One great example of academic innovation and unbounded thinking at Webb is the growth and success of its Humanities Program. Unique among boarding and independent schools, the program is deeply admired as a model among the most selective colleges and universities.
“We stand out in our unwavering commitment to interdisciplinary work, and in our persistence to grow the breadth and depth of our academic offerings,” Humanities Co-Chair Jess Fisher explained.
While skills development is central to this work, so is creating curriculum tethered to the passions of students, as well as teachers. Webb teachers have developed courses such as The Cold War Era and Economic Thought in the Modern Age. And Fisher offered other examples. “Our Humanities faculty have developed dozens of electives on myriad topics, including environmental sustainability, religious sites, gothic literature, LGBT history, and the politics of the US-Mexico border, just to name a few. In the coming years, we hope to expand our offerings in Film Studies and Music History. We are fortunate to be able to collaborate closely with the Webb Fine Arts department to support our interdisciplinary work.”
Even while the Humanities faculty integrates digital media skills into their classes, they are also share a commitment to developing foundational skills like writing, too.
“Our approach to teaching writing aligns with the work being done at Bard College. In fact, through the use of faculty development funds at Webb, we’ve been able to send four teachers to Bard’s Summer Writing Workshops. Fundamentally, this approach allows us to create space for students to write more frequently and informally, and not just as performance and assessment. Instead, writing becomes a way of thinking, an approach that opens students up and allows them to develop their voice, and gather and refine their ideas.”
While the Humanities Program at Webb is now eight years old, it continues to mature and grow. The goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion remain central to their innovations. Teachers are always thinking about how to include and elevate more voices and narratives. Teachers are also looking at not only what they teach and at the courses offered, but also how they design lessons and assessments, and how they measure student success as it relates to issues of equity.
The success of The Centennial Campaign is vital to the quality of our instruction in the years ahead. Fisher added, “We need to increase our investment in academic spaces, with state-of-the-art classrooms and resources. We also need to continue to invest in more faculty housing for current and future faculty, if we want to continue to attract and retain the best talent. These two investments are vitality important to Webb’s success today and in the future. And as we concentrate deliberately on diversity, equity and inclusion here, we must focus on offering highly competitive teaching salaries. These are expensive undertakings, I know, but Webb’s success in its next century depends upon these investments.”