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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Fair
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ARTS

Film professor Lea Jacobs will tackle arts and humanities funding in new role at UW Graduate School

Jacobs: "I think people feel a little bit like they have to defend the arts and humanities."
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Lea Jacobs is a familiar face to film lovers on the UW campus. A communication arts professor, she's also afounding director of the UW Cinematheque, the campus organization that screens noteworthy films for free nearly every week, including silent films and 16mm and 35mm prints. Now she's adding another title to her resume: associate dean for the arts and humanities in the UW Graduate School, the role new School of Music director Susan C. Cook recently vacated.

Over the past 20 years, Jacobs has focused her career on the history of film, in particular silent cinema and the American studio system. She received the Graduate School's Kellett Mid-Career Award in 2009, and she teaches classes on contemporary animation as well as cinema's past.

One challenge she'll face in her new role is a decline in National Endowment for the Humanities funding. But this will not be her first time addressing funding shortfalls. As a member of the Graduate School Research Committee, she recruited researchers and helped allocate funds to projects such as an interdisciplinary grant the graduate school is currently working on.

Jacobs says arts and humanities programs shouldn't need to beg for funding since they are a vital part of all students' educational experience and benefit the community.

"I think people feel a little bit like they have to defend the arts and humanities," she says. "All these things that we do in the humanities are part of everyone's education, and the arts are part of everyone's education, so I kind of [wonder], 'Why should we have to defend them?' But we do right now, so I'm up for that."

Beyond the UW, Jacobs is perhaps best known for founding the Cinematheque with professor David Bordwell in 1997. In this role, she has partnered with the Chazen Museum of Art and the College of Letters and Science to bring Cinematheque programming to a broader set of viewers.

Cinematheque programming director Jim Healy says Jacobs' leadership skills are of particular importance as well.

"Lea has been the most effective arts leader and administrator I have ever worked with," he says. "I have met dozens of her students who admire her and are inspired by her."

But his highest praise might concern her film preferences.

"I was familiar with [her books on cinema] even before I came to the UW campus," he says. "Her tastes are excellent."

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