SRU expands Humanities Ladder Program


andrew winters teaching a humanities class

Andrew Winters, Slippery Rock University instructor of philosophy, teaches a class at Aliquippa High School as part of SRU’s Humanities Ladder program.

Nov. 11, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's Stone House Center for the Public Humanities is marking its one-year anniversary with an instructional expansion of its Humanities Ladder program to include SRU students as in-class mentors.

The initiative, which introduces students at Aliquippa High School to liberal arts topics not normally offered in high school, will see SRU students participate in the enrichment classes offered by University faculty during the program.

Participating faculty - which includes Aaron Cowan, associate professor of history, and Andrew Winters, instructor of philosophy, teach philosophy, English, history and aesthetics - will supervise student mentors Max Knight, a junior secondary education/history from North East and LaMorie Marsh, a senior English major from New York City.

According to Amie Winters, program coordinator for the Center for Public Humanities, the Humanities Ladder is benefiting more than two dozen AHS sophomores and juniors this semester. The program aims to demystify college for underrepresented students who might otherwise not plan on attending college.

During the spring semester, Winters said almost half of the Aliquippa students participating in the program committed to pursuing a college education.

"It's an exciting time for the program," Winters said. "We are seeing results and are excited about the coming months. Seeing the students become excited about ideas and make meaningful connections to their own lives illustrates how amazing this program is."

Knight said he accepted the mentor position because he plans to become a teacher and believes higher education is very important in today's climate.

"Getting to work with the students in this program allows us to follow them through their high school journey and watch them grow as students and people, which is a wonderful experience," Knight said. "Throughout this program, we are facilitating a higher level thinking by bringing humanities subjects into a high school classroom. By doing this, we are encouraging their future participation in higher education."

The CPH has recently expanded its online reach as well with an online blog series called "Coffee and Questions." Each month, the blog will feature an interview with a humanities scholar to discuss the importance and role of the humanities in higher education and life.

Mary Rizzo, associate director of the digital and public humanities initiatives in the graduate program of American Studies at Rutgers University/Newark, served as the blog's first guest.

"We're asking (guests) various questions about what inspires them and why they believe the humanities are important," Winters said. "We're hoping 'Coffee and Questions' will inspire students, faulty and people in a variety of fields to join our conversation about humanities enrichment."

Winters said the CPH also plans to begin a weeklong humanities camp next summer for area high school students. Students would live in SRU residence halls and attend classes and/or workshops taught by University faculty.

The CPH sponsors and promotes a variety of humanities events on campus, such as "Live Like a Stoic Week" and a number of student art exhibits.

Additionally, work is under way at Spotts World Culture Building for a CPH "humanities lounge" that would house paintings, sculptures and other works of art created by SRU students. "We want it to be a place where students can hang out, engage and connect," said Winters.

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