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Rebekah Modrak and Jamie Vander Broek: Humility Colloquium

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Stamps Associate Professor Rebekah Modrak and Art & Design Librarian Jamie Vander Broek have been working since August 2016 with Aaron Ahuvia (Professor of Marketing, U‑M Dearborn) and Sarah Buss (Professor of Philosophy, U‑M) to design a colloquium on Humility in the Age of Self-Promotion within the University of Michigan. 

The colloquium will occur this Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, and will bring together leading figures from psychology, philosophy, journalism, religion, medicine, the military, the law, business, the arts, and the humanities to contemplate the nature of humility, its benefits and costs, and its role in this time of billionaire entrepreneurs, pervasive reality television, social media, and Donald Trump. The interdisciplinary collaborative group asks: What might we learn from humility and different expressions of humbleness? By investigating humility, its enabling conditions and effects, we gain insight into what it is to be human, as well as discovering ways to understand/​interpret and respond constructively to the present social and political moment.

The colloquium will be held on and off the Michigan campus and will be primarily a closed event. Invited guests include Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, a scholar examining how humility constrains and enables the ways that black girls envision their future. Richard C. Boothman, JD Chief Risk Officer at the University of Michigan Health System, recounts changing the culture of the UM healthcare system from one of deny and defend” to one of apology, honesty, and transparency. Russell Belks, York University consumer ethnographer, shares his findings on the humble performance of old age, without the benefits of all the sets, masks, and props that are a part of living as thriving consumers during our younger years.” Lynette Clemetson, Director of the University of Michigan’s Wallace House, offers insights into the changing role of the journalist, from an astute observer who recedes into the background, to a personality with a social media brand.

Throughout the colloquium, Stamps students Ana Vincent and Marjorie Gaber will work with Nick Sousanis, award-winning author of the graphic novel Unflattening, to illustrate ideas and conversations. The team’s illustrations will be published in the book that develops from the event. Colloquium Undergraduate Research Assistants Tori Essex and Mara Ezekiel have been key in organizing the event and will participate in the discussions and workshop. Carolyn Gennari (MFA 2017) is the Graduate Research Assistant, and is directing design elements and videography to record and distribute some of the talks. 

On Friday evening, October 20, 2017, NY Times Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow will present the colloquium’s public event, a keynote lecture at Rackham Auditorium.

The Colloquium on Humility is funded by MCubed, a campus-wide seed funding program at the University of Michigan, with involvement from the University of Michigan Libraries, the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, and the School of Business at University of Michigan-Dearborn.