To boost humanities enrollment, some universities are combining degree programs

In response to students' growing anxiety around job preparedness, some universities are rethinking what a humanities education can look like, reports Andrea Janus for Toronto Star.

Humanities students often face peer or parental pressure around their future career options, says Anna Moro, associate dean at McMaster University.

According to the Council of Ontario Universities, the decade between 2006 and 2015 saw humanities enrollment drop 14%.

As McMaster faced their own liberal arts enrollment decline, Moro sought to challenge the career anxiety that may deter students from pursuing humanities, reports Janus.  

Although humanities face criticism of being "less relevant," Moro argues that a liberal arts education is more important than ever to understand different perspectives and the multifaceted implications of conflicts around the globe.

So Moro turned to her business school counterpart, Emad Mohammad, an associate professor of accounting and financial management services, to establish a new program that combines a humanities degree with a commerce minor, notes Janus.

Before students can enroll in this program, they must pass the math and economic requirements met by business students, says Moro.

For fourth-year student Lindsay D'Souza, this program is a "better fit... [and] balances" her education. D'Souza's combination of commerce and English challenges her to learn about working with people as well as communicating with them, she explains.

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McMaster is not alone in taking innovative approaches to humanities programs, reports Janus.

When Carleton University experienced a "small drop" in liberal arts enrollment, the school paired up science and humanities to offer a combined humanities and biology degree, says Shane Hawkins, a director in Carleton's College of Humanities. 

Students enrolled in the combined program graduate with an advantage and often pursue careers in a variety of fields, including science, medicine, and law, says Hawkins.

Similarly, the University of Waterloo has established an honors arts and business program that offers students on-the-job experience, writes Janus. 

The unique program offers students the opportunity to pursue their passion while building in a business component, says Emanuel Carvalho, associate dean of co-op, administration, and planning for Waterloo's faculty of arts.

For Amy Zhou, Waterloo's valedictorian this year, the arts and business program provided breadth in her post-graduate options and helped her be more marketable, she says.

As far as degree combinations go, schools don't plan to stop at just one iteration, reports Janus.

At McMaster, Mohammad is offering a new Integrated Business and Humanities program that gives commerce students "soft" skills like writing and critical thinking, writes Janus. These are the skills students will need to solve problems from multiple angles—a skill employers want, says Mohammad.

The world is changing, so universities need to reach out to students in different ways, says Moro. If that means combining humanities with other disciplines, Moro says "that's just fine" (Janus, Toronto Star, 9/18).

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