History and Purpose of Core Humanities

The Core Humanities program originated in the 1980s as an interdisciplinary, two-course Western Traditions sequence focusing on the ideas, values and cultures of Western societies from ancient times to the present (Western Traditions 201 and 202).

When a new core curriculum was implemented in 1989, University administrators added a third course focusing on American history and culture (Western Traditions 203) as a means for meeting the state-mandated U.S. and Nevada Constitution requirements. Taught by professors and graduate teaching assistants from five different departments (English, history, philosophy, political science, and world languages and literatures), the courses exposed students to the broad range of thought and approaches that exist in the humanities and social sciences, while helping them develop critical thinking and communication skills.

In 1998, the Western Traditions program received national recognition when the National Endowment for the Humanities provided a $2 million grant to assist with faculty development and other program enhancements. In response to criticisms that the focus on "Western" ideas was too narrow and to better reflect the more diverse perspectives that instructors were beginning to incorporate in their courses, Western Traditions was renamed Core Humanities in 2003.

An external review team that evaluated the University of Nevada, Reno's core curriculum in 2010 listed the required Core Humanities courses among the strongest parts of the core and noted that they were a positive experience for students. In 2015, Nevada Humanities recognized the program's achievements with an Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities award, praising its role in providing University students with "an intellectual framework and context for thriving in a changing world.