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    how do you think diversity has influenced the humanities?

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    Why diversity matters in the study of humanities

    Humans have made great strides since the darker ages wrought with war, plague and death. The average member of our species lives far longer in less poverty, more peace and in better health than any ancestors before us. Our World in Data reveal that as a species, we are more literate and boast far greater […]

    Why diversity matters in the study of humanities

    UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI, FACULTY OF ARTS

    29 AUG 2018

    Source: Shutterstock

    Humans have made great strides since the darker ages wrought with war, plague and death. The average member of our species lives far longer in less poverty, more peace and in better health than any ancestors before us. Our World in Data reveal that as a species, we are more literate and boast far greater access to powerful technology.

    It’s been a good run, and something that wouldn’t have been possible without the focus given to the study of humanities.

    While the sciences often get the attention for their contribution to the creation of penicillin or the internet and the likes, it would be foolish to dismiss the humanities just yet. After all, it is this very field that provides the moral compass to our innovations and has helped us overcome individual and collective demons.

    For the field’s biggest victories – from the genius of film students like Martin Scorsese to the movement of academics pushing for the formation of the European Union (2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner) – we owe our thanks to the multidisciplinary approach of humanities study.

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    The Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki is acutely aware of this fact. Its commitment to diversity in the organisation and selection of disciplines is obvious; here, students can pursue a degree in six Bachelor’s and 17 Master’s programmes.

    Source: University of Helsinki

    Take, for example, a subject as specialist as Russian Studies. Teaching for this subject can easily be one-dimensional, focusing solely on the nation on and of its own while failing to branch out from the usual emphasis of language, history and culture alone.

    But this isn’t the case at Helsinki. For the international MA programme in Russian Studies, teachers come from different disciplines to teach a curriculum that guides students to adopt a global perspective. Russia isn’t studied as a detached entity, isolated from the rest of the world. Instead, Russia is considered a “vital actor in globally-shared challenges,” according to programme Director Sari Autio-Sarasmo, so students learn how to understand complex global processes and their influence on Russia.

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    “In the programme, Russia is placed in a global context and the curriculum is designed to be multidisciplinary. The courses are focusing on themes such as security and power; environment and climate; inequality and resilience; culture and identity,” says Autio-Sarasmo.

    While many universities offer students a multidisciplinary approach to their study, Helsinki embeds it straight into the structure of their qualifications. The Bachelor of Arts programmes include several study tracks (for example, the Bachelor’s Programme in Languages includes study tracks in English, French, German, etc.). This means students study both their discipline and another, as well as language, communication and IT studies.

    For the MA Programme in English Studies, learners can incorporate subjects offered both at Helsinki and other universities under the Flexible Study Rights initiative, according to programme Director, Anna Solin.

    “Studying outside the scope of your own discipline opens up new ways of thinking and understanding the world. Unique combinations of disciplines may give you skills that only a few others have, and it may be crucial for your career opportunities,” says Solin.

    Source: Shutterstock

    Meanwhile, for students of Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age (LingDA), the programme gets “interdisciplinary from the very start,” as described by Matti Miestamo, who leads the programme.

    “The students will choose one track after the first term, but the first term is common to all, and the perspectives of the four study tracks are integrated in all courses of the first term,” he explains. “The study tracks are: General Linguistics, Language Technology, Phonetics, Diversity Linguistics.”

    Some may scoff at the idea of philosophy majors delving into a subject like mathematics, oblivious as to how quadratic equations would ever be applied in their future job as a fast food cashier. It’s a tired stereotype now, as more and more arts and humanities graduates become increasingly in demand in a growing number of sectors.

    A humanist’s set of cognitive skills – analytical thinking, creativity, the application of information, and argumentation expertise – are what businesses and even Silicon Valley tech titans are looking for today. Building a new ride-hailing app or managing supply chains increasingly need the know-how of humanists, ie. what humans want and need.

    Source : www.studyinternational.com

    How dwindling support for the humanities and higher ed's lack of diversity are related (essay)

    Are dwindling support for the humanities and a lack of diversity in higher education two separate issues, asks Christine Henseler, or are they, in fact, closely intertwined?

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    Diversity in the Humanities

    A Tale of Two Crises

    Are dwindling support for the humanities and a lack of diversity in higher education two separate issues, asks Christine Henseler, or are they, in fact, closely intertwined?

    By

    Christine Henseler December 9, 2016

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    One morning not too long ago, I opened Inside Higher Ed and read a story about the dwindling support for humanities. Citing low enrollments, Western Illinois University had just cut four degree programs, including philosophy and religious studies. Faculty members were worried. Metrics were being questioned.

    In other news outlets, another dire situation played out: more student protests over a lack of diversity -- this time at Seattle University. The tone was urgent. The institution placed the dean on administrative leave, and the students demonstrated for 22 days, demanding more attention to diversity in the curriculum.

    Were these two separate stories? Or were they, in fact, closely intertwined?

    Campus politics over the past decade have centered on diversity issues -- on addressing racial, ethnic, sexual and gender bias in the student body, faculty and administration. “Inclusivity” is the watchword on campuses today. Consequently, over the past few years, new diversity officers have been hired, budgets for diversity efforts have been skyrocketing -- in 2015, for instance, Yale University committed $50 million toward faculty diversity initiatives -- and intellectual approaches to the understanding of diversity are being integrated into curricula at places like Hamilton College.

    While the emphasis on diversity is gaining momentum, force and funding, the perceived crisis in the humanities appears to be fading into the background, left to defend itself ad nauseam. In fact, it seems that these two movements may even be functioning against one another. The result of more affordable access to college for lower-income students, for example, may very well be leading to cuts in programs with low enrollments or lower salary yields (i.e., the humanities), as Gordon Hutner and Feisal G. Mohamed of the University of Illinois readily underscore in “The Real Humanities Crisis Is Happening at Public Universities.”

    But can our institutions of higher education afford not to support and invest heavily in the humanities? Can we welcome a growing number of diverse students without increased attention to the study of languages, art, music and cultural contributions of people from diverse communities around the world? Can our country claim to educate democratic citizens without teaching our children to analyze the messages that inform their personal and political lives -- skills learned in literature classes? Can our country grapple with radical Islamic groups while defunding religious studies programs and courses in Arabic language and culture, art, and history?

    I find it troubling that explicit and comprehensive support for the humanities as central to any institution’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive curriculum and campus culture has largely been absent from national conversations.

    The humanities inform the kinds of values implicit in diversity and inclusion initiatives because our disciplines consistently demand that we become more attuned to the nuances of each other’s lives. The knowledge students gain in the most diverse learning hubs on our campuses -- as most of our modern languages and literatures departments are -- allow them to more truly value each other’s differences inside and outside the classroom, in local or global communities. In those spaces, they learn to confront their own biases and blind spots by engaging with distinct social and cultural backgrounds and the ways in which language, literature, theater, film, art and media shape and inform diverse and ever-changing worldviews and identities every single day.

    The humanities give us the knowledge and the skills to share and express who we are and how we see our place in the world. In the process, we all gain the critical and creative thinking, communication, and comprehension skills needed to build the bridges that our diversity and inclusivity efforts are working toward.

    The goal of diversity measures is to broaden the voices and perspectives on a campus. So why are we cutting out the vital stream of voices embodied in the arts and humanities? In an era of tight budgets, these may be seen as competing priorities, as distinct issues, but that’s a mistake. Greater diversity can broaden our conceptions of art, history, music, language studies and other arts and humanities. And the arts and humanities can support and enrich a culture of inclusivity across many communities, fields and professions.

    Bio

    Christine Henseler is a professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies at Union College.

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    Christine Henseler

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