Long a hallmark of our journalism degrees, experiential learning, and particularly work-integrated learning, have not always been closely associated with the humanities. The humanities lack the easily identifiable career paths of some programs and are often seen to be purely academic pursuits whose values were at odds with the idea of ’employability’. Our vision is not a break with the open-ended aim of cultivating thinking individuals by exposing them to the record of thought and creative production across the ages. Rather, our conviction in the value of the humanities is behind our desire to help students to make the connection between their university studies and the wider world. We will support work experience placements that help students see how humanities ways of thinking and working really are alive in the world outside the university. By supporting our students to carry what they are learning in their degree out into the world, we will be doing justice to the commitment that we share that a humanities education shapes the individual for a lifetime. Here professional development is also personal development, and the development of the individual is precisely what the humanities are concerned with.
Grounded in the conviction that experiential learning, work-integrated learning, and entrepreneurship are compatible with the humanities, the King’s Experiential Learning Program (KELP) will give students the opportunity to reflect on their own values, skills, and aptitudes developed through their education in the humanities or journalism. This process helps students understand how their skills can benefit a range of fields and gain insight into the career path that is right for them. KELP will formalize student employment for King’s students into a coherent program that will support students to weave professional capacity-building into their humanities education and capitalize on their “human skills.” Through work experience, improved 21st-century skills, and building professional networks, this program will directly address the need for career support for humanities and journalism students to ensure that youth with high potential can parlay their experience into meaningful and productive careers.
Many students (not to mention their parents) worry that pursuing a humanities degree won’t prepare them for a career. While a humanities degree doesn’t train students for any one particular career, the skills and personal qualities that a student gains through a humanities degree are more sought after by employers than ever before. What’s more, the foundational skills and traits that students cultivate in a humanities degree program are widely considered to be the key to “future-proofing” young people for their careers. There is significant interest among industry think tanks and trend researchers in the role that liberal arts graduates could play in the economy precisely because their training is non-technical: the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist today and the foundational skills and traits deepened by a humanities education are seen to be evergreen in the quickly changing landscape of work. A background in the humanities is understood to equip people to contribute beyond what smart technology can do better: humanities graduates can do the important work of thinking, solving problems, persuading, motivating, storytelling, inspiring, understanding people and culture, etc. No training can equip a person to solve an entirely new problem; that requires a depth of understanding and perspective, an ability to work with others, understand their points of view, and communicate effectively. These are the higher-order competencies associated with the liberal arts, but without support from their university, it can be challenging for students in non-professional degrees to find opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities and gain valuable work experience.
Why should a university that focuses on the humanities engage in experiential learning? Because one of, if not the, motivating question of the humanities is what a human is and what we could be. For students to deepen their engagement with the world would enhance their ability to grapple with the concerns of the humanities. Students will continue to engage with ideas in their university studies, and King’s will support them to come to understand what place the skills, behaviours, and values they have cultivated through their studies have in the world. Experiential education is about giving students the opportunity to experience for themselves the value of their education.