School of Humanities

Conceptualizing, interpreting, and imagining the worlds of human experience in words, in images, and through historical time are the central activities of students and scholars in the humanities. These activities define the core of our intellectual and moral selves.

The programs of the School of Humanities are designed to help students develop the critical skills and substantive knowledge needed to participate fully and effectively in today’s complex world.

Overview of Programs
The School of Humanities offers majors in art history, creative writing, history, journalism, language and culture, literature, and philosophy, each leading to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. A Master of Arts (MA) degree program is also offered in 20th-century art history. Within the language and culture major, a full program is offered in French and Spanish, with opportunities to study Chinese, German, Hausa, Hebrew, and Italian. Minors are also offered in most of the humanities disciplines.

Faculty members in the humanities also collaborate across the disciplines in such areas as Asian studies, gender studies, and Latin American studies (Interdisciplinary Studies); theatre and performance (in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts); and cinema studies (in the School of Film and Media Studies).

Humanities students may choose to major in a particular discipline, emphasizing mastery of the field of knowledge and its methodology, or they may treat the field as a focus for an integrated liberal arts education that combines studies across disciplines. For example, a student could decide to major in philosophy with substantial work in the natural sciences or to major in history with substantial work in literature.

The School of Humanities also coordinates the College Writing program and participates in the college’s interdisciplinary study abroad programs.

Purchase Writers Center
The Purchase Writers Center, coordinated by the School of Humanities, is a focus for the college’s many activities involving writers and writing. Each year, the Writers Center hosts a group of fellows, local writers who have offices and access to the resources of the library and the college. Fellows conduct workshops at the college and in the community, lead writing groups, and, along with other Purchase writers, give readings.

The Purchase Writers Center is supported by an advisory board composed of distinguished writers: Kate Buford, Benjamin Cheever, Laura Shaine Cunningham, Thulani Davis, Al Filreis, Aminatta Forna, Jeremy Gerard, Sheila Kohler, Donald Margulies, Caryl Phillips, Marie Ponsot, Esmeralda Santiago, and David Shields.

For additional information and updates on the Purchase Writers Center, please visit

Members of the School of Humanities faculty are distinguished scholars and dedicated teachers. They have published numerous books and articles in their fields of interest and expertise, and many are active on the editorial boards of professional journals. They are also affiliated with professional societies in all of the disciplines, as well as with museums and art galleries.

Among the many honors accorded to the faculty are the following fellowships: National Endowment for the Humanities, Woodrow Wilson, Fulbright, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Ford Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, Newberry, and Shakespeare Library. Widely recognized awards include: the George Jean Nathan Award for Drama Criticism, the Anisfield Wolf Prize for the best book on race, the Gilbert Chinard Literary Prize, the MLA Mina Shaughnessy Award, the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching, in Scholarship and Creative Activities, and in Faculty Service.

The School of Humanities occupies its own facility, the Durst Family Humanities Building, designed by Robert Venturi. Among the many resources available to students are the Humanities Theatre, a 340-seat theatre used for a wide range of activities and events; a multimedia computer lab and several “smart” classrooms; three classrooms dedicated to the study of art history; a journalism production facility; and specialized seminar areas for art history and creative writing.

Please note that the Humanities Building is closed through June 2014 for renovations and upgrades. For information on temporary office relocations, please visit

Ross Daly, MS, Chair, School of Humanities

For updates during 2013–2015, please visit

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