Hall Center for Humanities leadership transition

From: Simon Atkinson, Vice Chancellor for Research
Sent: Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, 8:51 a.m.
To: KU Lawrence staff, faculty and affiliates


I am writing with news of a leadership change in the KU research community. Richard Godbeer, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities, has retired from the University of Kansas. He led the intellectual hub for humanities scholars and its robust public outreach program for three years.
Giselle Anatol, professor of English and director of KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, is serving as interim director of the Hall Center.

I’m grateful to Richard for advancing a compelling vision for the Hall Center as a place for humanists to engage with one another and with community on the most difficult questions of our day. He made sure that work continued — and even broadened its reach — as the pandemic forced activities online.

Under Richard’s leadership, the Hall Center expanded research support for faculty and students, launched a new speaker series featuring recently published work by KU humanities scholars, and built partnerships with other institutions, most recently becoming a sponsor of the National Humanities Center. During the pandemic, the center leveraged online platforms to reach new audiences far beyond Lawrence with a broad range of public programming. In 2021, the Hall Center partnered with KU’s Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities to secure a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a digital storytelling project that brings together more than 40 community and KU-based partners.

The center also collaborated with the Office of Research to launch the KU Racial Equity Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity Awards and joined both the Office of Research and the Center for Faculty Development & Mentoring to support the Public Scholars Group. Now in its second year, the group prepares KU scholars to use mechanisms such as op-eds and podcasts to foster informed, constructive dialogue with the broader public.

“Serving as director of this remarkable center, benefiting from the creativity and hard work of all those who preceded me, working with the Hall Center’s amazing staff to sustain our mission during the pandemic, and having the opportunity to imagine the Hall Center’s future has been a highlight of my career,” Richard said. “As I step away from my responsibilities, I feel deep gratitude and wish the humanities community across and beyond KU all the very best.”
In addition to directing the Hall Center, Richard served as the Charles W. Battey Distinguished Professor in the Department of History. His research focuses on witchcraft, religious culture, gender, and sexuality in colonial and revolutionary North America — topics that have fueled his authorship of six books. Before joining KU in 2019, Richard had been the founding director of the Humanities Research Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Giselle Anatol joined KU in 1998. Her research interests include Caribbean literature and folklore, U.S. African American literature, speculative fiction by authors of the African diaspora, and representations of race, ethnicity and gender in writing for youth. She has authored “The Things That Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora,” a book published in 2015 by Rutgers University Press, and a number of book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles. She has also fostered scholarly collaboration by editing three collections of essays on children’s and young adult literature.
Giselle has been recognized repeatedly for teaching and research excellence at KU, receiving the Frances L. Stiefel Teaching Professorship in English, the Ned Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Conger-Gabel Teaching Professorship, and the English graduate student organization’s Mabel S. Fry Teaching Award. She was named one of KU’s Women of Distinction in 2013 and was selected for the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholar-in-Residence fellowship program in 2012.

I am grateful to Giselle for agreeing to lead the Hall Center through this interim period. The Hall Center plays a critical role in KU’s continuing excellence in humanistic inquiry and interdisciplinary scholarship, helping us understand what it means to be human throughout time and across cultures. I am confident Giselle will sustain the momentum and relationships that Richard cultivated during his time at the university.

Please join me in welcoming Giselle to this important role. Please also help me thank Richard for his enthusiastic leadership and wish him all the best in his retirement.


Simon Atkinson
Vice Chancellor for Research