Dean's Message 2012-2013

Faculty of Humanities

Dean's Message 2012-2013


I often get asked two questions by prospective students and their parents. Why should I study the Humanities? And why should I study them at Brock University?

There’s a third, unspoken question that students ask only themselves: What will my friends think of me if I go to Brock?

My answer to the first question has plenty of evidence to back it up. An education in the Humanities is one of the most practical degrees you can get in today’s knowledge-based economy.

Say what? Aren’t disciplines such as literature, philosophy, language, music, history, and visual arts incredibly abstract? Aren’t the liberal arts and humanities all airy-fairy-like? I mean, not practical, not relevant, just a nice divertimento? Hmm. Dare you say that to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who gave us the foundations of these disciplines. Or to the Italian Renaissance, which produced Machiavelli and Michelangelo. To Goethe or Milton. To Beauvoir or Austen. Or to anyone today who creates something out of the imagination--from writers to musicians to installation artists to dancers to actors to architects. People in the Humanities, as the poet Shelley said, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

The truth is, what you learn in a Humanities degree is foundational to virtually every career: critical reasoning, strong problem-solving, and effective communication skills, along with training in research, synthesis, and analysis of information. Survey after survey, the evidence shows that students who possess strengths in communication, critical thinking, and imaginative analysis--the very stuff of an education in the Humanities--mount the career ladder faster than those who have only narrow technical expertise.

But it gets sweeter. That’s because in addition to acquiring certain lifelong instincts and skills that translate successfully into the job market, a Humanities degree gives you opportunities for self-reflection and personal growth, exploration of human experience from ancient times to the present, and interdisciplinary exposure to a range of ideas and issues to prepare you for imaginative leadership in a human world.

So let it be said: there are indeed practical virtues in studying the Humanities. But why study them at Brock?

Because of our critical mass
Brock = the right size of university, with an optimum range and depth of resources. With amazing students and outstanding professors. You’re not a number, you’re part of a community of teaching and learning. You will have opportunities that you simply can’t get at larger universities to interact with Brock’s cutting-edge researchers and to grow intellectually and personally through Brock’s leadership, co-op, and service learning options.

Because of our centre of gravity
Brock = strong and effective teaching. You will study with award-winning professors in Brock’s famous seminar system, where you join your peers in small groups to discuss the topics of the day. Not all education happens in the classroom, though. We encourage peer mentoring and service learning. Want to go on an archeological dig in Greece? We take our Classics students on field trips every year. One of our Humanities professors just developed an iPhone app on the War of 1812. How about doing a term or a year of your undergraduate studies in another country? Last year, Brock Humanities students studied in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and had the time of their life.

Because of our spirit
Brock = innovation and originality. While still a young institution, not quite 50 years old, we have a deeper sense of history than other universities triple our age. We know who we are and where we’ve come from. And we are mapping out a brilliant trajectory forward. Building a state-of-the-art facility for the fine and performing arts in downtown St. Catharines that will provide stunning architectural space for our students in Dramatic Arts, Music, and Visual Arts. Creating programs at the intersection of arts and science in Digital Humanities and in Interactive Media with Niagara College. Bringing co-op opportunities to our students in History. Brock is far enough away from Mom and Dad--but not too far! Literally on the doorstep of international opportunities. And you get to study at a university that is located in a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The women and men who come to Brock as Humanities students go out into the world as globally oriented, community-minded graduates equipped to provide engaged leadership. When you graduate from Brock, you join an accomplished group of more than 75,000 alumni who have gone on to successful careers in government, industry, business, fine and performing arts, law, entrepreneurship, education, and a host of other callings.

And as a Humanities grad, you join all the other imaginative legislators of the world--leading, not following, creating, not just consuming, ready with high instincts, as the poet Wordsworth said, to move about “in worlds not realized.”

Now, what will your friends think when you tell them that?

Contact us to visit our beautiful campus, or to sit in on one of our classes taught by award-winning university teachers.

You’ll be in good company.

Douglas Kneale
Dean of Humanities

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