Despite a common perception that interest in the humanities is declining, at Weber State University, students are still interested in humanities classes and majors. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, students getting humanities degrees have increased over the past 40 years.
“We are not seeing a decline of interest on our campus,” said Madonne Miner, dean of the College of Arts & Humanities at WSU. “Even if the number in humanities majors go down, it’s still the case that almost all students take general education courses and do coursework, initially in the humanities, that will prepare them for work outside of the humanities. Almost every student who comes to Weber State is going to take a two-semester sequence in writing.”
Each student is required to take English 1010 and 2010 to fill the general education requirements. There is a big push to get students into the fields of science, math, technology and engineering right now.
“It was the scientists who said, ‘Hey, you need people to study art because art makes people creative. We need creative people in the sciences,’” said Thomas Priest, chair of the WSU Department of Performing Arts. “I am kind of waiting for that. There has been a move . . . to put arts in there (STEM jobs). What’s fascinating is that enrollment, if you look at the chronicle of higher education, is actually really stable in humanities. When things are important to human beings, what they do is turn it into art. It’s kind of a myth that people are leaving arts and humanities.”
Unlike at universities such as Stanford, WSU has maintained a steady enrollment in the humanities classes and majors.
“Every semester in the English department, there are classes that fill to the max immediately and there are classes that don’t fill, so we have to cancel them, because we have to have at least 10 students in a class before we offer it,” said Kathy Herndon with the WSU English Department. “. . . We always seem to have enthusiastic students. Even those that are in a smaller program seem to be happy with what they are doing; they are eager to go to class.”
In the WSU English Department, the English major is the program with the most graduates. The program with the fewest majors is technical writing, while English teaching and creative writing fall in the middle.
“I’m taking communication right now,” said Brianne Bashford, WSU sophomore. “I think humanities is decreasing in a sense, but they are good for you. I think communication is better because you use a lot of communication in your life. I think English and communication are better than math and science, because you use them a lot more.”