Justine Andrews, an associate professor in The University of New Mexico Department of Art, recently became the director for the Institute of Medieval Studies, only the third in the program’s 34-year history.
She follows in the footsteps of the late Helen Damico, who established the IMS in 1986, and Timothy Graham, who led the IMS for the last 18 years. Andrews has been a member of the steering committee of the IMS since she first came to UNM in 2004.
“Following my extraordinary predecessor, Dr. Timothy Graham, and the dearly-missed founder and first director, Helen Damico, I look forward to continuing the Institute’s mission of outreach, education and scholarship in the rich heritage of the Middle Ages,” Andrews remarked.
“I think that the history, literature, languages, science, and art of the Middle Ages offer evidence of independent thinking, critical awareness of the world, and spectacular innovations. All of these things, I’ve found, are present in the students of UNM and people of New Mexico, so that their attraction to Medieval Studies seems understandable."
- Justine Andrews
The Institute for Medieval Studies offers a variety of programs dedicated to university and civic outreach, as well as to the enrichment of scholarship, teaching, and research in the civilizations of medieval Europe and its neighbors from 500 to 1,500, she explained. Through special student opportunities and advanced research activities, and through its links with graduate degree programs offered by UNM departments, the Institute is committed to furthering the transmission and preservation of the rich heritage from the Middle Ages.
“Our programs operate under the philosophy that the study of medieval culture provides a powerful vantage point from which to evaluate our own and other cultures and to reflect on the complexity of human behavior and institutions. The Institute promotes The University of New Mexico as a major research institution in the humanities and as the central intellectual resource for its civic community. IMS is dedicated to furthering interdisciplinary and multicultural work by challenging the conventional separation of existing intellectual disciplines and by offering the broadest possible approach to research in the humanities,” Andrews continued.
As IMS director, Andrews’ primary responsibilities are overall management of the Institute, including working with the affiliated faculty members in the development of IMS programs. The director represents the Institute to the greater University, as well as nationally and internationally to other Medieval Studies centers and groups. Andrews manages the budget, mentors undergraduate and graduate students, and oversees the programs such as the Visiting Viking Scholar, the widely attended Spring Lecture Series, and the outreach program to local high schools. She also writes grants and works with the development office at UNM to raise funds for the future of the IMS.
Like so many at The University, Andrews is finding the COVID-19 shutdown a challenge in her new position.
“Pre-COVID 19, all of our programs have been face-to-face, and we have cherished that opportunity to connect with the faculty, students and community at UNM, in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico,” she said. “Now, however, I am working on creating online content to engage our community. I am hoping to have some content to publish through our YouTube channel this semester. I want also to foster the Institute’s connection with our students by leading informal reading groups online. Essential right now, for everyone, is to keep connected and keep communication strong so that no one feels isolated in their study, research or life.”
Possibly the most popular program on campus and with the community is the Spring Lecture Series that attracts top lecturers in the field of Medieval Studies from around the world and an audience of people from the university and the community.
“We are so proud to draw in so many people to hear excellent lectures by leading scholars on a wide variety of topics in Medieval Studies," Andrews said. "We are definitely planning for our lecture series for spring. As yet, we have not determined if it will be live or virtual in Spring 2021. Last spring the series was rightfully postponed, but hopefully with enough planning time we can offer the lecture series, whatever the format, this spring."
Andrews pondered why the IMS is so popular: “I think that the history, literature, languages, science, and art of the Middle Ages offer evidence of independent thinking, critical awareness of the world, and spectacular innovations. All of these things, I’ve found, are present in the students of UNM and people of New Mexico, so that their attraction to Medieval Studies seems understandable. How the many peoples of the Middle Ages coped with trade, disease, political corruption, and social injustices have been the central tenets of many works of contemporary fictional literature and movies. These also draw us to study the Middle Ages more deeply, hoping perhaps to learn or re-learn lessons to help us cope with our own time in this world.”
A faculty member in the College of Fine Arts teaching Art of the Medieval Mediterranean, her own research interests are in the co-mingling of cultures and the art they produce.
“I particularly focus on the 14-century Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, the Latin East, and the Peloponnese of Greece. These are regions that had extensive Crusader presence and a continuing Byzantine Orthodox population. I am particularly interested in cross-cultural contact of all kinds during the Middle Ages. The exchanges of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Spain, the Norman rule over Orthodox Christians and Muslims in Sicily, and the intersection of Early Roman Christianity with the cultures of Early Medieval Ireland and Britain – all are fascinating to me,” she said, adding, “I am also interested in research on teaching and learning. I have been exploring the inclusion of mindfulness practices and slow looking in the art history classroom.”
“In the current, and complicated, time of the COVID-19 crisis, we will continue to support our students and faculty in their scholarship of the Middle Ages. I also aim to find ways to bring interesting new content through new platforms to all of our students, faculty and friends. I hope that everyone stays safe, and that we will be able to see each other again at the next lecture series or event,” she said.