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Arts and Humanities in Online Education: Ushering in the New Era

Arts and Humanities in Online Education: Ushering in the New Era

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Arts and Humanities in Online Education: Ushering in the New Era
Dr. Grace Glass

Guest Post by Dr. William Overton, Faculty Director, School of Arts and Humanities at American Public University System

Dr. Grace Glass joined APUS as dean of the School of Arts and Humanities in August 2015, succeeding retiring Dr. Linda Moynihan. Faculty Director William Overton of the Department of English recently spoke with Dr. Glass on the “New Era in Arts and Humanities” at APUS, and she shares her perspective on what this means for online education in the following remarks.

WO: “What is your passion or your view of the place for arts and humanities studies today?”

GG: “I have several thoughts for the School of Arts and Humanities (SAH) moving forward. As one with an English Ph.D., I’ve always been passionate about reversing the negative view of the humanities that has persisted in many areas of higher education in recent decades. The liberal arts have been portrayed as a discipline that does not lead to career success—at best, useless; at worst, an expensive distraction for students who should be concentrating on career skills. Even though most institutions require a core of general education, these courses are often crammed into a student’s first semester and never referenced once they move into program work. After graduating, students don’t remember the writing, communication, and critical thinking skills they learned as freshmen because they were never reinforced, and they think of “Gen Eds” as something they just had to get through in order to reach the “real” work of their majors.”

WO: “Do you believe this will change in the next decade?”

GG: “Yes, I do. Luckily, things are already changing. It’s becoming clear in the media and recently published works (see Peter Capelli, Will College Pay Off?), for example, that liberal arts and humanities disciplines provide skills that are essential in the workplace—indeed, skills that employers need. In my conversations with industry advisory councils in the past several years, employers emphasize that while they can train new hires in processes and content, they can’t train what the humanities teach—effective written and oral communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and professionalism. New graduates need to enter the workforce with these skills. As Capelli shows in his book, most young graduates will have four or five different careers during their lifetime. A worker today spends an average of only three years at each specific job. Even if a major prepares a grad for a first job, they will be out of luck without the thinking and communication aptitudes that generalize to other positions.”

WO: “What you are saying reminds me of Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock, published back in the 1950s. His predictions included the idea that most college graduates would change not only jobs, but entire career fields, several times during their working lifetimes. What do you see as your role in helping to bring about this realization among administrators, faculty, and students here at APUS?”

GG: “I’d like to work with faculty, other deans, and APUS leadership to think through integrating the humanities with courses and programs in other schools to provide our students with the best preparation possible. To succeed, our students need to know that the humanities and their majors are not mutually exclusive. This integration can take several forms. For instance, professional development for faculty in other disciplines on grading writing and oral presentation skills is routinely offered at other institutions. Ohio State has a widely known center that utilizes teaching assistants and writing faculty in this way. That way, faculty in business or STEM can feel comfortable creating assignments and assessing soft skills in their courses. We can also create interdisciplinary coursework and perhaps down the line, even programs.  These are very long-term strategies, but APUS has a great framework for curricular innovation and professional development through the Center for Teaching and Learning, and I’m excited to see what possibilities there are for this kind of collaboration.”

Dr. Grace Glass grew up in Southern Ohio as the daughter of two English professors and followed in their footsteps. She attended Smith College as an undergraduate and earned a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. She has served in various faculty and administrative roles, most recently as Associate Dean of General Studies at Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin.

Dr. William Overton is Professor of English and Faculty Director for English/Literature in the School of Arts & Humanities at APUS. He is a former U.S. Army Sgt. and a former Public Affairs Officer in a state law enforcement agency. He currently lives and works in Idaho with a patient wife and two energetic toy poodles.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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