We are aware of many students at Furman who are searching for the type of intellectual culture that the Strategic Plan outlines as a goal. These students are hungry for a higher-level view of their subject matter and their educational activities. Unfortunately, some of these students can end up disillusioned, bored, or even, at worst, wanting to leave Furman to fulfill their intellectual needs. This program of study is designed to catch those students and enrich their educational experience with a rigorous and thoughtful approach to a topic of their choice.
The “up side” of a concentration is that it can enable
students to look at a topic from several different disciplinary
perspectives. The “down side” is that it has the potential
of being a collection of courses that have little connection to one
another in the student’s educational experience. We are proposing
a truly interdisciplinary and flexible course of study, designed by the
student under supervision before the courses are taken, that will
produce a thoughtful reflection on the relationship among the
humanities on a particular topic of interest to the student. A series
of courses in different departments thinking about, for instance,
Platonic philosophy as expressed in literature, or metaphors of
leadership in American history through political speeches, will result
in the type of integrated thinking and analytical abilities for which
we strive in a liberal arts institution. At the end of the
concentration, students will produce a paper which takes an
interdisciplinary view of their topic, incorporating the variety of
coursework in a meaningful way.
Another benefit of this type of program is that it is easily adaptable to an honors program. Several other institutions maintain this kind of format as an honors system that supplements or sometimes replaces a student’s ordinary course of study in his or her major (which, incidentally, may or may not be a humanities major).
First, we realize that a “concentration” may or may not
be in the final iteration of the curriculum, but will use the format of
a concentration as a shorthand way to refer to this or other similar
programmatic modes. Given our current system, however, a Humanities
concentration might take the following approach. Two courses specific
to the concentration would be required, one at the beginning and one at
the end of the series of courses: first, an introductory class in the
history of humanistic education and philosophy, and finally, a capstone
research course culminating in a summary paper based on that
student’s selection of courses. The integration of coursework
would be achieved by a requirement that students would plan with an
advisor from the oversight committee a group of courses that would have
some interdisciplinary relationship on a proposed topic. In this way,
the concentration would resemble our current ICPs in that, instead of
the student taking a fairly random choice of courses from a list, a
core topic would shape the selection of courses ahead of time. The
introductory course would be something like the Humanities 21 course
being offered this spring: HUM 21 will explore the history and practice
of the liberal arts in the western tradition from the classical period
to the present, with a close look at the history and place of the
humanities and arts in American society and government. The directed
research of the final course would incorporate a synthesis or reflect
the relationship among the chosen course scheme.
Filling in the middle would be four other courses from a specified list of upper level humanities courses that fit the criterion of being an in-depth look at a particular area of humanistic study. “The list,” selected by the oversight committee based on each year’s curricular offerings, would not include all upper-level Humanities courses, but only those that seem to take an in-depth look at its subject matter (meaning that it might not include survey courses or courses which are also GERs). Again, this process presupposes our current system of identifying required courses for students, but can be adapted to a variety of other systems of academic requirements.
We support the notion of “engaged learning” but realize that it has possibilities much greater than internships and research. This program of study will enable students to take an intentional approach to their learning and require them to integrate their coursework from term to term, linking the different disciplines through their chosen project. We believe that it can continue that sense of intellectual commitment and excitement that draws students to a liberal arts college.