Laura Perry

Laura Perry, Postdoctoral Scholar for the Humanities

Reimagines graduate education

“Laura has been a brilliant leader of Mellon-funded working groups focused on her areas of interest—environmental and racial justice and publicly engaged humanities scholarship. She has also inspired graduate students, faculty, and staff to become podcasters, sharing her expert knowledge of communicating research through both skillful story-telling and new technologies.” – Teresa Mangum, Professor, GWSS, and Director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies,

Hometown: Pasadena, California
Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Teresa Mangum
What is your degree program and expected graduation date? I received my PhD in English from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020. I am currently the 2020-2022 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar for the Humanities for the Public Good at UI’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.
Please describe your research: In my role with Humanities for the Public Good, I support working groups of UI faculty, staff, and students who are imagining new approaches to humanities graduate education. Together, these interdisciplinary working groups are designing new forms of courses, research, and campus-community collaborations that can draw on the tremendous strengths of UI departments. Our goal is to prepare humanities graduate students studying topics like literature, history, and languages to succeed in a wide range of careers serving the public good.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? We are faced by problems too large and complex to be addressed by one discipline alone. We need to start collaborating in new ways. I have been so inspired by the collective expertise of these UI teams working together to consider issues like environmental change and racial inequality and how to equip students with the tools and knowledge to address them. To paraphrase one of my colleagues, the future belongs to the bridge builders.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? Immediately.
What are your career goals?  Even as we’re imagining new forms of graduate education and new careers for humanities graduates, this experience has opened up new career pathways for me. I have truly enjoyed the chance to work closely with Obermann Center staff and Humanities for the Public Good board members. I hope to continue working with teams on projects dedicated to the public good. Working collaboratively isn’t a norm or a given in academic research, especially in the humanities… but it should be!

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