Bethany Wiggin Receives Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship

Bethany Wiggin, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures and the founding director of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, is among the first recipients of a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship from the Whiting Foundation.

The Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship is designed to identify and support faculty in the humanities who strive to share their expertise with a wider audience. The fellowship grew out of the foundation’s belief that the humanities are vital to American culture and that humanities scholars are in a unique position to contribute to public understanding and discussion of complex issues.

Wiggin’s project, “Making a River's Past, Present, and Future Visible from America's Oldest Botanical Garden,” looks at people’s interaction with their environment in the context of global warming and rising river water in Philadelphia. Collaborating with historians, scientists, and visual artists, she will create programming at sites such as Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, including programs for middle- and high-school students. The series of events, called Floating on Warmer Waters, will explore ecologically friendly living in the historical perspective of Philadelphia’s Quaker past, as well as the role of utopian ideologies in shaping development and conservation. The public will be invited to engage in experiments in sustainability on a floating science lab created by artist Mary Mattingly.

Wiggin received her B.A. from Swarthmore College and her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Her interests include the intersections between the early modern period and contemporary theoretical concerns, as well as translation, multilingualism, and environmental humanities. She serves as graduate chair in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and is an affiliate faculty member in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature. In 2016-2017, she will direct the Penn Humanities Forum’s year on Translation.

Based in New York City, the Whiting Foundation invited approximately 40 colleges and universities to nominate one recently tenured professor in the humanities for the WPE Fellowship, focusing on those who have already used their scholarly expertise to reach wider audiences. The fellowship funds six consecutive months of leave for focused work on a project.