Carnegie Mellon University
March 27, 2013

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon's Dietrich College Launches Humanism Initiative

Contact: Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 /

PITTSBURGH-To promote humanistic inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences has launched a new, three-year Humanism Initiative. The initiative will approach humanism as an inclusive, value centered philosophical outlook with which students can examine the human condition, scientific research, moral analysis and more. The initiative will pursue community building, education and research.

"We want to create an inclusive humanistic community that welcomes interested individuals and encourages their involvement," said Andy Norman, special faculty within the Department of Philosophy who will direct the Humanism Initiative. "In doing that, we hope to unearth the moral framework that we, as humans, have in common - the common ground that allows us to problem-solve together, regardless of religion, cultural or political beliefs."

To establish a humanism community at CMU, Norman will build off of the recently founded Carnegie Mellon Humanist League, the student organization which share's the initiative's inclusive philosophy. Norman, the group's faculty adviser, will align the Humanist League with the initiative through sponsored activities, invited speakers and other events designed to provoke thoughtful discussion.

The initiative's education piece will explore the use of interactive digital media in moral education. This spring, Norman and Ralph Vituccio, assistant teaching professor in the Entertainment Technology Center, are teaching a project course called "Morality Play: Laboratory for Interactive Media and Values Education." Students are studying how rising inequality in the U.S. is affecting the country's social fabric. Norman hopes to expand the initiative's course offerings by drawing from the university's rich and diverse expertise.

"We are not the first university to explore the ways humanist community can enhance education and research - for example, Harvard, Stanford and Rutgers have similar programs - but our exploration of the way technology can enhance values education is quite new," Norman said. "We think that the humanities and social sciences have a key role to play in designing the learning technologies of tomorrow, and we mean to explore the possibilities."

The initiative also will encourage CMU faculty research on the topic. Norman is currently hosting monthly faculty lunches to discuss possibilities and welcomes input and participation.

Norman, who has done research on the history and philosophy of humanism and regularly contributes to "Humanist Network News" and "Free Inquiry," is excited about the future of humanism at CMU.

"Humanism is an excellent organizing principle for interdisciplinary design," he said. "It affords a particularly robust foundation for fruitful collaboration on learning media. When Carnegie Mellon's excellence in the humanities and social sciences is brought to bear, in a systematic way, on the learning technologies of tomorrow, watch out! We're thrilled by this opportunity to apply humanistic learning to real-world problems in education."

For more information on the Humanism Initiative or to get involved, contact Norman at

To learn more about the humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, watch this video: