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Humanities majors find community at Heritage

By Marissa McCray ’00,’19

The humanities are percolating marked interest at Heritage Coffee House as the weekly, go-to, caffeinated hot spot on campus.

Free air pots of drip coffee, a barista and a room full of students sharing a common interest are cultivating a heightened identity for humanities majors, minors and even non-majors who simply have an affinity for humanities disciplines.

“Heritage Coffee nights are a crucial development for the humanities community at UD,” said Anna Biesecker-Mast, a sophomore from Dayton, and the Humanities Visibility Action Collective secretary. “I am a passionate advocate for the humanities as a triple major in English, history and religious studies.”

Humanities Heritage nights are 7:30-11 p.m. Mondays during the academic year at Heritage Coffee House.

The initiative to increase humanities visibility on campus began in fall 2017. In August 2019, the collective was recognized as an official student organization whose members implement the mission to reinforce the value of the humanities. Now, humanities awareness initiatives are noticeably more active with events like the annual Humanities Fall Fest, humanities faculty speaking panels and Heritage humanities nights.

The College of Arts and Sciences’ humanities departments — English, global languages and cultures, history, philosophy and religious studies, as well as the Core program — all contribute to Heritage rental costs as a combined effort to benefit students from their respective disciplines and programs.

Andy Slade, associate professor and English and department chair said, “I continue to engage the space because it is important for humanities students to have a place to gather outside of class, to know that there is a time when they could see each other, and it’s always a place for good conversation.”

The Department of English sponsored events including a podcast launch, a reading by poet Herbert Martin and a reading by essayist and University alumna, Sonya Bilocerkowycz ’11, the 2018 Gournay Prize winning author of On Our Way Home from the Revolution. Literary Hub also listed On Our Way Home from the Revolution a among its “Most Anticipated Essay Collection” for fall 2019. Moriel Rothman-Zecher, an Israeli-American novelist and poet, is also expected to read at Heritage during the spring 2020 semester.

Slade said he continues to work with additional humanities students and faculty to expand all ranges of humanities disciplines at Heritage events.

Core Fellows — second-year students in the interdisciplinary Core program, which stresses connections among humanities disciplines — also use Heritage to hold weekly study sessions. Fellows tutor first-year Core students three nights each week on the ground floor of the Marycrest Residence Complex, and Monday nights at Heritage.

“Attendance is better on Monday night,” said Tess Poe-Slade, a sophomore English major and Core Fellow from Dayton, who is also the collective's vice president. “The students who came to Heritage hours early on [in the semester] come back a lot. I think Heritage makes it more social; it’s more fun, and it doesn’t look like all the spaces they have in Marycrest. Something about the environment makes it a more communal process, something more collaborative.”

Amira Fitzpatrick, a sophomore double major in sociology and criminal justice studies and a Core Fellow from Lake Villa, Illinois, said Monday sessions at Heritage are nice for students to study together...and get free coffee. Although she's not a humanities major, she said her work as Core Fellow fosters an appreciation for the humanities. She said she would feel welcome at Heritage even if she wasn’t part of the Core Program.

“I’m the kind of person who has to study in a particular environment, and I like that it is quiet, but there are still people there, so it’s not sterile; you feel productive,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a nice space to collaborate ideas.”

The collective's student officers continue cultivating new ideas to sustain the Heritage humanities nights’ momentum. Poe-Slade said future ideas include more humanities faculty involvement and possible collaboration with Orpheus — the University’s student-produced literary and art publication exclusively showcasing student writing and fine art.

“The humanities at UD are a great place to be, and I’m so excited to see where this community-building goes,” said Biesecker-Mast.

For more information, visit the Humanities Visibility Action Collective website.

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