The number of humanities majors around the country has been dwindling in recent decades. Since 1970, the percentage of humanities majors nationwide has declined from 14 percent to 7 percent, according to the New York Times.
With today’s fast-paced, technologically inclined world, the growing national trend seems to be in “STEM,” or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This lessened focus on humanities and heightened focus on STEM studies correlates with the diminished funding for humanities departments, according to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Because of such setbacks, some humanities departments have even been cut from their universities.
For example, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania recently reported it would be terminating the German, philosophy and world languages and cultures departments due to their tapering populations.
Although this phenomenon has taken a toll on numerous reputable universities, it has not shown itself at Albion College.
Drew Dunham, the associate dean of academic affairs and registrar, does not know for sure if this trend will eventually find its way to Albion, but as for now he believes the humanities departments on campus are doing just fine.
“I do not see why [students] shouldn’t major in humanities,” Dunham said. “Many times people equate careers with majors, and that doesn’t always hold true.”
There have been multiple humanities majors who end up in careers not directly correlated with their humanities majors from Albion. For example, some have gone into dentistry, others into consulting, etc. according to Dunham.
“It’s not about attaching your major to a specific profession, it’s about what you learn and how you apply what you learn,” Dunham said.
This liberal arts way of thinking resonates with not just Albion’s staff but also its students.
“I think humanities aren’t very valued in society, but I personally value them very much because I think those are the classes that enrich your life and enrich your understanding of the world rather than just looking at the cold hard facts,” said Emma Schaff, Jackson senior and a psychology and Spanish double major.
The in-depth and critical thinking the humanities require of its students prepare them for the experiences yet to come.
Bindu Madhok, professor of philosophy, expresses the importance of maintaining a focused attention on the humanities studies in an increasingly STEM focused education system.
As for the future of Albion’s humanities departments, staff is convinced that, unlike those of other institutions, they will stay put for some time.
“We are going to continue to show the relevance of the humanities here at Albion by training our students to ask the hard questions and argue for the most justified answers as they work through their own personal and professional journeys in life,” Madhok said. “For as human beings, it is not only important that we do this but that we do it well.”
Photo by Hollis Washington