculty here realized that a long time ago,” Kornbluh says. “I want to help make UK a centerpiece for humanities and social science technology.”

Mark Kornbluh

Mark Kornbluh

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