A degree in the humanities is highly relevant to today’s workforce, said David Espinosa, RIC professor of history and history department chair. Employer surveys frequently reveal the need for graduates “with strong writing and critical thinking skills and an ability to work together collaboratively in groups,” he said, adding that these are skills that transfer to many different types of professions.
Exploring Humanities is one of five options in Exploring Majors, a new RIC initiative that requires students who have not declared a major to pursue focused areas of academic interest. Students enrolled in the humanities option may major in English, history, philosophy or modern languages. They can take up to 45 credits before they formally declare one of these majors.
Espinosa said the humanities track is a good fit for students “interested in human beings, our society, the world we live in and how it came to be.”
Once freshmen in his introductory classes realize that history is less about “dusty facts or dates” and more about understanding the significance of the present by studying the past, they oftentimes get inspired to pursue the subject further, he said.
Espinosa said he could relate to students who come to campus without clear ideas of their majors. As an undergraduate, he changed his academic focus several times – from chemistry, to economics and then to law – before deciding on history, the subject he enjoyed most.
Exploring Majors, which includes comprehensive academic Rhode Maps to guide students through their first three full-time semesters of college, should work well for incoming freshmen, Espinosa said, and give students “a sense of community and a sense of support” to help them “follow their hearts” in a timely manner.
According to RIC’s Dean of Faculty Arts and Sciences Earl Simson, research indicates that clarifying a student’s academic path early increases student engagement and, therefore, can boost retention and graduate rates. Undeclared students tend to move around a lot and drop out at higher rates than students who have declared a major, he added.
Simson said that Exploring Majors is an initiative that, in addition to universal advising and declaring a major at 45 credits, will help new students “make a connection to the college, stay at the college and graduate from college,” so that they can, according to Simson, ultimately establish a future with greater economic security.
The other Exploring Majors options at RIC are in arts, business, science/math and social and behavioral sciences. For more information, visit: http://www.ric.edu/exploringmajors/.