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The “Secret Sauce” of Alain-Philippe Durand

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Courtesy Alain-Philippe Durand | The Daily Wildcat Alain-Philippe Durand is a Dean in the College of Humanities and he is currently helping President Robbins in a project called the "4th Industrial Revolution."

Tell me about your secret sauce for sandwiches. Mayonnaise? Good. Ketchup? Yummy. But they taste even better when you stir them together, don't they. How about adding a little mustard and garlic? The more ingredients you have, the more complex taste you get. So it is with human personalities according to Alain-Philippe Durand. 

Durand has been Dean of the College of Humanities since 2016. He has been a professor of French and Italian for decades. He has a multicultural background, and his co-workers love his creative personality.

Durand was born in France. He was interested in studying abroad, so he left his country to study in the U.S. as an undergraduate student in literature. After he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999 with a Ph.D., he worked as a professor at the University of Rhode Island, teaching French literature and film media. 

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He moved to Tucson and the University of Arizona in 2010 as the Director of the School of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

Ken S. McAllister, the Associate Dean of the College of Humanities, remembers when Durand was hired.

“He was an easy choice,” McAllister said. “He is charismatic. He actually enjoys thinking about numbers and strategies and tactics. That’s exactly the kind of person you want leading an organization.”

Their choice was right: Durand led the SILLC with charisma. One episode that describes his leadership involved a new hip-hop minor in 2012. The University of Arizona’s minor in Hip-Hop Studies is the first interdisciplinary degree about rap music in the U.S. 

Durand persuaded people and created this academically unconventional degree two years after he came to the UA. And now, two years after becoming Dean of the College of Humanities, he has supported the creation of a new interdisciplinary degree again. 

This new degree, a bachelor’s in Applied Humanities, begins this fall semester. Student will take one elective class in the College of Humanities and choose one professional core from Business Administration, Fashion Studies, Public Health, and Spatial Organization and Design Thinking taught in different colleges in the UA.

“This new degree, to me, is one sort of hallmark of our dean,” the Vice Dean of the College of Humanities, Kimberly Jones, said. “I think one really great thing about Dean Durand is his willingness to seek out cross-college collaborations. And his interest in relate taking humanities in a new direction for the 21st Century. Connecting with other fields and see what humanities has to offer to other fields.”

Durand has established the new Department of Public and Applied Humanities and negotiated with other Deans of the Eller College of Management, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, College of Public Health, and College of Architecture for the new degree.

His eagerness to create new degrees comes from his belief in the importance of humanities and interdisciplinary.

“The skills that we teach in the humanities are important in every discipline and every career,” Durand said. “You cannot study any topic on campus without studying the humanities because in the humanities, we teach skills like critical thinking, communication, adaptability, empathy, collaboration, leadership, intercultural competence, problem solving, all these skills are important regardless of what you study.”

He also believes that humanities are important for the technological improvement, called the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," because even though it is about technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, those revolutions are led by humans, not by robots.

“Let’s say you work for Apple. They’re gonna say, ‘We’re very successful with iWatch right now. We need to create a new product. What else ideas do you have?’ If somebody has studied extensively humanities and arts, they would have the creativity or capacity extended,” Durand said with his intelligent, enthusiastically bright eyes behind the glasses. “There is a better potential to come up with new ideas.”

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While Durand is such an enthusiastic educator, he is also a humorous, cheerful person who loves soccer. Both McAllister and Jones said Durand is “fun to work with.” 

The good balance of seriousness and playfulness may be the ingredients of Durand’s ‘secret sauce’ to attract others.

If you are interested in the bachelor’s degree of Applied Humanities, talk to the counselors in the Department of Public and Applied Humanities.


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