Breath of Fresh Air

USD College of Arts and Sciences Dean Noelle Norton


Over the course of the summer, a construction project at USD has remained hidden in plain sight. Located in Serra Hall, the newly completed Humanities Center is unlike anything USD has housed before: a space dedicated to study through the lens of the humanities.

“The Humanities Center is an extraordinary step forward for USD to promote and foster the liberal arts and sciences on our campus,” says Noelle Norton (pictured), dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “With this center, we are giving the humanities a central, prominent home, and are providing space to explore what it means to be human through new interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum, community engagement, digital humanities and collaborative research. It’s truly an exciting time at USD and for the humanities in San Diego.”

So what exactly will be inside the Humanities Center?

In short, the new space will hold a little bit of everything. In one corner of the space, there will be an area devoted to digital humanities, where students will blend new technologies with rigorous scholarship. In the middle of the room will be a meeting or “salon” space; there, one imagines groups of students lounging in plush chairs at a long table, earnestly arguing about life’s biggest questions. Some days there will be formal meetings with projection screens and analysis. Other days there will lunch hours and deep conversations.

Across the room is a door that leads to an imaginative space where creativity is expressed in all its glory: the art gallery. Curated by University Galleries and the Humanities Center, the gallery will boast exhibitions that transcend art altogether and transport the viewer to a different place. In fact, one of the first exhibitions will be by a former military soldier. The exhibit will be a 4-D experience that depicts the aftermath of the explosion of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), something that he lived through. Upon exiting the gallery, there is a cozy office in the corner of the main room. This is the new home of Brian Clack, PhD.

As the inaugural director of the Humanities Center, Professor Clack is brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and a vision for the future. Since his arrival at USD nearly 10 years ago, Clack has become a fixture in the philosophy department. When he talks about the new Humanities Center, he is visibly excited, and his British accent becomes stronger than ever.

“When they asked me to be the director, I was thrilled. I saw what this space could be, a living and breathing hub, for not just humanities students, but for all students. I’m so excited to create a space for student scholars, student researchers and student artists. I hope that they love it as much as I do.” — Taylor Milam

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