As new director of the Center for the Humanities, Professor Mario Sifuentez ’ sights are set on a fuller understanding of rural communities and how best to help them.
He’s got a multi-pronged plan for work that will be done through the center during his three-year-term. He wants to focus on social justice through the lenses of water, health, immigration, prisons and economic development; and work with medical professionals in the Central Valley to help them take a more humanistic approach to treating patients by not only building empathy but by also giving them a better understanding of the larger structural issues that impede good health.
“There’s already a lot of interest here in this approach to medicine. The real world is much different than what you learn in medical school,” Sifuentez said. “It’s not enough to just hand someone a pill or tell them they need to exercise and eat healthy. There are structural reasons that doesn’t work, and this is the kind of medical education we’ll need to offer, considering our location and our population —one that helps students and professionals alike build empathy, adaptability, creativity and ingenuity.”
Sifuentez said he was surprised to learn he was nominated to lead the center by fellow faculty members. School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts Dean Jill Robbins appointed him to the position in late spring.
“The deciding factor in appointing Mario Sifuentez was the strength of his compelling proposal for three pillars of engagement with national and global partners, the local community and our intellectual partners outside the humanities,” Robbins said. “The collaborations he envisions are essential, particularly in light of the crisis of the humanities today, and they coincide with our fundraising initiatives already underway, with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation and others whose generosity has supported our efforts in the public humanities.”
Sifuentez studies labor and immigration, has published one book entitled “ Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest ,” is working on a second book about migrant workers and water in the Central Valley and hopes to collaborate with other faculty members who are interested in sustainability.
He said the center will continue its seed grants, its connection with The Op-Ed Project and its series of guest speakers and events.
“The Center for the Humanities has been really successful helping faculty and graduate students develop their research, since it started in 2012,” he said. “I want to continue building the kinds of great relationships that will help the center become the hub for humanities topics, while highlighting the importance of humanistic education to the Central Valley, the nation and the world.”