For the 32 students who make up the first cohort in the College of Arts & Sciences’ Humanities Scholars Program, the humanities are interwoven into everything they see going on in the world.
“Engineers and scientists are the people who innovate and engage us technologically, but they rarely prepare us for the consequences of that technology. The humanists are the ethicists,” said Benjamin Velani ’22, a government and religious studies double major with a minor in astrobiology. “I think of it like this: engineers are creating the pieces and building the board, but it’s the humanists who teach us how to play the game.”
The new research program, launched in 2019, is open to students in any of Cornell’s schools or colleges who have either a humanities major or minor and a keen interest in exploring research opportunities in the humanities.
Applications are open until March 1 of this year. Students should be in their sophomore year at the time of application (or have two years of study left to complete the program). Find out more about how to apply at this webpage.
Students in the program undertake their own independent, interdisciplinary undergraduate research in the humanities, and program faculty and postdocs provide a supportive community, through a series of curated courses, structured mentorship, special programming and research opportunities and funding.
Velani’s research will help him to understand how light pollution is disputing indigenous cultural practices with the night sky. Scholar Madison Albano ’22, an English and history major with a minor in Spanish, will study arts organizations in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, their goals and their creative work during this period.
“I had a lot of interests in the humanities, but I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to follow, but connecting with professors and other students helped me feel inspired to pursue my own research,” Albano said. “Last semester, we had the opportunity to read other scholars’ writing and reading each other ‘s work helps you understand how to approach your own studies.”
Humanities Scholars take part in a gateway seminar and mid-level seminars focused on research methods. They also complete a capstone project, which they will present at an annual conference each May.
Max Mendoza ’22 is a mechanical engineering major in the College of Engineering with a minor in music. He’s also a member of Cornell’s Big Red marching band. “Everything in mechanical engineering is set up for you, every class from start to finish, so taking humanities classes and doing research is a break from that path for me,” he said.
“People in STEM majors often overlook humanities programs and their importance in defining and researching how we as humans function and relate to each other.”
Students in the program have access to research funding and summer stipends if they’ve accepted unpaid summer internships, as well as space to work at the A.D. White House. The program, which is funded through an anonymous $6 million alumni gift, is the first time that undergraduates are immersed in the work of Cornell’s Society for the Humanities.