Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, take a look back at some of our biggest stories of the year.

Psychology Professor Serves on White House Team

President Barack Obama met with SBST members in the Oval Office. Prof. Lori Foster is second from right. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza.


As a member of the White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), psychology professor Lori Foster aims to help federal agencies increase the efficiency and efficacy of their programs and policies. Foster, who studies how organizations and their employees function, will continue as a team member for the next year before returning to her role at NC State.   

Finding King’s Speech: English Professor’s Research Uncovers Historic Recording

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

English professor Jason Miller, right, addresses a large contingent of media during an unveiling of a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1962 speech in Rocky Mount. Miller’s discovery and research was highlighted by news organizations across the nation, including NPR and CNN.


While researching the linguistic links between Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes, English professor Jason Miller discovered a historic recording of King’s 1962 speech in Rocky Mount. Miller is now airing the recording for the world to hear, allowing the public access to the first time King delivered phrases that would ultimately inspire millions.

Digital Humanities Team Lands NEH Grant to Continue Work at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

The James B. Jr. Hunt Library Teaching and Visualization Lab hosts a display of the Virtual Paul’s Cross project for special guests, including the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities William “Bro” Adams in July 2015 . Photo by Becky Kirkland.


Building on an award-winning 3-D model of John Donne’s 17th century “Paul’s Cross” sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral, English professor John Wall and an interdisciplinary team of professors will now expand their virtual work to the interior of the church. The National Endowment for the Humanities, which funded the initial Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, awarded the group a new $324,000 grant in July that will not only broaden the 3-D model, but help create openly available modeling software that other scholars can use. 

Vivian Howard Named Distinguished Alumna

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Vivian Howard.


Chef, restaurateur and TV star Vivian Howard can now add Distinguished Alumna to her long list of achievements. Howard (English, ‘00) was awarded the Humanities and Social Sciences Distinguished Alumna award at NC State’s 2015 Evening of Stars gala.

Assistant Dean Represents NC State at White House Summit 

In November, NC State joined more than two dozen institutions in the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research, a group that aims to support and improve research about women and girls of color. The collaborative was formally announced at a White House summit, “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” where Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs Blair Kelley represented NC State in its commitment.

Virtual MLK Project Re-creates ‘A Creative Protest’

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Despite the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1960 “Fill up the Jails” speech, which marked the first time the civil rights leader called for direct nonviolent action, no audio or recording of the original has ever been discovered. To more fully comprehend King’s address as an experience, a team led by communication professor Victoria Gallagher created an exhibit that allows viewers to see and hear it for themselves.

Students Land Prestigious Scholarships to Expand Research, Learning Overseas

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Graduate student Mary Sloan sits on a boat near El Jedida, Morocco, where she visited a youth employment project in the area. Photo courtesy of Mary Sloan.


As a 2015 recipient of the Boren Fellowship,  graduate student Mary Sloan is spending 10 months in Morocco, where she’s researching the region’s remarkably high levels of youth unemployment. Three other recent graduates, Maurita Harris, Megan Hornbeck and Erin Adamson, are also studying abroad after landing Fulbright scholarships.

College projects share national stage at Congressional reception 

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden, left, stands with English professor John Wall, at a Congressional reception in honor of the National Endowment for the Humanities on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2015.


Dean Jeff Braden and English professor John Wall represented NC State at a Congressional reception in honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Congressman David Price invited the college to discuss its latest research in honor of the NEH’s birthday.

Department of Social Work Continues Suicide Prevention Efforts

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

NC State’s Department of Social Work is one of several key collaborators across campus that promote and coordinate university-wide suicide prevention efforts. From large-scale events like Packapalooza to #StopTheStigma campaigns and other efforts, the department aims to help educate the community and stop the stigma associated with help-seeking behavior.

Recent Grad Writes Top History Paper in the State

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Micah Khater was honored for her senior honors thesis, named the best undergraduate history paper in North Carolina.


Drawing on the only surviving transcript of a court proceeding, old newspapers, an 80-year-old diary and numerous archival documents, recent graduate Micah Khater wrote a paper that uncovers a forgotten event in North Carolina history: a rare civil rights victory orchestrated by African-Americans in the Jim Crow era. The fascinating tale, spun with a historian’s eye for detail and a storyteller’s gift for prose, won this year’s Hugh T. Lefler Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

Sociologist Explores Politics of Tequila, Mezcal Production in New Book

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

NC State sociology professor Sarah Bowen by a field of agave. Photo courtesy of Sarah Bowen.


Sarah Bowen knows a lot about tequila and mezcal. Her new book, Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production, explores the complex web of relationships – from farmers to bartenders – involved in transforming agave plants grown in Mexico into high-end spirits and cocktails consumed around the world.

Student Creates a Buzz On and Off Campus

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

Beekeeper and entrepreneur Leigh-Kathryn Bonner.


Leigh-Kathryn Bonner created quite a buzz with the organization she founded.  Bee Downtown has more than 120,000 bees in various observation hives and recently partnered with Burt’s Bees to open the state’s largest observation hive at Durham’s American Tobacco Campus. Bee Downtown’s purpose is to educate the community about the global concern regarding the drop in honeybee population due to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Professor Explores Jazz and American Religion in ‘Spirits Rejoice’ 

Year in Review: Top Humanities and Social Sciences Stories of 2015

In his new book, Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion, religious studies professor Jason Bivins explores a variety of issues, from how jazz musicians have drawn on specific religious traditions to inform their music to musicians who view performance as ritual. Bivins’s background makes him particularly well-suited to explore both subjects. In addition to specializing in the nexus of religion and U.S. politics, he’s also a jazz musician, recording improvisational albums with bands such as the Unstable Ensemble, the Micro-East Collective and the Impermanence Trio.

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