In the context of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread decline in humanities majors and enrollments precipitated by the last recession, faculty and administrators across the humanities are redoubling their efforts to attract more students. Over the past three years, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) has been researching the field of undergraduate humanities recruitment to identify effective approaches that can be adapted across disciplines and institutional contexts. At the 2021 Virtual NHA Annual Meeting in March, NHA released Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource, which highlights a wide range of strategies employed through over 100 exemplary initiatives. The report is part of NHA’s Study the Humanities initiative, which, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, supports faculty and administrators in recruiting undergraduates to the humanities.
NHA’s new 80-page resource is grounded in a survey of more than 400 faculty and administrators at over 300 institutions and interviews with project directors of successful initiatives. The report’s four chapters highlight broad strategies that have been effective at a wide variety of institutions: articulating career pathways, curricular innovations, cultivating a marketing mindset, and fostering humanities identity and community. Each chapter presents a menu of options upon which to draw rather than a prescribed approach. The chapters illustrate the range of approaches with Project Snapshots—brief descriptions of exemplary initiatives—and Voices from the Field—quotes from faculty and administrators about the value of these approaches in different institutional contexts. Impact Research Spotlights highlight key student outcomes through quantitative and qualitative data gathered through our impact research partnerships. Each chapter culminates with in-depth case studies of particularly robust initiatives that offer models for integrating strategies, engaging students, and building partnerships to make initiatives sustainable.
The report features dozens of pan-humanities initiatives, from collaborations with career services and admissions to interdisciplinary curricular innovations and cohort programs. But there are also many promising initiatives launched from a wide variety of humanities disciplines that the Communication discipline might adapt, such as strategies for leveraging social media and student ambassadors to boost marketing efforts and models for courses that integrate career preparation and advanced disciplinary instruction for majors.
In this way, Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities serves to complement the efforts of scholarly societies to promote their disciplines. In addition, NCA’s Learning Outcomes in Communication, C-Briefs, and “Why Study Communication” page provide excellent resources for department chairs, professors, and others looking to advance Communication research and teaching on their campuses. These strategies for promoting the discipline can be combined with collaborative pan-humanities approaches from the NHA that address challenges that impact all humanities departments, such as concerns about job prospects.
In the coming months, NHA will host a series of virtual events that will leverage Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource to encourage new innovations and initiatives. For more information, visit the NHA website.