Engaging Humanities Program Launches, Aiming to Increase Student Success in the Humanities

Illustration by Annie Huang | Staff Writer

Annie Huang
Staff Writer

With majors in humanities on a nationwide decline, the Engaging Humanities program aims to inform incoming UCSB freshman and transfer students about the majors and opportunities that the school offers for the humanities, including new courses and redesigned foundation classes.  

Building upon the foundation of the original Discovery @ UCSB Seminars program, which created interdisciplinary courses in small classroom sizes, the Engaging Humanities Initiative gives students the opportunity to learn, think, and act on possible solutions to real world problems.

The program is funded by a five-year, 1.67 million dollar grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which it received in fall 2018. The Mellon Foundation is an organization that seeks to “strengthen, promote, and […] defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts.”.

For the 2019-2020 school year, the Engaging Humanities will offer a selection of courses during summer session B and the coming fall quarter called Learning Communities. Learning Communities are highly interactive 20-student courses. To qualify, students must have been named a Mellon Humanities Scholar, which incoming freshmen and transfers can apply for.

In addition, the Learning Communities courses will have Graduate Student Fellows providing mentorship both in the classroom and throughout the completion of the student’s major, including career guidance and portfolio building.

Students can look forward to innovative courses such as Inventing Attention (INT 36IA) and Facing Climate Change through Learning and Advocacy (INT 136FC), investigating topics of people, communities, and cultures through research models, analysis of texts and films, as well as original projects.

Designed to be applicable to current issues and real world events, projects and research that students create in class will be submitted in electronic portfolios that can be showcased to future employers and graduate schools. Furthermore, these courses fulfill the general education writing requirement.

According to the Engaging Humanities Facts and Figures, 80 percent “of employers want skills that students build in humanities majors,” such as experience and skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, written and oral communication, and entrepreneurship.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Linda Adler-Kassner, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education at UCSB, Professor of Writing Studies and Faculty Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching, Research, and Learning stated ”A degree in the humanities teaches students how to learn about other people’s experiences, identities, cultures, and practices and come together — both to make meanings and to act on those meanings in ways that are beneficial for humans.”

“People don’t stay in careers anymore — they change jobs — and the jobs they go into don’t exist yet,” explained Adler-Kassner. “People have to [learn] how to work in ecosystems and cultures that haven’t even been shaped yet.”

The Engaging Humanities courses aims to push students to think in innovative ways from observing and analyzing other peoples and cultures, as well as being able to effectively come up and communicate their own ideas to others, adaptive skills that are necessary for the dynamic and innovative workforce of the present and future.