Obermann Center for Advanced Studies 2020–21 Annual Report

We take our cue this year from the brilliance of birds, whose ingenious nests, persistent migrations, dazzling plumage, and beautiful songs inspire and remind us of the value of individual and collective work. The accomplishments of the Obermann Center community during 2020–21 were plentiful and rich. We are as proud of the work produced as we are by the ways, small and large, in which we supported one another during a year like no other.


Many book projects came home to roost this year. At a time when so much seemed to be on pause, the arrival of multiple Obermann scholars’ printed works was a special pleasure worth, we dare say, crowing about.

Working Groups

Considering their topics from many angles, Obermann Working Groups used the pandemic year to dig deeply into new questions while committing to support one another through intellectual camaraderie.

Graduate Institute on Engagement & the Academy

A swarm of swallows. A murder of crows. A parliament of owls. And a cohort of scholars. The Graduate Institute inspired a final group of students.

Book Ends

One of our fastest-growing programs, Book Ends helps assistant and associate professors move toward publication and take flight in their careers. By bringing scholars from other institutions and campus colleagues together for an intense half-day workshop of a book that is near completion, faculty benefit from generous, careful critique.


With a closed house and a nearly silent campus, there were no “residents” at Obermann this year–our offices, or proverbial nests, were empty. Nonetheless, our Fellows found ways to share ideas and support each other’s intellectual progress.

Humanities for the Public Good: Internships, Labs, & Workshops

In its third year, this Mellon-funded project moved into a design phase. Even while working online, alone and together, participants traced patterns for this emerging program.

Obermann Conversations

The Obermann Conversations were the program most ready to take cheerful, colorful, and clamorous advantage of the virtual world. These events enjoyed larger audiences than ever and brought campus and community together around topics both difficult and magical.

Responding to the Moment

This was a year that did not call for business as usual. It called for bold. It called for kind. It called for new approaches to problems both old and emerging.


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