As humanities programs continue to be cut and face public skepticism about their value, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania is setting itself apart by investing in humanities majors and creating more opportunities. We are trying to
Lycoming University in Williamsport recently opened a research center on campus, established an annual undergraduate humanities research conference, and launched an associated magazine to publish research students who participate in the conference. Academic leaders also engaged students in digital projects focused on the history of the university.
“Despite all the negative news about the humanities, there are students who are passionate about the humanities,” said Lycoming University President Kent Trachte. “When I asked liberal arts students and their parents why they were worried about majoring in the humanities, the question that came up was, 'How will it help me get a job?'”
The data proves that degrees in history, literature, philosophy, and other humanities are valuable and worth the investment. According to a 2023 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, humanities majors in most states earn an average of 40 percent more than workers with only a high school diploma.
Students develop research, writing and critical thinking skills in their university courses, preparing them for a wide range of career fields including law, civil service and communications. But these career paths aren't always clear for humanities majors, and Lycoming has been working to change that since incorporating investments in the humanities into its 2021 strategic plan.
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“Developing the ability to connect and empathize with others is something the humanities have historically done; [that] It is critical to our ability to heal ourselves as a society and make our democracy work,” Trachteh said.
He also believes there are economic reasons to invest in the humanities, especially as the nation's small liberal arts colleges face sharp declines in enrollment and a shrinking national undergraduate population. ing.
Although Lycoming has not experienced as large a decline in enrollment as other comparable institutions, the total number of students declined from 1,132 in fall 2019 to 1,076 in fall 2023, according to the university.
“Some of our students are passionate about the humanities,” Trachte said. “It's not a large portion of the student body, but it's a small university with only about 1,100 students, so when they read that Lycoming is investing in the humanities rather than giving up on it, there are 20 students who are interested in the humanities. Let's say there are 25 people out there, there are exciting internship opportunities out there that are making a difference in terms of enrollment.”
Lycoming will spend approximately $75,000 to launch the Humanities Research Center in 2022 to connect students with relevant experiential learning opportunities and support undergraduate research. The university also received a $150,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to advance the university's history digital project. This is intended to be a pilot for future projects. Through internships and course assignments, students can collaborate with faculty to conduct research, digitize archival materials, conduct oral history interviews, create exhibits, and produce podcasts.
This initiative will help the university increase enrollment in the humanities by 20% over the next five years, even though the number of students graduating with humanities degrees nationally has declined significantly over the past decade. We expect it to increase by %. Although it is too early to tell whether the resources provided by the Humanities Research Center have contributed, the number of humanities majors at Lycoming has been on the rise recently, reaching 79 in 2020, according to the university. Although the number has decreased, it will reach 97 people in 2022.
Another example of the university's investment in the humanities is the creation last year of the student-led Lycoming Undergraduate Humanities Research Council. Mid-Atlantic Humanities Review: An Undergraduate Journal the study this month.
Both the conference and journal are open to students at dozens of other universities in the region, giving humanities majors the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in writing, editing, and event planning. increasing. It also allows students to communicate their research to a wider audience outside of the classroom.
Trachte said he hopes both efforts will help raise Lycoming's profile.
“There are more than 2,000 small colleges across the country, and it can be difficult to find one that truly sets you apart,” Trachté says. “Both the conference and this journal increase Lycoming College's visibility among our peer institutions.”
Lindsay Currie, executive director of the Undergraduate Research Council, said many other universities also use undergraduate research journals as marketing and recruiting tools.
“This is a great way to show what’s coming out of our campus, how thought leaders they are and how they support students,” she said. It goes on to explain how “small schools like Lycoming differentiate themselves by investing in their students, prioritizing the humanities, bringing the entire community to campus, and making us a true destination for humanities studies.” It also helps to show.
Interest in undergraduate research has expanded significantly over the past two decades, with CUR membership increasing from 3,354 in 2002 to 13,532 in 2022. Much of that increase was driven by the work of education professor George Khoo, who identified undergraduate research as a major research area in 2008. High-impact practices can improve retention and graduation rates.
“This will integrate students into campus life, their degree, and their specialty,” Curry said. “But it also helps you acquire skills that are useful both for those on track for employment and for those looking to attend graduate school.”
Andrew Reiter, professor of English and director of the Center for Humanities Research at Lycoming University, says his goal is to give humanities students the opportunity to do more research than just write a paper and submit it for grading. says.
“Humanities students here have traditionally oriented toward the isolated scholar model,” he says. “Many of our other areas have more experiential learning opportunities.”
Reiter, who has led efforts to increase Lycoming's investment in the humanities, serves as a faculty editor with three student editors and produces peer-reviewed journals available in print and digital formats.
Papers published in this journal, like most of the nation's approximately 250 undergraduate research journals, are unlikely to reach the level of usefulness to professional scholars, but publishing the journal helps students understand how You can find out what kind of graduate school or research they are conducting. You may want a career that involves a lot of writing.
“We've been fighting this battle in the humanities and liberal arts for a long time. We prepare you for everything, but we don't prepare you for any particular job outcome. '' Reiter said.
If these fields want to attract more students, especially first-generation and low-income students, faculty must show them how their education can lead to jobs.
“If we can do that, we can reach the students who are most interested in reading, writing, history, language and philosophy,” he said.
Dominic Philippe, a senior triple major in comparative literature, philosophy and economics, said working as a student editor at the magazine made him reconsider his career path. He originally planned to major in economics and attend law school. But after taking some philosophy courses and finding a faculty mentor at Lycoming University, he had a new framework for examining the world around him. Although it was very exciting, he was still worried that majoring in philosophy wasn't realistic.
I then took a job at the Humanities Research Center, where I worked on a university-funded history podcast and helped organize last year's undergraduate research conference. He currently serves as the magazine's student editor. While law school isn't completely out of the question, Philip is currently considering a graduate program in comparative literature and has applied for a Fulbright scholarship.
“If I had gone to a different school and majored in economics, would I have been exposed to the humanities and motivated to make a change?” Philip said. “This says something not only about the money Lycoming puts into the humanities, but also about the work of our faculty in mentoring students and helping them find what they are passionate about.”