Why the Humanities?
October 17th, 2011
Hear from recent Wake Forest graduates, Kristy, Austin, Madeline, Elaine and Teddy, as they speak about their personal encounters with the Humanities and how they were changed by the experience.
I came into college assuming I would major in chemistry. Then, after taking organic chemistry, I realized that I didn’t want to spend my entire college career taking labs. That decision opened the Humanities to me, but I had no idea where I wanted to go from there. So I read the entire undergraduate bulletin and Religion was the only major that caught my attention. Coming from the world of science, religion offered a freedom of learning, moving beyond the world of science to explore things that are intrinsic to the world at large. I have loved it so much.
I was a political science major with minors in economics and global trade and commerce so I had never really considered the Humanities as an academic option. When a good friend recommended a Humanities course taught by Professor Robert Utley, however, I was curious. Before I took that class I didn’t have a comprehensive framework with which to view my education at Wake Forest. I didn’t understand that all the courses I had taken in Economics, English, Political Science, Psychology… they are all under the umbrella of Humanities. My class with Professor Utley made me question my university education: its purpose and format.
I took a class here at Wake on Islam and the history of Islam in Africa. Following this course I traveled abroad to study an historic form of Islam in Egypt and South Africa. My research and reading within a university setting led me to a broader notion of what Islam really is. It prepared me to be more open minded, more receptive on my trip.
I think if I had not studied the literature of Islam in Africa before I encountered the reality of Islam in Africa I would not have had the same experience.
I am someone who is really passionate about the sciences, about medicine. Before I came to Wake I had never thought about the practical usefulness of the Humanities. After taking Medical Anthropology, however, I learned that culture and individual differences are really the driving forces behind scientific endeavors: we seek to create new medical technologies for a reason, and that reason is to improve the human condition.
The power of the Humanities is in establishing context, a context in which the aims of science, of art, of all the world religions find their realization. I found this based on my own studies, especially within the Humanities program, which really helped me to examine my world and find ways to gain a new perspective.