The General Studies in the Humanities (GS Hum) concentration is changing its name to Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (IS Hum), according to an e-mail sent out Tuesday by David Bevington, chair of the Committee on the General Studies in the Humanities. Effective winter quarter, a co-chair in Theater and Performing Arts will be joining Bevington in overseeing the department.
Part of the reason for the name change is the increasing number of theater courses being taught out of the department. Since 1990, when Herman Sinaiko chaired the department, University Theater has been offering more courses through GS Hum in acting, directing, and design.
According to Heidi Coleman, director of University Theater, about ten courses in theater are currently offered through GS Hum each term. Coleman is responsible for managing these course offerings.
There is little question that there is high demand for the theater courses. “Our play writing classes are limited to 15 people, but often we have 60 people trying to get into that class,” Coleman said.
Bevington sees courses in theater as having a comfortable position in IS Hum in that they are inherently interdisciplinary, dealing with the problems of reading texts, performance and staging. The decision to add a co-chair comes from a desire to see that the theater program is given equal status with the other courses offered through the department, Bevington said.
Greg Allen, creator of the Chicago hit Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and founder of the drama company the Neo-Futurists, will be teaching Advanced Acting Techniques in the spring, and Edward Sobel, of Steppenwolf Theater, will be teaching Advanced Playwriting in the winter.
In the long-term, Bevington said that the department’s faculty would like to meet more frequently and offer new courses that other departments are not positioned to offer. Bevington also feels it is important for faculty to work closely with each student “to put together a program for that student that has cohesion and intellectual integrity.”
In addition to a B.A. paper, a B.A. seminar will be added this year as a requirement for GS Hum concentrators. Bevington considers the seminar particularly important to meeting the goal of creating a cohesive program.
“We don’t want to attract people who are simply restive with a particular department’s requirements,” Bevington said.
Jamie Crown, a third-year in the College studying human rights under GS Hum, is pleased with the direction the department is going. Applicants to the department have to explain how they intend to create a focus and, according to Crown, students are now getting a more critical reception than in the past.
Shortly before the announcement, Crown had intentionally left out mention of her concentration during an interview with a potential employer because of her concern that it would not be looked upon favorably. Now, with its new name, she feels more confident about being able to explain her concentration.
“I think it was a necessary change. It has a more credible sound,” Crown said.
“It’s probably more accurate, and it sounds better,” said Miriam Hess, a third-year in the College intending on concentrating in GS Hum.
Hess cited a desire to focus on a topic that spanned different departmentspostwar German culture and filmand to have the ability to select courses based on the quality of the professor and her interest in the particular class rather than in order to meet a requirement among her reasons for choosing to concentrate in GS Hum.