About Us

Understanding the global commons – the shared physical, biological and cultural resources of the planet – is the grand challenge facing society in the 21st century. Our response to this challenge is The Commons at the University of Kansas, a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts and humanities. The Commons is both a physical and intellectual space where people come together to establish common ground from which they may express and explore uncommon ideas for the common good. Commons activities can happen anywhere on campus, however, The Commons itself is housed in Spooner Hall. This is a vibrant and active space that can serve many purposes. We hope you’ll join us in The Commons and help foster this new understanding.


The Commons brings together scholars and learners across disciplines to promote and facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and research. Through programming, it builds public support for ongoing and future research at KU that spans disciplines and advances conversations. The Commons strives to ensure that all activity is broadly informed, across diverse expertise and experience.


Ashley Aranda
Undergraduate Student Assistant

Ashley Aranda (she/her/hers & they/them/theirs) is studying Film & Media Studies, Creative Writing, Education and Public Memory. She designs promotional graphics for The Commons' programming and coordinates Moonbeam Microcinema, and shares an undergraduate perspective on our intentions. "Among my favorite Commons memories are an inspiring workshop with Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo, a nurturing conversation with Jonny Sun, and a beautiful presentation by Rodolfo Dirzo, but ultimately I love being able to see professors and students of color from our own campus across so many fields at our events. The scope of imagination and ideas is uplifting."


Sylvia Fernández
Public and Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow, Hall Center for the Humanities

Sylvia Fernández Quintanilla (she/her/hers) is interested in Public and Digital Humanities, Border Studies, Latin American and Latino Literature and Archives, Women's, Gender and Sexualities Studies. She is creating a database of The Commons Grants and Events. "The Commons is a space that supports interdisciplinary works among scholars, as well as within the various communities in Kansas."


Emily Ryan
Director, The Commons

Emily Ryan (she/her/hers) is the Director of The Commons. She works with faculty/staff/students at KU to launch and explore ideas; address challenging issues; and create opportunities for meeting people across specializations. She works with individuals to create customized formats for programs, some nontraditional, to achieve each event’s unique goals. 

Outside of work, Emily manages a small-scale vegetable farm, through the City of Lawrence Common Ground Program. She is passionate about food access and converting green space into food production for humans an pollinators, and is grateful to be learning from the land and its nonhuman occupants.