Art by Vivian Hsia
Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
In recent years, there has been a shift from majoring in the humanities to more STEM based majors, according to the American Academy of Art and Science. Despite this shift, employer demand for soft skills — such as the ability to communicate, socialize and lead — has continued to be highly sought after.
In addition, 92% of talent professionals believe soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills, according to Linkedin. Soft skills are especially fostered by an education rooted in studying the humanities. Katie Frye, an assistant professor of English at Seaver College, said there are a number of skills you gain from studying humanities.
“You get transferable skills, critical thinking and communication, oral and written,” Frye said. “What I have seen over and over and over again with our alumni and with my peers, both academic and non-academic, is that the skills that create opportunities are effective oral and written communication skills.”
These mercenary benefits may appeal to students hoping to pay off student debt, yet there is much more to the humanities than workplace promotions. The human experience is the core of each of our lives.
“The humanities, broadly defined — we’re talking about the human experience, what it means to be human,” Frye said.
Regardless of a student’s chosen specialization, all students benefit from studying the humanities. All Seaver undergraduate students are required to take Pepperdine’s three course Humanities sequence — illustrating the importance of the Humanities Division to the University’s identity as a school of liberal arts. The sequence establishes a foundation for each student’s education in broadening their perspective and expanding their worldview.
Stella Erbes, the divisional dean of the Humanities and Teacher Education Division and an associate professor of Teacher Education at Seaver, shares how she has students embrace the humanities through their classes, the Pepperdine community and studying abroad.
“I think Pepperdine does an amazing job of introducing students to different world views through the Humanities, through travel, through our curriculum and through our community,” Erbes said. “The combination of the Humanities curriculum and the ability to travel abroad is a beautiful way to see humanities in life.”
When students are able to see the fruition of their learning, they realize the value of an education grounded in the humanities, as I have seen in my life. Pepperdine’s GE program, paired with the opportunity to study abroad, is designed to cultivate a love for humanity and an appreciation for different backgrounds, cultures and religions.
People crave human interaction, and it is unlikely that they will find it looking at numbers and statistics alone. Bryan Givens, the Humanities program coordinator at Seaver and an associate professor of History, illustrates how the humanities can be difficult to quantify.
“There’s not an equation that can equal happiness or purpose or meaning,” Givens said. “[The humanities are] where we can discuss some of the more indefinable aspects of human experience.”
Givens said those aspects include things like meaning and values.
Pondering these concepts is worthwhile and supports a lifelong pursuit of truth. Unlike technical or trade skills, qualities like empathy, understanding and tolerance for others remain unchanged.
“When we look at literature, and we see that so much, the human heart hasn’t really changed,” Frye said. “People have always grieved, they’ve always fallen in love, they’ve always been jealous. I find that very reassuring and very grounding.”
The study of humanities doesn’t lose or change value over time. Individuals can take comfort in knowing that humans have and will continue to struggle in finding meaning and purpose.
An overwhelming majority of individuals and companies value empathy, according to an Ernst & Young survey. One way empathy is achieved is through stories.
Both literature and history are made up of narratives that allow individuals to grasp experiences and cultures external to themselves. As leaders seek to understand others in their community, they build bonds and allow individuals to care and support one another.
Creation reflects its Creator. The study of the human experience allows Christians to seek knowledge of God, who created man to bear His image. Christians can study humanities not to glorify man’s accomplishments, but to know and give glory to God.
As an English major, I staunchly believe the study of humanities is vital to individuals and their community. The study of human expression allows us to communicate with others and practice empathy. Communities who understand one another make progress toward unity across racial, religious and class barriers.
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