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.
In this context, the need for the Study the Humanities initiative we launched in 2018 to help faculty and administrators attract more undergraduates to the humanities seems clearer than ever.
At the 2020 NHA Annual Meeting, we presented our Humanities Recruitment Survey (HRS) report and hosted interactive workshops to explore effective strategies to recruit undergraduates to the humanities. The HRS report presents quantitative data from more than 390 faculty and administrators at nearly 300 diverse institutions regarding their challenges attracting students to the humanities and the audiences they are engaging with to address those challenges.
The report highlights opportunities for sharing recruitment strategies. Faculty and administrators were surprisingly consistent in their evaluation of the challenges to attracting undergraduates to the humanities across institution types, suggesting that successful strategies can be adapted across institutions. And results indicated that many want to engage off-campus audiences more, but may not know where to begin. “[It] feels like throwing a million things at a wall, with no sense of where efforts would best pay off,” as one respondent put it.
Participants in the interactive workshops learned from leaders spearheading successful curricular innovations, marketing initiatives, and efforts to articulate career pathways. Small groups then brainstormed new ideas in these three areas and developed models to take back to their campuses.
We are excited to share a summary of these interactive workshops so that those unable to attend might benefit from the many excellent ideas generated by this community of faculty and administrators committed to attracting more undergraduates to the humanities.
We are continuing to work with faculty and administrators to collect successful approaches to share with a humanities community that is hungry for new recruitment strategies in the face of new challenges. We look forward to partnering with all of you at this pivotal moment to secure a sustainable future for humanities education.
Thumbnail image: Photo by Morrison Photography.