This toolkit draws on resources that discuss the impact of studying the humanities and the fields most often associated with the humanities, including history, philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, history of art, religious studies, the humanistic social sciences, and literature and languages. At times, it borrows from studies that have evaluated the impact of studying the “liberal arts” or “arts and sciences” rather than the humanities. It does so with the assumption that courses of study in the liberal arts or the arts and sciences generally include a robust role for the humanities.
This toolkit focuses on “majors” (individuals who major in a humanities subject) in large part because available quantitative data use majors as the category of analysis. The toolkit is not meant to suggest that students are best off with a singular focus on the humanities. While there is little data on the value of minoring in the humanities or just taking a range of courses in the humanities, we expect that several of the benefits of majoring would extend to these experiences as well.
Recently the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have undertaken an effort to gather evidence for the value of integrating STEM into the coursework of arts and humanities majors and for the value of integrating the arts and humanities into the coursework of STEM majors. While the ad hoc committee convened by the National Academies has yet to release its findings, many in higher education have long recognized the value of a broad-based education, generally, and an integrative approach, more specifically. Indeed, several institutions that emphasize STEM have developed curricula that value an integrative approach. The Olin College of Engineering, for example, has long been dedicated to integrating the humanities and arts into its curriculum and recently received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to deepen these efforts. Sara Hendren, assistant professor of design at Olin College and principal investigator on the grant, noted that “deep engagement with the arts and humanities is vital for young engineers to understand that their work enters not just a marketplace, but into the histories, politics, and aesthetics of people's lives.”