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The Humanities…it’s what’s for dinner!

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billboardOkay, so maybe that isn’t the best tag line to market the humanities. But, hear me loudly and clearly. We need to find one. We are losing our market share to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and we can’t just sit around and do nothing. Let’s market our majors and grow our enrollment. Let’s put to work those creative, analytic, and problem-solving minds we’ve built through our studies.

My department, like many, is experiencing a drop in majors, resulting in lower course enrollments and canceled classes. I don’t believe this is the result of bad classes. But, I do believe it’s the result of poor marketing and promotion. There is a sense in many of us that the value of our courses and majors is obvious. Why should a student take a variety of literature and writing courses? Duh, because they teach you to think critically and craft communication effectively. I imagine a student listening to this message in a Charlie Brown-esque classroom scenario. Wha wha wha, wha wha wha.

So, let’s try pushing our goods in terms that translate for students. I’m going to focus on my area, English, now, but imagine this on a broader scale for humanities in general:

Why major in English?

  1. Over 94% of 2,000 executives and senior managers ranked “communicating well” as the most important skill for their success. Business Communication, Flatley, Rentz and Lentz
  2.  BusinessWeek’s 2009 list of “best places to launch a career” named communication skills as the most desirable asset. Business Communication, Flatley, Rentz and Lentz
  3. Employers believe new graduates are unprepared. Let me highlight a portion of this article:

“For instance, a survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College found that more than 60 percent of employers said applicants lack ‘communication and interpersonal skills’ — an increase of about 10 percentage points in just two years. Many managers also said that today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.”

4.  It also places you among the more qualified candidates in PR and Communication. See #1.

5.  Don’t think your employer will value your English training? Think again. You’ll save them money. Large corporations make significant investments in consultants and trainers like me to come in and train their employees how to write. I train engineers and scientists and computer techs. Employers want you to have writing and communication skills in all fields, and they’re tired of paying extra for it.

 “The College Board’s National Commission on Writing reported in 2004 that “two-thirds of salaried workers in large U.S. companies have jobs that require writing…and bringing workers’ skills up to speed requires $3.1 billion annually in training.” QuintCareers.com

6.  Employers notice bad writing or a lack of training…and it may cost you a job.

I could go on, but you get the gist. Putting majors like English in these terms means something. In business, ROI (return on investment) reigns supreme. Students also look for ROI when going to college. It is a HUGE investment for them, so they want to make sure they get the most for their money. And who can blame them? But, it’s our job to show them these majors pay off.

“Wait, I might not get a job or promotion in computer science without writing skills?” Yes, student, you might not. Makes that English major or minor more appealing, right?

So, I challenge my cohorts to think like marketers, and let’s grow our numbers. What do you think our tag line should be?


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