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By Janet Harron

As a result of recent approval from Memorial University’s Board of Regents, the faculty will immediately be known as the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The names of the MA (master of arts) and BA (bachelor of arts) degrees will not change.

Foremost among the several reasons for this shift is that the new name better describes the education students receive while studying for a BA or MA degree. It is also more reflective of the way faculty members think of their work.


“The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences really is who we are and what we do,” said Dr. Lynne Phillips, dean of the faculty. “This initiative is definitely not about creating a divide between the two disciplines, but about bringing them together. Our faculty members are already working in both the humanities and social sciences with an interdisciplinary lens.”

According to Dr. Phillips, there can also be considerable confusion among incoming students about what is meant by the “liberal arts” (social sciences and humanities) and how it differs from the performing arts and/or visual/fine arts.

“The name change indicates that the faculty is actively adapting to an evolving student population and represents our openness to change and willingness to do things differently,” said Dr. Phillips. “The provincial government is asking us to think of ways to diversify our economy—studying humanities and social sciences prepares students to adapt to change and understand fully the complex and pressing issues of the day—locally and internationally.”

On March 9, the Canadian online news magazine iPolitics ran a story calling for Canadian universities to bolster humanities and social sciences education in order to compete in a 21st-century economy. According to a recent report from the Business Council of Canada, Canadian employers value skills in teamwork, effective communication, problem-solving and collaboration higher than technical expertise when hiring a new employee. The writers conclude that humanities and social science graduates boast broad and adaptable skill sets that are of great value regardless of sudden swings in the economy.

“I think many students are also excited about the change as it better defines what they study.” — Brendon Dixon

The motion for a name change was passed at a faculty council meeting on Jan. 6 after several months of consultation with both faculty members and student groups. The motion was then approved at a meeting of Memorial University’s Senate on Feb. 16 before the board made the motion official on March 17.

“As an arts representative on MUNSU, I have spoken to many students as to how they feel about the name change and have received a lot of positive feedback,” said Brendon Dixon, a fourth-year student double majoring in history and political science. “I think many students are also excited about the change as it better defines what they study.”

Changes reflecting the name change will be made to the University Calendar for the academic year 2016-17. The faculty website, Facebook, Twitter and various associated materials will be updated gradually during the coming months. The name change also reflects other renovations planned for the faculty—stay tuned!


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