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!
This summer we’ve been reaching out to scholarly societies to learn about how they are communicating all their disciplines have to offer to prospective students. This is part of our Study the Humanities initiative, through which we are collecting and sharing strategies to help faculty, administrators, and scholarly societies make the case for studying the humanities as an undergrad. We’ve noticed that several scholarly societies have had great success with academic competitions that introduce students to their disciplines long before they arrive on campus.
As higher education institutions continue to make cuts to humanities departments (Millsaps College, Tulsa University, Wheeling Jesuit University), we are working to collect and share successful strategies for making the case for studying the humanities as an undergraduate, helping humanists to secure their rightful place on campus.
On March 11th, 233 humanities advocates gathered for our Annual Meeting at The LINE DC. It was inspiring to see so many passionate humanists joining together to promote the value of the humanities on campuses, in communities, and on Capitol Hill. We spent the morning digging into efforts to attract more undergraduate students to the humanities, hearing from six movers and shakers who shared innovative strategies they’ve used on their campuses.