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About Our Founder

"Erica has the ability to reframe concepts, experiences, and ideas in new and interesting ways...
Her approach consistently focused on potential rather than on limitations."

--Heidi Cephus

Researcher, Educator, Lifelong Learner

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Erica Machulak (she/her), PhD, is the Founder and Lead Facilitator of Hikma, a social impact startup with a mission to mobilize scholarship for the public good through consulting, capacity building, and storytelling. Over the past two years, Hikma clients have secured $6M+ in research funding, informed new policies, and published their work in media outlets such as Forbes and the CBC.

As a writer, editor, and facilitator, Erica believes that the world needs to hear more from people who resist easy answers. Since completing her dissertation on Arabic influences in medieval English literature, Erica has written articles for Inside Higher Ed, Intellect Ltd, and Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (BA), the University of Oxford (MSt.), and the University of Notre Dame (PhD).

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Founder's Portfolio

Mukurtu: A Digital Platform That Does More Than Manage Content

Humanities. Fall 2020.

Through Mukurtu, communities are able to present objects from their cultural heritage in context, providing rich histories and cultural explanations and, often, revising problematic descriptions from existing records. Read More

Find Your Inner Entrepreneur

Inside Higher Ed. March 23, 2021.

Writing a dissertation leads us to the core competencies of entrepreneurship. Once you spot them, you can build an intentional system and position yourself for success in any professional context. Read More

Texting in Ancient Mayan Hieroglyphs - What Unicode Will Make Possible 

Humanities. Winter 2018.

If King Tut were around today, could he send a text in Egyptian hieroglyphics? Yes, with the right font and keyboard. That’s because the writing system of the pharaohs has already been included in the Unicode Standard. Read More

Professionalize Your Ph.D.s by Honoring Skills They Already Have

Inside Higher Ed. September 17, 2020.

Grad students should recognize and articulate the work experience they've gained through teaching and their dissertation, and academic departments should help them to do so. Read More

Before Prohibition, Breweries Made Advertising an Art 

Humanities. Fall 2016.

On a dark night in rural Wisconsin, Miller marketing guru A. C. Paul gets lost in the Northwoods. No doubt having sampled his own wares, he staggers through the wilderness, trying in vain to find his way out. Then a beautiful woman appears in the moon and steers him back to civilization. Or so the legend goes. Read More

Building a Bridge Without a Plan

Humanities. Fall 2017.

Like the language of those who build it, the Q’eswachaka links traces the past and present together. “It is forbidden to fly over the bridge with drones,” reads the brochure distributed by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, during the three days of building. Read More

Zaydi Manuscript Tradition

HUMANITIES, Fall 2019, Volume 40, Number 4

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT), a collaboration between the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University, is working to digitize a dynamic body of literature, theology, astronomy, legal sources, and other materials spanning a millennium. This work becomes ever more urgent as Zaydi manuscripts, one of the richest threads of our global intellectual history, are further threatened by air raids, smugglers, and obscurity. Read More

Thinking in Scripts: The Look of Arabic

Chapter 6 in Spellbound: Rethinking the Alphabet, eds. Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel. Intellect Ltd. 2016.

This chapter contextualizes the development of Arabic script within the development of Muslim culture, using a fourteenth-century mihrab as a point of departure. Read More

In Defense of Chaucer's Astrolabe

Medieval Studies Research Blog. April 2016.

Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe has not, historically, won the hearts of many academics—much less the hearts of undergraduates making their first forays into medieval literature. The text is a manual supposedly meant to explain the construction and use of the astronomical tool known as the astrolabe. Most interest in Chaucer’s Astrolabe has focused on its preface, where the author professes to write for his ten-year-old son “Lyte Lowys” (“little Lewis,” l. 1) but also speaks to a much more highly educated audience. In this preface, Chaucer makes claims about medieval education, science, and languages that help us piece together a medieval worldview. Few have ventured beyond these opening lines, however, to understand the mechanics of the astrolabe itself. The task is well worth the effort—Chaucer’s Astrolabe, for all of its technicality, can help us understand the role of science in more traditionally “literary” works like The Canterbury Tales. Read More

How Americans View Muslims—And What They Don’t See

Featured article in Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Summer 2016, Volume 37, Number 3.

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Langland’s Sages: Reading Aristotle and Solomon in their Medieval Context

Yearbook of Langland Studies. Vol. 31. 2017.

Argues that the changing characterizations of Aristotle and Solomon within medieval culture shaped William Langland's attitude toward authority and knowledge in Piers Plowman.

Abstract: Throughout B.8–12, the exemplary writings of Aristotle and Solomon are in tension with their less-than-exemplary lives and ignorance of the Gospel. As Will grapples with ‘the paradox of non-Christian wisdom’, he continuously recalibrates his perception of what it means to learn from these figures and, in turn, what it means to write a didactic text when he himself is spiritually flawed. The nuances that the two sages bring to Will’s intellectual crisis come into sharper focus when considered within the trappings of their late medieval context. Will’s eventual conclusion that their wisdom can be recycled for a higher purpose enables him to justify his own authorship. Read More

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