Morningsider Fall 2021 Feature: Esther Mackintosh Humanities Scholar of the University
Esther Mackintosh Humanities Scholar of the University
By Erin Edlund
As a small, private liberal arts institution, the humanities are foundational to the Morningside University experience and at the heart of a well-rounded education. They are the branches of knowledge that connect us as humans and extend beyond academics. Per the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the humanities help “foster critical thinking, increase historical and cultural understanding, promote civil discussions of difficult issues, bring families together, and reunite communities.”
To ensure that the humanities remain a relevant and critical component of the Morningside experience, the Dr. Esther M. Mackintosh ’69 Endowed Humanities Scholar of the University has been established at Morningside. This is a permanent, tenured faculty position that will be funded by income generated through a one-million-dollar endowed fund. The scholar hired for this position will be responsible for developing a vision for the humanities at Morningside as the university moves deeper into the 21st century, with an emphasis on building opportunities for experiential learning and the digital humanities. The scholar will also serve as a mentor to humanities students and create interdisciplinary research opportunities that connect to real-world needs.
“Our world and the people in it are incredibly complex, and the humanities offer avenues for understanding and growth,” said Morningside University President John Reynders. “This endowed professorship will not only allow us to continue offering the humanities to our students in a way that is relevant for the times, but it is also a testament to our rich history as it honors Dr. Esther Mackintosh, an extraordinary alumna and the current chair of the Morningside University Board of Directors, who has dedicated her career to the humanities.”
Mackintosh, the individual for whom the new scholar position is named, joined the staff of the Federation of State Humanities Councils in 1986 and served as president from 2004 to 2020. Mackintosh earned her doctorate in American literature from Kansas State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Morningside in 1969. She credits that experience with building her passion for a liberal arts education.
“Faculty at Morningside challenged me from the beginning and shook me out of comfortable patterns. Learning about cultures and traditions that were new to me was a hallmark of my college education. Without my experience at Morningside, I’m sure I wouldn’t have dared to venture as far afield as I have over the course of my career, and those interactions and the way I learned to think have helped me professionally and personally throughout my career,” said Mackintosh.
Having gained so much from the humanities during her own time at Morningside, Mackintosh hopes that the new scholar will help create opportunities for cross-disciplinary and collaborative work that will benefit students regardless of their major.
“Even disciplines that are entirely separate from the humanities can benefit from the insights and exploration that the humanities offer. Especially in this time where it seems crises are coming from nearly every direction, the humanities can help us shine a light on things we might not have considered and allow us to draw upon a vast array of knowledge and experience,” said Mackintosh.
Mackintosh also notes the importance of the mentorship role the new scholar will play. “There are many students out there who are apprehensive about whether a humanities discipline can result in a good career or a livable wage. The truth is humanities majors are often highly sought after because of how versatile they can be. The skills learned through a humanities education are transferable to a wide variety of roles in nearly any industry.”
Summing it up, Mackintosh says, “I personally feel the humanities are the air we breathe. They tell us about how we as humans function, and how we have always functioned. My hope is that the new scholar will help highlight that value.”
The search for the new Endowed Humanities Scholar of the University kicked off over the summer. The individual hired is expected to begin their work before classes start in Fall 2022. Anyone interested in supporting the new position or learning more about its work is encouraged to call the Morningside University Advancement Office at 712-274-5409.