Core Humanities at the University of Nevada

“The ability to adapt and thrive in a world certain to keep changing is based not on instruction in the specific jobs of today but in the developing of long-term qualities of mind: inquisitiveness, perceptiveness, the ability to put received ideas to a new purpose, and the ability to share and build ideas with a diverse world of others.” — (Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, The Heart of the Matter (2013))

Core Humanities is an award-winning interdisciplinary program that forms the heart of the Core Curriculum at UNR. Faculty and graduate assistants from five different disciplines (English, History, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Philosophy, and Political Science) participate in teaching the sequence of three humanities courses required of all students at the university:

Collectively, these courses examine the history, philosophy, cultural values, political systems, literature, and artistic works that have shaped societies in every continent from ancient times to the present. After completing the Core Humanities sequence of courses, students have a solid grounding in the knowledge and skills they need to navigate a complex and fast-changing world, including:
  • an understanding of the historical forces that created modern, diverse human cultures and the ways these cultures are interconnected both within the United States and across nations.
  • the ability to read, understand, summarize, analyze, and synthesize information drawn from a variety of written and cultural sources.
  • the ability to formulate interpretations and arguments, support them with evidence, and present them clearly and persuasively in both written and oral expression.
  • informed perspectives on the major political and ideological debates of our times and the ability to participate in those debates as American and global citizens.

Core Humanities and the Silver Core Curriculum

Under the new Silver Core curriculum scheduled to go into effect in Fall 2016, only two Core Humanities courses will be required, and students will be able to choose any two courses out of CH 201, CH 202, and CH 203. Because CH 203 satisfies the Constitution requirement, students who choose to take CH 201 and CH 202 must satisfy the Constitution requirement with other available alternatives.

Students who plan to graduate before Fall 2016 will still need to take all three CH courses. Students who begin their studies at UNR in Fall 2016 or later will only need to take two CH courses. Students who are currently enrolled at UNR and who plan to graduate in Fall 2016 or later may choose to meet the requirements of either the catalog that was in effect when they began their studies (old core curriculum), or the catalog that is in effect in the semester they graduate (new core curriculum).

Note that although the new core curriculum requires one less CH course, it includes other, additional requirements that students must meet. Depending on the courses you have taken already, you might complete your degree more quickly by taking all three CH courses and graduating under the old core requirements rather than the new ones. Be sure to consult with your major advisor to see what would be the best course of action for your particular case and to make sure you complete the appropriate paperwork for changing catalog years if that is your best option.
Contact Information
Phone: (775) 784-4447
Fax: (775) 784-1658

Office location:

Mack Social Science Building (MSS), Room 120

Mailing address:
Mail Stop 0151
University of Nevada, Reno NV 89557-0151

Core Humanities News
August 2015: New Faculty and Honors
The Core Humanities program welcomes two new faculty members this semester: Dr. Adriana Varga, who joins us as a lecturer, and Dr. Stephen Lazer, our new postdoctoral fellow. Congratulations also to Dr. Barbara Walker (History) and Dr. Katherine Fusco (English), who have been named as Distinguished Professors in the Core Humanities program for 2015-2017, and to Jeffrey Jowett (History), Jonathan Katalenic (English), and Frank Merksamer (English), who are this year's Distinguished Teaching Assistants.
April 2015: Core Humanities Program Honored by Nevada Humanities
Nevada Humanities honored the Core Humanities Program with an award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities at a ceremony held at the governor's mansion in Carson City on March 26. The program and the university were praised for recognizing the importance of the humanities disciplines in providing students with "an intellectual framework and context for thriving in a changing world," at a time when many other universities are cutting liberal arts programs. Core Humanities faculty member and former director Phil Boardman was also honored for his lifetime achievements as a scholar, teacher, and supporter of the humanities. Professor Boardman received the Judith Winzler Award for Excellence in the Humanities, the organization's top award.
March 2015: Why study the humanities? IV
Chemistry professor Loretta Jackson-Hayes argued in the Washington Post recently that studying humanities disciplines makes people better scientists. "If American STEM grads are going to lead the world in innovation, then their science education cannot be divorced from the liberal arts," she writes.
March 2015: Ancient Solutions to Modern Problems
In this article from Good magazine, Mark Hay explains how mud homes are making a comeback in Mali. Mud bricks are less expensive, more environmentally sustainable, and better suited to the region's climate than many modern building materials, and they can endure for centuries with little maintenance. As Hay observes, "the basic approaches of our ancestors were actually more efficient than the flash prestige that has become the norm," proving that sometimes looking back to the past can help us to imagine a better future.
February 2015: Cultural Literacy and Illiteracy
UNR's Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Reginald Stewart, recently gave an informative and inspiring Tedx talk emphasizing the importance of learning about cultures other than our own—one of the central objectives of the Core Humanities program and an important thread throughout the core curriculum at this university.
February 2015: Core Humanities Essay Prize Winner
Congratulations to Hannah Smith, winner of the 2014 Core Humanities Essay Prize. Hannah's essay, "Woman: Both the Oppressed and the Oppressor," was written in Dr. Marc Oxoby's CH 202 class.
October 2014: Understanding Contemporary France
Crowley Distinguished Professor Charles Tshimanga-Kashama will give a public lecture titled “Shades of Blue: Examining the French National Soccer Team, Understanding Contemporary France” on Wednesday, November 5, at 4:00 pm in MS 215. The lecture is free and all faculty, students, and interested community members are welcome to attend.
September 2014: Why study the humanities? III
A recent Washington Post article points out that the CEOs of tech companies seek graduates who are trained in a variety of disciplines, not just writing computer code. Mozilla executive Mark Surman says coding is just the "tip of the iceberg," and that below that must be a strong foundation in "participationg, critical thinking and being able to collaborate." Similarly, Tesla founder Elon Musk (whose recent decision to locate a lithium battery factory in northern Nevada may create new employment opportunities for UNR students) recommends arts and sciences courses for the thinking skills they develop in this interview.

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