Of Note

National Endowment for the Humanities awards $300,000 to Professor Wendy Cadge’s Boston Hidden Sacred Spaces projectPosted: March 15, 2021

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $300,000 to support the project Boston’s Hidden Sacred Spaces, a partnership between Brandeis University and San Francisco-based Walking Cinema. 

The funding extends the work of an NEH-funded prototype to map and tell the stories of sacred spaces using 3D and interactive technologies. The project team is led at Brandeis by Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and incoming Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with Ian Roy, Director for Research Technology and Innovation, at the Brandeis MakerLab. Michael Epstein, director of Walking Cinema, is the project’s Principal Investigator.  

This project utilizes 3D technology to preserve sacred spaces in the greater Boston area as well as create a compelling podcast about how clues in these spaces reveal a deep transformation of the American religious experience. For years, 3D technology has been used in archeology, architecture, and religious studies to scan objects and spaces with the aim of preserving and analyzing them, such as digital representations of ancient Greek pottery or comparing architectural features of Egyptian mosques. Boston’s Hidden Sacred Spaces will work with clergy, scholars and public radio journalists to produce an audio series and companion 3D environments to create the first podcast that teleports audiences into the spaces of the stories.  

Audiences will virtually move around these spaces leveraging the capabilities of smartphones and Augmented Reality devices to deliver high fidelity audio and project images into audience surroundings. In this way, audiences become both detectives and archeologists, examining these hidden sacred spaces as they dig into the rich history of their construction and current challenges.  

“We are excited that the NEH sees the value of our prototype project and is investing in its extension,” Cadge said. “Charting the evolution of the sacred spaces in the Boston area -- especially those usually overlooked or forgotten -- will tell us not only about the history of American religion but also help us understand its future.”

“As our movement has been restricted over the past year due to the pandemic, there has been a rising interest in immersive storytelling: audio, zoom performances, and augmented reality that transport audiences to other places” explains Michael Epstein from Walking Cinema. “With Hidden Sacred Spaces we are creating a place-based podcast that allows audiences to step inside Boston’s recondite places of worship.”

"All of our efforts around ‘sciencing the past’ are aimed at making higher quality data more accessible to more people," said Ian Roy, the Brandeis MakerLab director. "The more hearts and minds we can connect to these spaces, the more connections, conclusions and personal meaning they will be able to draw."

The project began on Jan. 1, 2021 and is expected to be released to the public in early 2022. When completed, the 3D experience and podcast will be available at HiddenSacredSpaces.org as well as the website of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at ChaplaincyInnovation.org.

Professor Ramie Targoff to step down as Director of Brandeis’ Mandel Center for the HumanitiesPosted: March 5, 2021
Ramie Targoff

Ramie Targoff

Ramie Targoff, professor of English, co-chair of Italian studies, and the inaugural Jehuda Reinharz Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for the Humanities, will step down as director in June after leading the center since its inception 11 years ago.

“Having the opportunity to create strong connections across disciplines at Brandeis has been incredibly rewarding and enlightening,” Targoff said. “I am proud of the work we have done to create new ways for faculty and students to view their own and others’ intellectual pursuits through different lenses. These programs have enabled us to enliven the academic life of our university in a way that simply wasn’t available before the center opened.”

The Mandel Center’s striking modern building was funded by a $22.5 million gift from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. Its programming was launched by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is sustained through an annual grant from the Mandel Foundation. Support for the humanities was generally waning in academia at the time the Mandels gave their gift. After the center was established, late Brandeis Trustee Barbara Mandel, P’73, H’19 and wife of Morton Mandel, continued to be engaged in its work.

“Our work would never have been possible without Jack, Joseph, Morton and Barbara Mandel’s vision to promote humanities education; the Foundation’s continued support has both inspired and challenged us to expand the reach of the humanities for the Brandeis community and beyond,” Targoff said.

The Mandel Center supports a variety of programs that draw connections across academic fields that may at first seem unrelated. The annual Mandel Lectures in the Humanities brings prominent scholars to campus to deliver a series of three lectures and conduct an informal seminar during their stay on campus; the lectures are later published. Each year, five faculty members are selected to receive $10,000 Mandel Faculty grants to support humanities research. The Center also hosts team-taught interdisciplinary classes for undergraduates and has supported faculty seminars that bring together humanities and science professors to discuss concepts and theories from humanistic and scientific perspectives through joint lectures.

“The Mandel Center for the Humanities in many ways lies at the core of the interdisciplinary scholarship and education that is an integral part of academic life at Brandeis,” said Dean of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson. “I am grateful to the Mandel Foundation for its support of the center and to Ramie for her amazing work in launching and sustaining it for the past 11 years.”

“Ramie has been an outstanding leader in carrying out the vision that the Mandels had for this center, when they first made their gift in 2007,” said Jehuda Reinharz, president emeritus of Brandeis and current president and chief executive officer of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. “I look forward to the Center’s next chapter which will continue to have Ramie lead the publication of the Mandel Lectures in the Humanities and launch a new series of Mandel Books in the Global Humanities.”

Hodgson will begin a search for Targoff’s successor with the plan of identifying a new director before the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year.

Templeton Religion Trust awards $1.5 million grant to Chaplaincy Innovation LabPosted: March 1, 2021

The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab received a $1.5 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for a three-year study and conversation about the demand for the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care across the United States. In partnership with Gallup, Inc, the Lab will conduct a national survey and in-depth interviews to learn who, in the general public, has engaged with chaplains in recent years and what their experiences have been. This project will also allow the Lab to map how chaplains are trained and where the gaps are between supply and demand.

Wendy Cadge, the project’s principal investigator and Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives at Brandeis, said “We think chaplains and spiritual care providers are going to play increasingly central roles in religious leadership in coming years. The public has become more aware of their work since the COVID-19 pandemic as they cared for patients, staff and family members at a distance in hospitals across the United States.”

Chaplains have long histories in the military, prisons, and other settings and are increasingly found in new places such as community organizations, social movements, and social service organizations.

The project will analyze how members of the public have engaged with chaplains in recent years and use this new knowledge to think about how chaplains can best be trained for their work. Most attention to chaplaincy and spiritual care today focuses not on these demand questions but on the supply of chaplains. Scholars and educators debate how chaplains should be educated, what endorsements or certifications are required, and how to continue to support them over their careers. This project will challenge that conversation by collecting much-needed data about demand. In some settings this is demand for an actual chaplain; in other settings, the demand is for the skills of presence; empathetic listening; improvisation; an awareness of spiritual, religious and broad existential issues of meaning and purpose; knowledge and ability to comfort around death; and the ability to engage deeply across religious difference.

From the start, the project will have an advisory group of close to thirty stakeholders in spiritual care, the institutions where chaplains work, and theological education. They will play particular attention to how chaplains enable people from different backgrounds and belief systems to engage one another, as key facilitators of covenantal pluralism in the United States.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Brandeis, Dr. Cadge and her team to support the work of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab,” commented Dr. W. Christopher Stewart, Vice President of Grant Programs at the Templeton Religion Trust.  “CIL has quickly become an important part of the American landscape in preparing educators and chaplains to facilitate cooperative, constructive engagement across deep differences while enhancing the spiritual welfare of individuals, and society. TRT supports CIL because chaplains embody the freedom of conscience, religious literacy, and humility that our world needs to engage others with empathy and patience, thus improving the overall conditions of societies and strengthening the vitality of religions.”

The Lab is pleased to be joined by postdoctoral fellow Grace Tien in this work. Tien completed her PhD in sociology at Princeton University on an accelerated track with the Dean's Completion Fellowship and is currently a postdoctoral scholar and a research affiliate of Princeton's Center on Contemporary China. The American Sociological Association recently awarded Tien the 2020 best student paper prize in economic sociology and entrepreneurship.

By the end of the project, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab will have produced multiple working papers, publicly available and academic articles, and a draft monograph on the future of the field.

Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University receives $750,000 from Henry Luce FoundationPosted: Jan. 22, 2021

The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab received two grants totaling $750,000 from the Henry Luce Foundation in the second half of 2020 to continue building and supporting resilience in chaplains and other spiritual care providers across the country.

As they respond to the double pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, chaplains are called on now more than ever to address some of the most pressing and deeply felt needs of communities. Growing coverage of chaplains in the media has brought this crucial profession into the national conversation at a time spiritual care is most needed.

“We’ve seen chaplains accompany COVID patients in their last moments when loved ones could not be present. The year 2020 inflicted deep wounds on many in our communities and chaplains were there offering support,” said Wendy Cadge, the project’s principal investigator and Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives at Brandeis University. “We’ve also seen chaplains working ‘both sides of the line,’ with protestors and with law enforcement, during the movement to secure racial equity in the United States.” This project will further chaplains’ growing work and visibility during these times.

With the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab awarded16 micro-grants totaling over $440,000 to institutions across the country to extend the work of chaplains at this important time. The grants have assisted chaplains on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic at facilities like the Hampton VA Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, ProMedica Health System, Pine Rest Mental Health Services, Keene State College, and New York Presbyterian Medical Center.

Projects financed by these grants include focusing on the challenges facing healthcare environmental service staff; leadership in healthcare systems; the need for restorative practices for faculty and staff in higher education; support for medical language interpreters as they work with patients, families, and healthcare teams; and more.

Funds from the Henry Luce Foundation are also providing free virtual support groups for chaplains that the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab offers in partnership with the Albert and Jesse Danielsen Institute at Boston University. The support groups have served 100 chaplains to-date and will continue through December 2021. “We’re excited to partner with the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab and we’re humbled by what we’re learning in these groups. Chaplains are supporting so many people in so many situations, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to support those chaplains in turn,” said George Stavros, Executive Director of the Danielsen Institute.

The Lab continues to offer free webinars on a range of topics with additional funding expanding the range to include restorative sessions titled Music for the Soul.


Brandeis University Press to exclusively manage the University Press of New EnglandPosted: Jan. 6, 2021
Brandeis University has acquired and is now the sole owner of all titles and copyrights of the University Press of New England, under a deal finalized on Jan. 1 with Dartmouth College. Going forward, Brandeis University Press will oversee the UPNE list, excluding Dartmouth College Press titles.

Brandeis University Press was an early member of the UPNE consortium, and in 2018 when UPNE was dissolved, it split ownership of UPNE with Dartmouth College; since then, the two institutions have co-managed the list. Brandeis University Press will now manage the entire list, reprint books, actively promote titles, and sell rights. Dartmouth will continue to steward and manage titles previously published under the Dartmouth College Press imprint.

Georgia O’Keeffe, A Life by Roxana Robinson, Bark, A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech, and Vulture, The Private Life of an Unloved Bird by Katie Fallon are titles previously published by UPNE which have been reissued by BUP.

The University of Chicago Press’s Chicago Distribution Center will continue to handle marketing, sales and distribution for both Brandeis University Press and the UPNE catalog.

“Brandeis University Press is pleased to begin representing these titles and working with their authors going forward. The titles we acquired will dovetail well with BUP’s current titles and our expertise,” said Sue Ramin, Director of BUP. “I am grateful to Dartmouth College for their excellent past stewardship and for working so cooperatively with us as we worked on this acquisition.”

“UPNE has a wonderful deep backlist and we are thankful to the UPNE leadership, editors, and staff who created this excellent list of books. We hope to keep many of these titles in print and look forward to promoting and reissuing them,” Ramin added.

BUP has produced critically acclaimed and award-winning books in the humanities and social sciences, as well as general interest titles, with a particular commitment to publishing compelling and innovative approaches to the study of the Jewish experience worldwide.