Student Voices

MA Humanities Slideshow

This is a moving slideshow with audio featuring two students from the MA Humanities Clemente Course.

In the News

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Jul 31, 2017

Congratulations to Halifax Humanities

Kings College student and filmmaker, Rachel O’Brien, interviewed and filmed Halifax Humanities students and teachers for this short film.

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Jun 29, 2017

Graduates: Humanities courses equip students with skills for any profession

by Katie Kowalski as published at

Studying the humanities instilled in Justin Lake a deep sense of self and place in the world. He came to see himself as someone who could take part in society, make changes and have a voice.

“I felt like a more responsible citizen,” he said.

Lake is a 36-year-old single father and a graduate of the Jefferson Clemente Course, a branch of the Clemente Course in the Humanities that offers college courses to low-income individuals. He’s a naturalist who teaches all over Jefferson County, and he’s now working on getting a teacher’s certificate.

Erik Montoya, age 37, also is a single father who benefited from the free classes in the humanities.

“I know it sounds corny, but it really was a life-changing experience for me,” said Montoya, who is working to get a bachelor’s degree so he can teach history.

Their stories are not uncommon for Clemente students, said Lela Hilton, a national director who founded the Jefferson County branch of Clemente.

“They get that fire from education, and figure out what to do,” she said. “I think that all of our students see that liberal arts and the humanities are incredibly practical.”

Clemente offers its courses free of charge to qualifying individuals, and this Friday, June 23, is hosting NPR’s “Says You!” team to help benefit the program.

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Jun 29, 2017

Founder, Venture Course in the Humanities in Utah

Twelve years after founding Venture, a Clemente-inspired course in Utah, Dr. Jean Cheney is more convinced than ever of the value of humanities education.

“It opens people up to new ways of thinking about themselves and their world. And it empowers them to make changes they want to make going forward,” she says. “I am a believer because of what I have witnessed.”

When she joined Utah Humanities in 1997 after a career as a freelance writer and English teacher in high schools and colleges, creating a college humanities class for low-income adults was not on her mind. But after hearing Clemente founder Earl Shorris speak a year later, the wheels got turning. In fact, Jean says she had “a sort of epiphany.”

“Imagining the people in Earl’s Clemente classroom opened my eyes to a reality that should have been obvious: all people deserve a good humanities education, are richer for it. And some people may even be saved by it,” she says. “I don’t apologize for that language. Since being directly involved in this education since 2005, I have seen many, many people turn their lives completely around because of this one course.”

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Jun 28, 2017

2014 Graduate of Free Minds in Austin, Texas


On the last night of class this year in Free Minds, Irene Salas addressed the students she had mentored since August. “Thank you for your courage,” she told them. “Thank you for your persistence. And most of all, thank you for bringing your voices – your individual voices – to the room. I love to hear all of y’all because it makes the world a lot bigger.”

It was the desire to make her own world bigger that led Irene to Free Minds in the summer of 2013. She was just turning 40 with a husband, two children, and an extended family she helped care for. She had hungered to go to college, but had never even taken a class. In fact, no one in her family ever had. Then her husband Benny received an email about Free Minds at his job in maintenance at the City of Austin. He shared it with Irene.

“I told him it was too good to be true. Who’s going to pay your tuition, pay your books, watch your kids, and feed you? C’mon.”

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Jun 19, 2017

A Community Health Center may seem like an unlikely place to learn about the arts and humanities, but really, when you think about it, the notion is not so implausible. At Codman Square Health Center, located in the working class neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston, the focus is always on the whole health of a patient.

To that end, if a health center patient requires a prescription for intellectual sustenance, Codman Square helps fill that need with a twice weekly course on humanities and art. The course, called the Clemente Course, is one of 31 given around the country (and one of five in Massachusetts). It offers a cultural dive into the great books and ideas of world history — Socrates, Shakespeare, Aristotle, Plato, Homer and writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Students are also exposed to a wide-ranging swath of art history, from Mesopotamia to Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. There are classes in moral philosophy, literature, American history, art history and writing. The students meet for two semesters. To be eligible for admission a student cannot have graduated from college and must live in a household getting by on less than what is considered a living wage in Boston (about $13.42 an hour for one person). The classes are free. Once the course is complete each student receives six credits from Bard College in New York State that can be transferred to another learning institution.

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Civic Knowledge Project - The mission of the Civic Knowledge Project is to develop and strengthen community connections, helping to overcome the social, economic, and racial divisions among the various knowledge communities on the South Side of Chicago. We believe that the free and reciprocal flow of knowledge is empowering. Working with our many local collaborators, we (1) Provide educational and humanities programming linking the University of Chicago to other knowledge communities surrounding it; (2) Develop institutional policy for the exchange of knowledge among different local knowledge communities; and (3) Serve as an educational and organizational resource for our community.

Poverty, Promise and Possibility - Initially launched as a new program for the 2010-11 academic year, Poverty, Promise, and Possibility promises to become an ongoing cooperative effort by the Civic Knowledge Project and its partners. The aim will be to build on the progress made in this first phase of the program by continuing to bring together University and community expertise in addressing the most pressing social problems confronting us here on the South Side of Chicago. Working with the Office of Civic Engagement, the School of Social Service Administration, the Urban Education Institute, the Graham School of General Studies, and a wide range of community partners, we promise to produce accessible, first-rate and useable knowledge and educational materials that will measurably improve the quality of life for our communities for generations to come and underscore the vital role of the humanities in making life worth living.

Poverty, Promise and Possibility Blog - The Clemente Course in the Humanities®/Odyssey Project is a crucial partner in the Poverty, Promise, and Possibility initiative. The public discussion by Earl Shorris on Poverty and the Humanities, and the continuing education course with that title by Bart Schultz, have generated an intense interest in this model for deploying the humanities in antipoverty efforts. Moreover, working in collaboration with Dovetta McKee and the University’s College Prep program, Shorris, Schultz and representatives from the Illinois Humanities Council, AKArama sorority, and Office of Civic Engagment are actively pursing a plan to adapt the Clemente Course model for disadvantaged local high schools on Chicago’s South Side.

Words Without Borders - translates, publishes, and promotes the finest contemporary international literature. Our publications and programs open doors for readers of English around the world to the multiplicity of viewpoints, richness of experience, and literary perspective on world events offered by writers in other languages. We seek to connect international writers to the general public, to students and educators, and to print and other media and to serve as a primary online location for a global literary conversation.