This summer we delved into recruitment strategies featured in our new report, Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource, through a four-part webinar series. Each virtual event explored a range of approaches featured within a particular chapter of the report: (1) Articulating Career Pathways, (2) Curricular Innovations, (3) Cultivating a Marketing Mindset, and (4) Fostering Humanities Identity and Community. Panelists representing a wide range of institutions and roles shared how they built successful programs, distilled lessons they learned along the way, and answered questions from the audience. Check out the event page for a full list of presenters.
We began by exploring strategies for articulating career pathways to address what respondents to our 2019 Humanities Recruitment Survey identified as the most influential recruitment challenge—students’ (and parents’) concerns about job prospects. Panelists shared a variety of approaches launched at the department level, from a humanities center, and from the dean’s office: mobilizing young alums to highlight exciting opportunities for applying humanities knowledge and skills in today’s workforce; forging stronger connections among humanities faculty and career services staff to more clearly delineate pathways and improve student outcomes; and connecting majors to employment opportunities before and after graduation. Together, they discussed strategies for building successful partnerships to sustain these initiatives and gaining buy-in from skeptical colleagues.
Our second webinar featured curricular innovations drawing a broader range of students to the humanities, including historically underrepresented students, by appealing to students’ immediate interests and professional aspirations. Panelists described how they built applied and publicly engaged humanities programs in collaboration with professional schools and community partners and crafted enticing gateway courses to attract more majors to traditional humanities programs. They discussed how they had navigated inter/intradisciplinary tensions, structuring their programs to incentivize participation from those outside the humanities while shoring up support for humanities departments and programs.
Next, we explored marketing approaches—pitched from the dean’s office, the department level, and an interdisciplinary center—that deliver compelling messages to key audiences to generate more interest in the humanities. Panelists described a variety of strategies, from developing systems for efficiently reaching prospective students early and often with personalized communications, to leveraging timely events and media coverage to raise awareness about exciting opportunities in the humanities, to mining institutional data to target outreach and messaging to particular populations of prospective students. In the discussion that followed, panelists shared effective ways to approach parents who might steer their children away from the humanities and strategies for navigating the opportunities and challenges presented by this moment of cultural upheaval to shift perceptions of the value of humanities education.
At our most recent webinar, we delved into initiatives that foster community among students and encourage them to identify with the humanities and/or humanities disciplines. Panelists shared strategies for engaging prospective students and parents, building vibrant and inclusive communities (online and in-person), supporting undergraduate research projects, facilitating publicly engaged experiential learning opportunities, and targeting prospective majors who have expressed a love for your discipline but are currently struggling in another program.
We’ll wrap up the series in the fall with a final webinar exploring resources developed by scholarly societies that faculty and administrators can leverage to attract more undergraduates to the humanities. We hope you’ll take advantage of this and other opportunities (including the National Humanities Conference and the NHA Annual Meeting) to connect with this diverse community of advocates supporting one another’s efforts to preserve and strengthen undergraduate humanities education for future generations.