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A Message from Faculty Director Dr. Jim Brink

Jim BrinkI have one of the best “jobs” imaginable.  I am smack dab in the middle of what I prize more than anything:  the humanities.  Since my senior year in college, I have been involved in one way or another in an atmosphere of immersion in the humanities.  I was a History and French major in college.   During our senior year, I and several friends who majored in business, political science, English, etc., rented a big house and asked the dean to let us shape our own curriculum based on those books we knew were important to our culture.  The dean agreed, so we fashioned the reading list and invited in professors from our campus who were “experts” on those texts for discussions that went far into the night.  It was a great year.  What we received was a true education.  We read complex material, argued it passionately, and wrote (sometimes convincingly) about it.  How fortunate that, as I near my retirement, I get to help others learn about the great ideas and creative feats of mankind!

The Honors Arts and Letters degree is based in the humanities, with Western Civilization, fine arts, and an emphasis on language and literature as the foundation.  Proficiency in a foreign language is required, and a study abroad experience is strongly recommended, with College and University financial support available to make that possible.  The HAL student also chooses from among five tracks, consisting of Pre-Law, Health and Humanities, American Studies, Arts and Aesthetics, and an open track option.  Each track is made up of a selection of five courses.  These tracks have been developed through close collaboration with our School of Law and our School of Medicine as well as with the known expectations of graduate programs in a variety of disciplines.  The culmination of the degree is the Honors Thesis, a formal written study on a topic which complements certain aspects of the major.  Each HAL student graduates with Highest Honors, a distinction only possible through the Honors College.

And the result of this Arts and Letters curriculum?  The student can read complex material, analyze it through research and close scrutiny, discuss it articulately, and write about it convincingly.  This foundation of critical thinking and cogent argumentation and writing amply prepares the student for post-graduate work and professional school.  It is the best preparation for those professions which require clear thinking and effective communication.  And the degree program is naturally intrinsically satisfying; the student knows the past accomplishments of mankind in literature, music, and the arts, and understands historical trends and both the unique and common characteristics of several cultures.  Frankly, this degree is the best preparation for life I can imagine. 

We hear all the time that the job most students will have hasn’t been “invented” yet, or that most students will change jobs at least eight times in their future.  The Honors Arts and Letters degree prepares the student to make those changes and to adapt to a future profession by providing the tools for learning how to learn how one is successful in life.  I like to say what we provide is education, not training. 

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