Panel Discussion Explores the Importance of the Humanities for the World of Work

by Aimee Mepham, Program Coordinator, WFU Humanities Institute

On Tuesday, September 10, 2013 the Humanities Institute hosted Humanities and the Professions: A Panel Discussion on the Importance of the Humanities for the World of Work from 4-5:30pm in Annenberg Forum.

Moderated by WFU Provost, Rogan Kersh, the panel featured special guest Debra Humphreys, Vice President for Policy and Public Engagement for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. As part of AAC&U’s campaign, Liberal Education and America’s Promise: Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College, Humphreys is helping to educate the public about the value of an engaged liberal education to prepare students for the changing global economy.DH2

The panel also included speakers from Wake Forest’s professional schools: Jonathan Cardi, Associate Dean for Research and Development and Professor of Law, Jill Crainshaw, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Worship & Liturgical Theology, and Sally Shumaker, Professor of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine. The final member of the panel, Wade Murphy, is Executive Vice President of Marmik Oil Co. in Denver, Colorado, a Wake Forest alum and representative of the business world.

The program began with a presentation by Humphreys that highlighted research and ideas developed as part of AAC&U’s LEAP initiative and made a strong case for the ways in which students are better prepared to navigate the new challenges of the workplace from an education in the humanities. “Given the distorted nature of the national conversation about higher education and the humanities, in particular, at this moment in time, it is incredibly important to have these kinds of conversations and to extend them, in fact, to broader publics as best we can,” Humphreys said. In addition to exploring the ways in which the humanities prepare students for the workforce, Humphreys also added that the humanities “not only prepare students for professional success, but to be responsible citizens and effective leaders and workers navigating a much more complex world.”

Panel3After Humphreys’ presentation, each panelist had an opportunity to speak to the essential role the humanities plays in preparing students to enter each of their respective fields. Jonathan Cardi spoke about the ways in which law and literature are linked, emphasizing the importance of narrative, rhetoric, and persuasive argument; qualities of writing that are studied and honed in humanities courses. Jill Crainshaw discussed how a background in the humanities prepares students in the Divinity School to be more engaged religious leaders. Wade Murphy examined the benefits of a classic humanities education for facing the challenges of working in today’s business world. Finally, Sally Shumaker discussed the many different kinds of health services careers available to humanities majors and how developing clear communication is essential for success in those fields.

The connection Shumaker made between the humanities and health services careers, including medicine, was especially well-timed. This event was a fitting introduction to the Interdisciplinary Humanities Pathway To Medicine Program just launched today, Wednesday, September 18. To read more about the program, click here  for a feature story on the WFU homepage or here to visit the program’s webpage.