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With “Humanities First,” the UW Expands Opportunities for First Year Students

May 2020
University of Washington Quad

Incoming first year students on the UW's Seattle campus can apply to be a part of the inaugural cohort of Humanities First.  Media credit: UW Arts and Sciences

In Fall Quarter 2020, the University of Washington’s Humanities Division will launch Humanities First, an exciting new First Year Experience for incoming freshmen to learn more about the university, the campus, the community, and the abundant resources of each. The program is supported by a generous $700,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The program aims to help students think broadly about human life - from science, to art, to literature, to culture, and beyond - and to explore the questions that matter. This humanistic thinking is critical as students begin their college experience and prepare to not only build a career, but to also contribute to society and build a meaningful and fulfilling life. Along the way they will learn from alumni, community partners, and ultimately themselves about how what they learn in the humanities classroom translates into real world impact. 

Humanities First consists of three distinct elements. In fall quarter, Humanities First: Foundations (HUM 101) will offer a team-taught and topic-driven lecture course with discussion sections. Each year the topic will change, and in 2020 the inaugural course will be titled What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Journeys, co-taught by a team of three faculty from the Departments of Asian Languages and Literature, Classics, and Scandinavian Studies. Texts will range from ancient Chinese stories of journeys, to 20th century Chinese poetry, to Homer’s Odyssey, to real-life accounts of returning Veterans, to Viking sagas and Scandinavian pilgrimages.  Students develop reflective essays focused on these core readings along with other forms of public humanities scholarship and research – including articles, blogs, and podcasts.

In the winter and spring quarters, Humanities First: Campus Connections (HUM 102) and Humanities First: Community Connections (HUM 103) are designed around humanities seminars that continue the conversations initiated in the fall by synthesizing information and transforming that information in a compelling and public-focused way. Envisioned as “study abroad” – in which the “abroad” is the UW campus and local community – these seminars include regular trips into the field to places including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, the Suquamish Museum on the Port Madison Indian Reservation and the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Students in all seminars will read shared texts (for the coming year, Miranda’s Bad Indians in the Winter and Okada’s No-No Boy in the Spring) and will have the opportunity to meet and network with UW humanities alumni and other members of the community.

Students who complete the entire year of Humanities First courses will earn recognition by the Humanities Division as a “Humanities First Scholar.”

First year students interested in any UW program or major are welcome to apply. Additional information about the program and instructors is available online.