The Arts and Humanities Division of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the Mahindra Humanities Center, detailed the launch of a new humanities fellowship program in the spring of 2021 on its website.
The program — geared toward undergraduates within and outside the division — aims to “foster a sense of community and collective enterprise” through faculty and peer mentorship, internships, and guided development of writing and oral presentation skills.
Lauren D. Spohn ’20, a former representative from the Arts and Humanities Student Board, described the program as providing students with a structured pathway through the humanities that recalls her own experience as an undergraduate.
“The program starts by introducing students in the program to a broad range of humanistic disciplines, to moving into a more focused theory and methods workshop, and then helping students apply what they learned to real-world problems through internships and job opportunities after their sophomore year,” she said.
History of Art and Architecture Professor Yukio M. Lippit ’92 — who co-led the Committee for Undergraduate Curricular Initiatives in the Humanities along with Dean of the Arts and Humanities Division Robin E. Kelsey — said the program aims “to render more legible” possible pathways through the humanities.
“I think we felt that Harvard has unbelievable riches in its arts and humanities offerings,” Lippit said. “The work that the faculty does here, the courses offered, are remarkable in their quality, expansiveness, and rigor. But one could see that it would be a bit daunting for students fresh out of high school, where humanities often tend to be much more limited, to navigate these offerings.”
Spohn, a Rhodes scholar who concentrated in English at the College, agreed with Lippit’s assessment, saying she found it difficult to plan a track through the humanities herself.
“I would say with the humanities, you have to move out horizontally almost through academic exploration to find the areas you want to pursue at a more intense level, whereas with STEM fields it feels almost more vertical,” Spohn said. “So I think the challenge as I was starting my freshman year was trying to think about my path through the humanities, as there was less of a set track.”
Lippit added the program will emphasize building “intellectual camaraderie” among students.
“We wanted to offer students the opportunity to take arts and humanities courses in which the courses are not one-off experiences,” Lippit said. “We hope to extend the wonderful community that sometimes coalesces around a small seminar, extending that into later years and later semesters of one’s career by building this cohort of ambitious and curious students.”
Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center Suzannah Clark said that while a virtual spring semester might “pose hurdles” for setting up the new program, she believes it is “imperative that we launch this program without delay.”
“It is even more important to launch it now when everyone is dispersed, while we are trying to create a community, than to wait for everyone to arrive on campus to have a community,” Clark said.
—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.