Campaign encourages awareness of humanities’ importance

Alyssa Schmitt

The College of Arts and Sciences began a campaign to make parents and students aware of all that can be gained through studying a discipline of the humanities.

David Odell-Scott, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he saw a dwindling enrollment in humanities throughout the country, which encouraged him to bust the myth that what a student majors in is who they are.

“It is often assumed that the major you take is directly correlated with a job,” Odell-Scott said. 

The humanities include the subjects of English, philosophy, religion, history, Pan-African studies and the fine arts, according to Kent State’s 2014-2015 course catalog.

He said if a student wants to be a lawyer, it is expected that they need to study political science. However, according to the philosophy department’s promotional literature that contains research from the Law School Admissions Council, philosophy students are earning the highest scores on average nationally on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

Deborah Barnbaum, newly appointed chair of the Department of Philosophy, said she has been with the university since 1997 and is convinced of the importance the humanities hold.  

“It’s not so much that we’re changing things, that we’re just trying to get better at messaging and connecting to people and letting them know here’s why humanities is a value,” Barnbaum said. “Something we’ve already known, but maybe we’ve been keeping it too big of a secret.”

The value of studying the humanities expands all over the departments.

Kenneth Bindas, chair of the Department of History, said the humanities benefit the students in a variety of ways.

“The first and most important way is it teaches them to be engaged in their own world,” Bindas said. “To understand the context of what they’re engaged in rather than just looking at their specific discipline. It gives them a broader understanding of it.”

The college is using a multitude of media and sponsoring fairs to converse with exploratory students to explain the possible futures in the humanities.

“We have to do a re-education,” Odell-Scott said. “We have to inform people so that they have more data before them and can see more clearly about what are the long term prospects for majoring in English, history, philosophy or the classics or the language or Pan-African studies.”

Humanities give the skills that employers are looking for, but it also offers awareness to those who choose to study the discipline. There are references in movies and everyday items like t-shirts alluding to famous pieces of art, but not everyone notices them.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome if more people were in on the joke?” Barnbaum said. “Wouldn’t it be great to be in on the joke, and walk around and know what is being said and not feel like stuff is going over your head?”

Contact Alyssa Schmitt at [email protected].