“30 years later every family will own a 3D printer and make copies of household items.” This is the opinion held by three students when they discussed the future of humanity during a presentation competition held at the Humanities Festival. They thought about the future deeply and questioned present-day stereotypes a long time. Likewise, studying Humanities is like going on a trip of questions about life and the world. The road of Humanities is quite difficult to walk because it requires lots of knowledge, deep thoughts, and constant communication. Therefore, people need some advisers before boarding. The Sookmyung Times investigated SMU Humanities programs and how effectively they are managed to ease students’ journey of self-discovery.
Decide to go on a Humanities journey
As society gets more complicated, the value of Humanities is getting higher. The world changes daily and young people want to find the truth behind ‘who’ they are. At the same time, many companies face difficulties assessing a candidate’s abilities according to scholarships received or English aptitude. They need people who can think creatively without prejudice and stereotypes. Because of these demands, people think Humanities to be the answer to the problems. Therefore, today’s society demands high levels of thoughts and knowledge based on Humanities, so many university students are enrolling in philosophy lectures, joining camps, or reading books to understand humanity. Fortunately, there are well-structured education programs about Humanities at SMU. All students at Sookmyung have the chance to learn how to think and express one’s opinions based on Humanities.
Communication Development Center
The Communication Development Center was established in March 2002 to raise students’ communication skills and leadership ability. After establishing the General Education Institute (GEI), it opened education programs aimed at teaching students about the Humanities and how to speak, write, and discuss opinions.
1 Basic Liberal Arts Subjects
There are six basic liberal arts subjects offered by the Communication Development Center, and SMU students must take three of the six.
Writing and Reading: This course develops students reading and writing skills through classical books. Students read books and learn how to develop their thoughts through writing. Also, they learn how to write a report, do editorial writing, and develop a thesis, which are the basis of academia.
Presentation and Discussion: This course develops students’ communication skills through presentations and discussions about public issues. This makes students learn how to voice opinions by arranging lots of information and how to speak and discuss issues while respecting others’ opinions.
Debate on Reading Humanities: This is a seminar subject that combines two courses: ‘Presentation and Discussion’ and ‘Writing and Reading.’ In this course, professor and students read a variety of classical books and discuss questions that arise from the story, the author’s opinions, or public interpretation of the book’s messages. There is a book list for the class as suggested by the Communication Development Center, but reading of every book is not compulsory.
2 Sookmyung Humanities Festival
Every year, the Communication Development Center hosts the Sookmyung Humanities Festival from October to November. Each festival has its own topic and provides good humanity-themed programs for students to enable them to approach Humanities easily and pleasurably. The festival has two separate sessions; one is Humanities’ Week, which is solely for SMU students and the other is Lecture Events’ for Citizens. SMU students can also join programs in Lecture Events’ for Citizens. Each program provides proof of attendance to students so that students may participate in the programs without losing attendance credit for the enrolled classes.
2014 Sookmyung Humanities Festival provided lots of programs like lectures, concerts, historical site tours, a presentation competition, and open discussions. Yoon Heera, Division of Economics ’14 and a participant in the open discussions, said, “This year’s festival was a great chance to listen to different ideas and experience what discussion really is. It made me understand issues discussed during the festival and helped me to think deeply.”
3 Regular Invitation Lecture, “My Life, My Words”
The Communication Development Center opens a regular lecture once or twice a semester by inviting celebrities who are influential in society or who have published some outstanding written achievements. It is usually related to basic liberal arts subjects, especially special lectures like the “Writing and Reading” as part of the Sookmyung Humanities Festival. Recently on October 31st, Moon Eunhee, Head of the Korean Altrusa Women Counseling Center, came to Sookmyung to lecture during the event.
Philosophy + Politics+ Economics+ Sociology
the Empress Sunheon Honor Course
As previous discussed, SMU provides many opportunities for students to learn about Humanities. Starting from required subjects to Humanities festivals and lectures, students with interest can easily approach the Humanities. However, according to the survey* 77% of students still feel Humanities study to be difficult. The main reason was the idea that Humanities required profound thinking (45%), which was difficult. As the survey showed, most students felt the study of Humanities to be difficult. Students are having a hard time with subjects related to the Humanities. Also, because of prevailing thoughts of difficulty, students lose interest in Humanities. Students at SMU are required to take several classes that aim at helping them enhance their liberal arts thinking skills such as ‘Writing and Reading,’ ‘Presentation and Discussion,’ and ‘Debate on Reading Humanities.’ According to the survey, student’s thoughts on whether these courses helped their liberal arts thinking skills varied. 39% answered it helped, 34% answered them somewhat helped, and 26% claimed they did not help at all. Students who felt the courses helped said they were able to read advanced books. However, those who claimed the courses provided no assistance said they could not concentrate solely on learning the subject since they had grade burdens. Thus, even though they could not understand the book they were learning, they still had to complete required assignments. Woo Garam, Division of Business Administration '13 said, "Rather than developing my capability in liberal arts, I feel like I was merely knocking out assignments and there were too many required readings. Still, the bigger problem was the lack of professor feedback. Even though it is important to share thoughts, we merely understood issues superficially and went on.”
Also, some students said the difference in curriculums by professor was another problem. Shin (22), who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The class I took was very easy with few assignments. I didn’t read much nor learn much either. I think this problem occurred because of the difference of curriculums, which depends on the individual professor’s style.” Moreover, according to the survey, 69% of students did not know about the humanity programs held at SMU. The two major reasons for the ignorance were the lack of promotion and lack of participation time. Thus, most students are unable to receive information about the programs. The Communication Development Center, which hosts the programs said it will start to promote the programs from September by posters, IPTV, SNOWE and school newspapers. Thus, the center is seeking betters ways to promote the program to students. The biggest problem students face learning liberal arts is that they view it as being difficult. If the school were to provide an approach that eased liberal arts study, students would see it differently.
Overcome and Enjoy the Journey
Nowadays, possessing liberal arts knowledge is being emphasized more and more. Humanity knowledge can be defined as the understanding of humanity. We live in a world surrounded by diverse peoples. In order to cope with them and interact well, we need deep understanding of humanity, which is what Humanities is trying to teach us. Also, many companies today want candidates who possess knowledge of liberal arts. Therefore, companies require students majoring in natural sciences and engineering to have knowledge of the Humanities as well. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, once said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—its technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, which yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Liberal arts started with endless questioning and answering among people. Therefore, the problems faced today in liberal arts can be solved by the same method: questioning and answering.
* The Online Survey was Conducted by SMT from 2014.11.5~2014.11.17 through Online and 205 Students Participated.