Carnegie Mellon University


An essential component of the Humanities Scholars Program is the formation of an intellectual community, a cohort whose interests, while diverse, are deeply rooted in the belief that the humanities are crucial to understanding the world we live in, to better understanding ourselves and others, and to contributing to more just and equitable societies. 

During their first two years, HSP students take one class per-semester together, developed specifically for them. These courses are designed to build an intellectual foundation for future classes and research, introduce them to the unique and pioneering research that characterizes the humanities at CMU, and foster a sense of community. 

Seminar I: Introduction to the Humanities

This first seminar will introduce students to the humanities at CMU. In a broad sense, the seminar will respond to the questions:

  • What are the humanities?
  • How do humanists approach their work?
  • How do the humanities address urgent problems of the moment?

The seminar will be discussion-based, drawing on faculty and guest speakers to share perspectives on their fields and their own research, as such exposing HSP students to the variety of disciplines that make up the humanities at CMU and beyond. Students will have the opportunity to interact closely with faculty members from the four humanities departments at CMU and guest speakers from other institutions and organizations, learning about their research and their paths as humanists, gaining insight into methodological approaches, and recognizing the critical contributions that the humanities make in responding to the most challenging questions of the times.

Seminar II: Current Debates in the Humanities

This second-semester seminar will build upon the foundations laid in the introductory course, moving to focus more specifically on current debates within the humanities. This seminar will examine how the humanities are in dialogue with and are crucial to other fields in addressing issues such as the climate crisis and the ethical challenges posed by the rise of AI, to name a few. Students will examine how humanistic research has contributed to providing more culturally appropriate ways of addressing pressing issues, across different historical and societal contexts. A series of readings and guest lectures will frame topics from an interdisciplinary perspective. The seminar will be discussion-based, and students will engage in debates, honing their own argumentation skills in both written and oral forms. Students will be expected to interrogate the ways in which humanistic inquiry (as they understood it in the first seminar) can enrich and improve how institutions and individuals address problems, as they familiarize themselves with current controversies and debates within the humanities.

Seminar III: Pathways in the Humanities

In this seminar, HSP students will have the first-hand opportunity to explore the ways in which their education in the humanities prepares them for future experiences and careers. Students will participate in a series of guided reflections about their own interests and strengths and network with alumni and professionals in a variety of fields; alumni and other guests will regularly participate in class discussions, in person or via Zoom. As part of their coursework, students also will learn about scholarship, internship and job opportunities, and participate in a workshop geared toward helping them prepare cover letters, resumes, proposals and applications. For those majors who already have a similarly-focused course, students can take for fewer credits, while further building their network of mentors and peers.

Seminar IV: Humanities in the World: Experiential Learning

In this fourth-semester course, students will engage with the humanities in action, participating in an experiential learning course, led by a faculty member from one of the four humanities departments. The experiential component may be broadly defined and could include an international or domestic travel component over spring break, additional speakers and cultural outings related to the course topic, and individual or group projects directly engaging with community-based research components. Topics will rotate depending on faculty lead. In this seminar, students will have the opportunity to apply and analyze the methods and theories that they studied in the first year in real-world contexts, experiencing firsthand the impact that humanities research can have.

During their third year, there are no required classes in the HSP. Scholars use the time to pursue their own interests, fulfilling requirements for their major or minor, studying abroad or participating in other experiential or research opportunities. The HSP may provide some support to facilitate student participation in these activities. While not in courses, third-year HSP students are still invited to participate in co-curricular events and to interact with cohorts from other years.

In the final year of the program, scholars complete research for their capstone projects or senior theses within their major program of study. In the spring semester, the HSP students reconvene in a Senior Research Seminar, where they now benefit from intellectual relationships that have spanned their undergraduate careers. Addressing their topics from multiple interdisciplinary standpoints, students complete selected readings, review each other’s work and foster its completion. Students also complete a portfolio, reflecting on their intellectual growth as humanities students. This class gives scholars the opportunity to discuss ideas and showcase their developed talents in addressing their topics of choice from multiple interdisciplinary standpoints.