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December 14, 2010

UMBC Experts Discuss the Future of the Humanities

Chelsea Haddaway, Communications Manager
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

As universities re-imagine higher education for the 21st century, the role of the humanities is under debate. UMBC recently demonstrated its faith in the future of the humanities by breaking ground on a state-of- the-art Performing Arts and Humanities Building, which will allow these departments to take their teaching, research and community outreach to new levels.

The following is a sampling of UMBC experts in the humanities available to discuss the ways that the humanities are being re-imagined for today’s world.

In an age where we are exposed to an unprecedented volume of ideas, information and opinions, Rebecca Boehling, director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities, sees the humanities as more important than ever because they help students develop the critical analytical skills, creativity and empathy to understand, evaluate and make choices about the information around them. “In tough economic times there’s a tendency to want all education to be practical and career-oriented, but there’s an important way in which insights into human behavior and interaction—whether through personal experience, reading or seeing a play—force you to step outside of yourself and your comfort zone,” she says. “An engaged citizenry needs to be able to do that.” Boehling leads a center that keeps the humanities alive by engaging the community with research and scholarship by UMBC faculty, students and guests. She also serves as an associate professor of history, where she focuses on Holocaust Studies, 20th century Germany, gender and women’s history and postwar transitional justice.

Associate professor of history Anne Rubin is developing an interactive project with UMBC’s Imaging Research Center called Sherman’s March and America. Based on her research into memories of the Civil War, Rubin is creating a website with interactive maps that tell the story of the march through photos, videos and voices. This project is an example of how digital methods can be used to achieve the traditional goals of humanities research.

Jason Loviglio is the director of the Media and Communication Studies program, which teaches students to understand, critique and use modern forms of communication by applying the traditional humanities tools of critical thinking, writing and revision. The program has quickly grown from a certificate within the American Studies department in 2006 to an independent program with nearly 250 majors, proving that today’s students are eager to use the humanities to answer modern questions. Loviglio can talk about building humanities programs that are relevant to today’s world.

As an assistant professor of American Studies and director of UMBC’s new Center for the Study of Place, Community, and Culture, Nicole King frequently works to connect students and the university to Baltimore communities through research projects on cultural preservation and sustainability. She can discuss the specific ways in which a humanities education can connect and engage students with the world beyond the classroom.

As chair of English, Jessica Berman heads a department that is leading the way in researching and teaching communication and composition practices in multimedia. Students in the department’s one-of-a-kind communication and technology track learn how yesterday’s forms of composition evolved into today’s modes of communication. Students create their own works using forms that range from the traditional written word to performance and design. Faculty members in this track are experts in multimodal composition, digital culture and new media. Berman can discuss the ways that this department is pushing the boundaries of what students learn and do as part of an English education and connect you to faculty.

Anne Scholl-Fiedler, the director of the Career Development Center, has worked with social science and humanities students to market their experience for today’s jobs. She takes career education into the classroom, teaching students to document and share successes that showcase the real-world skills learned through a humanities education and how those experiences relate to their career goals. She can comment on the skills imparted by a humanities education and how humanities students can promote their stories to employers.

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Posted by chelseah at December 14, 2010 1:25 PM