Major Decisions

Laurie Groman and E. Michele Ramsey argue that, in order for our economy and democracy to thrive, we need more humanities majors, not fewer. Major Decisions serves as an informative guide to students and parents—and provides a powerful reminder to employers and university administrators of the true value of an education in the humanities.

Major Decisions
College, Career, and the Case for the Humanities

Laurie Grobman and E. Michele Ramsey

2020 | 240 pages | Paper $28.95
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Major Decisions: The Case for the Humanities

Chapter 1. Humanities and the Modern and Future Economies
Chapter 2. Cheers, Jeers, and Fears: Understanding Choices Among College Majors
Chapter 3. Making the Invisible Visible: Careers and the Humanities

Chapter 4. Beyond Jobs and Careers: The Enduring Value of the Humanities
Chapter 5. Humanities Research: Investigating What Makes Us Human
Chapter 6. Come into Our Classrooms: What to Expect in Humanities Classes

Chapter 7. Critical Thinking
Chapter 8. Written Communication
Chapter 9. Verbal Communication
Chapter 10. Collaboration
Chapter 11. Problem-Solving
Chapter 12. Creativity and Innovation
Chapter 13. Technological Competence and Technological Literacy
Chapter 14. Ethics
Chapter 15. Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equality
Chapter 16. Globalization, Global Understanding, and a Global Perspective
Chapter 17. Leadership

Chapter 18. For Prospective and Current College Students: Creating and Communicating Your Humanities Story

Conclusion. Higher Education, Democracy, and the Humanities


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


As humanities faculty (Laurie in English, Michele in communication arts and sciences), we've dealt with stated and unstated assumptions about the humanities—the mythical English major who can only get a job making coffee or the communication major who wasted their time just learning about talking. These encounters are consistent, year after year, and include students, parents, faculty, administrators, career services professionals, and potential employers across many sectors. And though the audiences shift, the discussions largely remain the same. We find ourselves constantly having to explain and defend the humanities. And we know we are not alone.

But we see change coming. Hundreds of articles in popular and academic presses and a handful of important books over the past two years demonstrate that a "movement" is stirring. The humanities matter in a global economy that is shifting dramatically, quickly, and in the direction of college graduates who think broadly, critically, and ethically. The fast-paced, high-tech, global economy—and the communities in which we live—need humanities thinkers to help guide decisions that understand the human benefits and human costs of the tech revolution now and to come.

We hope Major Decisions will be read by several audiences, including current and prospective students and their parents, faculty, administrators, prospective employers, and university administrators. Current students who have chosen a humanities degree will feel confident in their decision and have the words and evidence to support it by telling their humanities story when they seek that first post-graduation job. Students just starting to think about a college major can feel emboldened to choose a major that they love. We encourage current and prospective nonhumanities students to consider supplementing their degree with a humanities minor or several courses in the humanities. Parents who may be concerned or even confused about degree options can have faith in the humanities should your child choose that route.

The book provides our colleagues in the humanities who regularly face the same set of doubts, questions, and conversations concrete examples and justifications to share with students, parents, administrators, and career services. Together, we will turn the tide of negative assumptions about the humanities.

It's likewise critical for administrators to be more supportive of the humanities and promote these programs and faculty with the stakeholders you encounter. We encourage you to be leaders in programs and opportunities that marry disparate programs, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and the humanities, for example. And we hope that you'll begin to recognize that the academy is stronger when we stand together and support one another and weaker when we continue to give credence to rhetoric that trumpets some majors, vilifies others, and creates damaging divisions in the academy.

We know that career services professionals have few resources available for learning about and promoting humanities degrees, and we hope to provide ways for you to guide humanities students who seek your services in the same way that you're able to guide students engaged in programs that have a clearer path for students from the get-go, such as accounting or engineering.

Finally, throughout the book we cite numerous CEOs, entrepreneurs, and leaders in their fields who understand the value of the humanities and who are firmly committed to making sure that humanities graduates are "in the room," making important decisions in all areas of business. But we are concerned that the managers and supervisors who are charged with hiring people in entry- and mid-level positions are not as aware of what a humanities graduate can add to their workforce. We hope that this book makes clear the excellent investment that companies make when they hire a humanities graduate.