Our recent Humanities Recruitment Survey (HRS) revealed a consensus among faculty and administrators across institution types that “student concerns about job prospects” is the most influential challenge to attracting undergraduates to the humanities. Over the past year, we’ve been updating the career outcomes data in our Study the Humanities toolkit and collecting effective strategies for articulating career pathways for humanities students. Anticipating that student anxieties will weigh even heavier amidst the economic fallout of the pandemic, we’ve been reaching out to leaders in this field to understand how they are adapting. Kirstin Wilcox, founding director of the University of Illinois’ Humanities Professional Resource Center (HPRC), offered her take.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt our lives, we look toward an uncertain future for higher education. However the crisis unfolds, it seems clear that our society will need humanities education more than ever, but securing support for it will be even more difficult in the face of enormous financial challenges. We must reverse the decline in humanities majors and enrollments to preserve humanities education and prepare students to tackle the complex challenges we face.
We are looking forward to kicking off this year’s NHA Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day with a deep dive into undergraduate recruitment strategies. We’ll begin by sharing what we learned about recruitment challenges at nearly 300 diverse institutions through our 2019 Humanities Recruitment Survey, as well as the audiences faculty and administrators are engaging with to overcome these challenges. Next, we’ll showcase categories and subcategories of effective approaches surfaced through this research and associated outreach—including articulating career pathways, curricular innovations, and marketing strategies. Participants will work together to develop strategies after hearing leaders of noteworthy initiatives reflect upon their experiences.
The Public Speaking Initiative (PSI) at the University of California, Santa Barbara illustrates how faculty can join together to magnify the value of the humanities for developing crucial skills. PSI unites and strengthens efforts across various departments—including Communication, English, Feminist Studies, French and Italian, History, Spanish and Portuguese, Theater, and Writing—to teach undergraduates public speaking skills.
It’s Thanksgiving, a holiday associated with food, family, and football. College football’s biggest rivals—Auburn and Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan, Georgia and Georgia Tech—are getting ready to tee it up. So what’s that got to do with the humanities? Quite a lot if you ask this birthright #georgiabulldogs fan. It’s not just that the University of Georgia (UGA) has an impressive Humanities Center that does great work in the community or that Georgia football has given athletes the opportunity to learn to love the humanities. And it’s not just that in-state rival Georgia Tech is the latest in a late-season gauntlet of engineering schools—Auburn and Texas A&M down, LSU up next week. For me, it’s much deeper and more personal.
During National Arts and Humanities Month, we celebrate the power of coming together to discuss great books and big questions. Through our survey, we’ve learned that several institutions have recently launched humanities cohort programs, which guide a select group of students through a curated series of shared curricular and co-curricular learning experiences. We’ve been reaching out to program directors to learn how they designed programs to attract students hungry for community, facilitate experiential learning, and elevate the humanities on their campuses.
October is National Arts and Humanities Month, and we hope you will join us in taking this opportunity to raise the profile of humanities advocacy.
You’re likely familiar with arguments about whether advocates for the humanities should invoke their vocational utility when making the case for the value of studying the humanities. Many point to the need to counter misleading tropes about the practicality of a humanities education in order to address prospective students’ and their families’ concerns. Others, such as Stanley Fish, contend that any such justification “involves a surrender to some measure or criterion external to the humanities.” But faculty who take it upon themselves to help students discern compelling applications of the skills they’ve gained through the humanities discover that such efforts actually enhance humanities education in its own right.
As the data documenting the widespread decline in humanities majors and enrollments sinks in, we are reaching out to the higher ed community to learn more about challenges to recruiting students to the humanities and strategies for overcoming them. Working to attract more students to the humanities on your campus? Have ideas about how to navigate the challenges involved? Please take our survey and share your perspective!