2019 Humanities at Work Conference

Humanities at Work in the Community, Health and Tech Industry:
Linguistics Paving the Way

March 27, 2019
9:00 AM- 4:30 PM

The University Club, University of Pittsburgh

Opening remarks:
Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor Dr. Ann E. Cudd 


Registration required 


Keynote Address
John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President and Professor
Washington & Jefferson College 


Conference Overview

The conference draws on the Department of Linguistics’ Internship Program and Humanities in Health Initiative, which are partially funded by a Pitt Seed grant. Broadly speaking, the conference will highlight cross-disciplinary work between humanities and other disciplines in and outside of academia. We will focus on the role of the humanities in training of students across various disciplines. The conference will feature work by current linguistics interns and alumni. Tech industry and community partners will speak to the importance of humanities and cross-disciplinary training in their businesses.

The humanities can improve the human condition through contributions to technology and medicine. All too often, those involved fail to see this potential resource for workforce growth. Most alarmingly, humanities students are not taught to ‘market themselves’ to medical and tech organizations and, indeed, are led to believe that the humanities are irrelevant to these fields.

It is imperative that tech, community, and medical organizations (among others) realize the humanities’ potential contributions to their projects and make an effort to recruit a diverse workforce with a strong grounding in the humanities.

For example, the barriers to shifting from using computers as tools to seeing them as dialogue partners that are expected to converse as engagingly as humans are not only technical but also linguistic. Interactions between autonomous vehicles and other road users (other drivers, police, construction workers) are one of the major road blocks to successful autonomous vehicles.

Furthermore, medicine is also increasingly influenced by issues that could benefit from an approach grounded in the humanities. Physicians are dealing with more diverse populations who have experienced political conflict, violence, and destitution, mounting demands on their time, and increasing rates of burnout. The humanities offer a variety of strategies for dealing with many of these situations, from reflective writing to improved efficiency in patient interviews.

Thus, the purpose of this project is to create infrastructure to foster and sustain greater collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas and perspectives between the University of Pittsburgh's many schools and Industry and Community partners. The University of Pittsburgh is known for its emphasis on the value of humanities and cross-disciplinary work, and the administrations of the schools represented have publicly supported such collaboration. The conference will allow several opportunities for networking in addition to the scheduled talks, to allow for the organic generation of new partnerships.

The goals of this meeting align with the Strategic Plan for the University of Pittsburgh, especially with regards to the creation of an institutional environment and culture that celebrates interdisciplinary collaborations, fosters relationships, events, policies, and work that strive for integrative successes, and celebrates team accomplishment. Our intent is to broaden the educational experiences and opportunities for students across campus, facilitating an appreciation for the application of humanities perspectives, skills and analytical approaches, while also crucially increasing opportunities for them in the marketplace.

This is the perfect time to launch these new partnerships with the community and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. As Chancellor Gallagher has indicated, Pitt is located in an increasingly diverse city that has transformed from a metropolis anchored in the steel and coal industries to one known for educational and technology incubator institutions and an internationally recognized health system. It is thus crucial to prepare students to profit from these opportunities in our region, and this conference hopes to fill these existing voids.  


Conference Program

Organizing Committee:
Abdesalam Soudi, PhD (Project Director)
Shelome Gooden, PhD 
Audrey Murrell, PhD 
Panos Chrysanthis, PhD
Judy Chang, MD, MPH
Jeannette South-Paul, MD

Department of Linguistics
Department of Family Medicine
School of Computing and Information
David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership
Department of Ob/Gyn & Reproductive Sciences 

Event Flyer

Questions: HinH@pitt.edu