Dean's Message 2013-2014

Faculty of Humanities

Dean's Message 2013-2014

Brock University was founded on an idea, on the conviction that a university must educate, and not simply train, its students; that it must nurture students who possess something that will qualify them not only for a profession or vocation but also for living in society, something that will never be threatened by obsolescence – a mature and independent mind. Thus the objective was to encourage the habit of critical thinking, and to promote independent inquiry.
                              (Brock University Senate Committee Report, 1967)

The Humanities – literature, language, philosophy, history, drama, music, art – traditionally have been regarded as foundational in any great university.

They are also foundational in the eyes of employers.

A 2013 national survey of business and non-profit employers conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows:

•Nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.” 

•More than 9 in 10 of those surveyed say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.

•More than 75% of employers say they want more emphasis on 5 key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.                                    
Now, the Humanities at Brock University give you the very things that employers are looking for:
  proficiency in critical thinking and creative problem-solving;
  skills in effective communication – reading, speaking, and writing;
  training in research, synthesis, and analysis of information;
  experiential opportunities for hands-on practice and application in the world.
At Brock these values aren’t new – they’re not some latest fad in postsecondary education. They are what we have offered students since we began as a university. In fact, the epigraph at the top of this message is taken from an early Brock Senate report, where the very skills and competencies sought by employers in 2013 are already embedded in the 1967 Brock curriculum. They are foundational.

But there is more. In studying the Humanities you are not just acquiring transferable career skills that will open doors; you are also steeping yourself in subjects that open minds, that give you the opportunity to imagine, to express, to create, to reason, to go out of yourself and into something that’s bigger or older or different than you are – and as a result you grow in mind and spirit and character.

What do the Humanities give you? In a word, liberation. That’s what the “liberal arts,” or a “liberal education” literally means; it means a liberated education. And liberation comes when you acquire certain qualities: an ability to use language (more than one, for our global community), a storehouse of great books and ideas in mind, an appreciation of the arts, an understanding of intellectual and cultural difference, a sense of history, achievement of personal insight, the power of critique: these are the qualities that students of the Humanities are able to leave Brock with, along with more than 78,000 other alumni who have gone on to successful careers in government, industry, business, fine and performing arts, law, entrepreneurship, education, and many other vocations.

From its origins almost fifty years ago, Brock University has offered a distinctive education in a unique setting. As the only university in the beautiful and sublime Niagara peninsula, we are in a favoured location, about an hour from the GTA and on the doorstep of the US. We are right-sized as an educational institution – 18,000 students – which means that you’re not just a number and you have opportunities that you just can’t get at massive schools. Our professors are innovative in the classroom, the studio, the archive, on the stage, and online. Our many student initiatives, including the Humanities Students’ Association, foster a supportive and inclusive environment. Together we create a learning community like no other.

The 1967 Brock Senate report sets out the goal that “a university education should nurture men and women who are

1) capable of informed, independent, responsible and humane judgment;
2) competent to take up a profession or vocation in today’s specialized world;
3) adaptable, in that they can–and want to–continue to learn, and hence can respond to the changing and expanding intellectual demands of our dynamic society.”
These are the fundamentals that a university graduate ought to have in 2013. Here in the Faculty of Humanities they have been the basis of our academic mission since day one.
Sometimes being foundational means that you’re ahead of your time.
Douglas Kneale
Dean of Humanities