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April 30, 2016

HumanitiesWorks: A Humanities Career Initiative

From 2014-2016, the Humanities Center collaborated with Miami University Career Services Office (CSO) to enhance career outcomes for undergraduate humanities majors. All humanities chairs and program directors were invited to nominate one of their faculty members to participate in the program during Spring 2014. Numerous faculty participated including, Mary Beth Barnes (Career Services), Tiffany Belka (Spanish and Portuguese), Heather Christman (Career Services), Keith Fennen (Philosophy), Kimberly Hamlin (American Studies), Erik Jensen (History), Mark McKinney (French and Italian) Tim Melley (Humanities Center), Patrick Murphy (English), Liang Shi (GRAMELAC/East Asian Languages and Culture), Zara Torlone (Classics), Walt Vanderbush (Latin American Studies). 

An offshoot of the Valuing the Humanities Initiative, this program built a system to ensure that every humanities major gets substantial, evidence-based career guidance throughout the college experience. It created a new system of advising within each humanities major to ensure that students prepare for the future and take advantage of offerings already in place at Miami and the CSO.  

The HumanitiesWorks group met about five times a semester for four semesters. Sessions focused on sharing of resources and best practices among departments and creating, clear, consistent, stable guidelines for all majors within each humanities program. The group collaborated to introduce new career fairs, alumni nights, and advising sessions. But it also worked to eliminate redundancy, increase resource sharing among departments, and build new advising mechanisms to capitalize on excellent career programs already in place at CSO but underutilized by humanities majors.  

Each department created its own career-advising program, tailored to the particular needs and strengths of the discipline.  Most suggested that majors receive some or all of the following: a one-on-one consultation with a CSO advisor; workshops designed to help with career selection, resume preparation, summer internships, interviewing, and graduate school; a resume review; interview preparation advice; a mock interview; and attendance at a career fair, alumni career event, or recruiting event.  The Career Services Office arranged for faculty to meet with employers in Southwest Ohio and talk to them about the relation between work and a humanities major.  CSO also worked to help faculty track alumni careers more effectively and to develop closer ties with alumni willing to mentor students.  

The Career Services Office already offers many such services, but studies showed that few humanities students used them. The College of Arts and Science and some individual humanities departments also offer career courses, workshops, and alumni lectures; but usage of such programs was difficult to ascertain.  The HumanitiesWorks group developed new ways of opening departmental programs out to all humanities majors.  It also discussed helping humanities majors plan for postgraduate education; cultivation of alumni networks; best practices in advising; tracking outcomes of our students; and informing current students about the career outcomes of former humanities majors.  Such information could be used to enhance departmental advising and communication efforts.

In the spring of 2016, the HumanitiesWorks program culminated in a first-ever Humanities Career Week, including an alumni night, programs for faculty peer mentoring, and well-attended advising sessions.  

Between 2014 and 2016, the Office of Career Services reported, the number of humanities students receiving evidence-based career guidance more than doubled, from 625 to over 1300. 

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