About Us

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The Simpson Center for the Humanities seeks to advance vital research and spirited intellectual exchange on questions of broad and pressing concern through and across the academic fields of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences. As a research unit within the Humanities Division of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington, the Simpson Center supports scholarship that draws on the core areas of humanistic inquiry and beyond. Both basic and socially-engaged research are central to its mission which is expansive and interlocking:

  • to support crossdisciplinary research
  • to underwrite initiatives at the leading edge of change
  • to offer innovative courses at the graduate level, and
  • to foster work that is public facing, with a priority being the integration of research, teaching, and public scholarship.

Key to the Simpson Center's vision is the development of a culture of collaboration. Multi-year, intellectually ambitious, and socially compelling collaborative projects include “Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History,” “Biological Futures in a Globalized World,” “New Geographies: Feminist Art: China. Asia, and the World,” “Women Who Rock,” “Transformative Education Behind Bars,” “Capitalism and Comparative Racialization,” and “Humanitarianisms.” All of these projects integrate research and teaching, and possess a public dimension.


The Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities supports a wide range of research across the humanities and humanistic social sciences, with a focus on leading-edge collaborative projects with the potential to reach beyond the academy. One of the most comprehensive humanities centers in the United States, it is well-known for its scholarly fellowship programs and major initiatives in digital humanities, public scholarship, and reimagining the humanities PhD. Simpson Center programs are grounded in collaboration, crossdisciplinarity, and an ethos of experimentation. 

The Simpson Center offers a rich spectrum of opportunities for intellectual community and plays a shaping and supportive role in the work of University of Washington faculty and graduate students. It provides funding and administrative support for scholarly fellowships, research clusters, graduate study groups, conferences, symposia, and microseminars, allowing faculty and graduate students to exchange ideas and develop projects with colleagues, visiting scholars, and members of other higher educational and cultural institutions. Special programs for undergraduates are also underwritten by the center. 

The Simpson Center supports faculty-led projects on contemporary social issues and deep historical questions, and serves as an enlivening place for conversations across disciplines, publics, and communities. Funding is awarded to faculty to undertake projects such as organizing conferences and leading research clusters twice annually during competitive funding rounds, with applications reviewed by the Simpson Center executive board, a body led by the director of the Simpson Center and consisting of the dean of humanities, faculty from the divisions of the humanities, social sciences, and arts of the College of Arts & Sciences on the UW Seattle campus as well as from affiliated units at UW Bothell and Tacoma. The board also reviews nominations for the center’s high-profile named lecture series, advises on policy, and actively participates in the development of new programs and initiatives.

The Simpson Center regularly welcomes short-term visiting scholars and often hosts postdoctoral fellows with portable fellowship funding, providing campus space, resources, and intellectual community for established and emerging scholarly voices in the humanities. The center contributes to the activities of the national and international organizations with which it is affiliated, including the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), the Western Humanities Alliance, the National Humanities Alliance, and Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life. In doing so, it facilitates the building of scholarly networks nationally and internationally. 

The Simpson Center has received grants from national organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as from Seattle institutions, among them, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Simpson Center is also sustained by support from donors [add link to full list here]. Major gifts from the PSB Fund—the family foundation of Barclay and Sharon Simpson—and from Donald E. Petersen and Frederick Danz, among others, have underwritten forward-looking, interdisciplinary curricular and fellowship programs that would not have been otherwise possible. 

Led by a faculty director appointed by the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, the Simpson Center has five full-time staff members.

The Simpson Center gratefully acknowledges the support of all those who have donated to our work.

Donald & Jo Anne Petersen
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Barclay & Sharon Simpson

Homer Bliss*
John Simpson

Herbert Blau & Kathleen Woodward
Fredric Danz*
The Graduate School, University of Washington


Robert & Mary Casey
Edison International Matching Gift Program
Lester & Barbara Gray Jr.

Sarah Elizabeth Guthu
David & Marcia McCracken

Leroy & Annie Searle

William Talbott and Judith Foley

Miceal Vaughan & Sheila Dietrich
Jenene Wilson

Robert Abrams
Carolyn Allen
Jennifer Bean
Emily Bender & Vijay Menon
David & Karen Bennett
Ruby Blondell
Robert Brown
Garth Butterfield & Nancy Held
China Studies Program, University of Washington
Marie Gatti Clark
Clowes Center for the Study of Conflict and Dialogue, University of Washington
Comparative History of Ideas, University of Washington
Alvin & Ruth Eller
Sarah Elwood-Faustino
John & Linda Findlay
Kirsten Foot
Cara Ann Giacomini
Alain & Anne Gowing
James Gregory & Susan Glenn
Michelle Habell-Pallan & Jamie Cardenas Jr.
Gary Handwerk & Nancy Strom
Jeanne Heuving
Stephen & Catherine Hinds
Judith Howard
Robin & Paolo Iazzi
Odai Johnson
Raymond & Patricia Jonas
Moon Jung & Stephanie Lamson
Allan Kutoff
Brent & Cara Lane
Victoria Lawson & Dean Odegard
Linguistics, University of Washington
J. Pierre & Felice Loebel
Brian McClatchey
Joseph Milutis
Ronald Moore
Scott & Laurie Noegel
Margaret O'Mara
Uta Poiger & Kyriacos Markianos
Aden Ross
Laurie Sears
Michael & Joana Shapiro
David Shields
JoAnn Taricani
Crispin Thurlow Faber & Jurg Koch-Faber
John & Eleanor Toews
James Tweedie & Sasha Welland
Michelle Wernli & John McGarry
Alison Wylie & Samuel Gerszonowicz

to $99
Peter & Janice Berquist
Marianne Bichsel
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Matching Gift Program
Cynthea Bogel & John Stevenson
Kathy & Vincent Charvet
Rosalba Ciampi
William Davie
Willa Dawson
Donald & Vicki Doud
Nathan & Christina Dudley
Jessica Dunahoo
Helen Freeman
Damon & Christen Frenn
Linda Gamrath
Nancy Gerking*
Chad & Megan Geston
Tova Gritzka
Brenda & Emily Haug
Kristine Haugseth & Steingrimur Thorsteinsson
Scott Herrick
Sherry Hill
Nathan & Marisa Hull
Wesley Johnson
Joshua Lehman & Pamela Kelley
Daniel Kingston
Krista Lynn & Ben Bryan
Samuel Mattix
Microsoft Corporation Matching Gift Program
Einar Molver
Robert & Dorothy Nollan
Crystal Oman
Nancy Peacock
Suzanne Petersen
Carrie Reed
Christian & Amy Strand
Jack & Sarah Sutermeister
Elizabeth Trainor
Douglas Van Dyk
Michele Whaley & Karl Wilkelmi
Phillip & Christina Wohlstetter