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,

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."

The Core Humanities sequence of courses is central to the core curriculum, emphasizing knowledge and skills that students carry with them through the rest of their studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. In keeping with this function, Core Humanities courses are rigorous and challenging. Collectively, they cover thousands of years of human history and introduce students to ideas, practices, and belief systems that may be very different from their own understanding of the world. The courses require students to engage with difficult primary source texts and include substantial writing requirements (typically 15 pages or more). There is also a discussion component that provides opportunities for practicing oral expression skills.

The focus on critical thinking and effective communication builds the foundation that students need to succeed in more advanced classes and in their careers beyond the University of Nevada, Reno. Nevada employers consistently rank the skills taught in Core Humanities (written and oral expression, critical thinking, problem solving, and working cooperatively with others) as important for University of Nevada, Reno graduates to acquire. A report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013 noted that, nationwide, employers in every industry highly value the characteristics instilled by broad training in the humanities: creativity, adaptability, empathy, clear expression of ideas, and complex problem-solving. The program thus helps to prepare students for life in the 21st century, instilling traits that are essential to surviving in the modern world.