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Studying the Greats

New certificate program exposes students of all majors to value of literature, art

Tiffany Mack reading a book

Great TEXTS student Tiffany Mack studies in the Welcome Center.

From The Ichabod - Fall 2023
By Jeremy Wangler

The opportunity to study great literature and works of art has always existed at Washburn University. But until now, if a student wasn’t majoring in humanities, their exposure to these works was usually limited to the electives they took.

A new certificate program at Washburn, called Great TEXTS (Transformative, EXperiential and Team-Taught Studies), is making that easier. Through a series of five courses, students will study not only texts, but artworks, musical compositions, theatrical performances and more as they explore issues and questions of humankind. Faculty from varying areas team teach the classes in an interdisciplinary setting. Thanks to a generous donor, Washburn can offer Great TEXTS classes, books and local outings at no cost to students.

“This will be one of our hallmarks of differentiation: an experience that the only place students can get it is right here at Washburn University,” said JuliAnn Mazachek, president, Washburn.

“They grapple with big, timely and timeless questions that are as relevant today as whenever the work was originally created,” said Kelly Erby, interim dean, College of Arts and Sciences. “The humanities are so important to broadening students’ perspectives and developing their ability to think critically, read closely and speak with confidence.”

Erby, a history professor and Rik Hine, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, both taught the first Great TEXTS class in the spring. Philosophy major Tiffany Mack took the class.

“I really like things that force you to challenge your own worldview,” Mack said. “It is so critical we do that to broaden our horizons in order to connect with our fellow citizens because we're all very different. I love academics so much, and these opportunities mean the world to me.”

One of Mack’s classmates, Madelin Gates, didn’t have the same enthusiasm about academics.

“I enjoy college, and I want to be here. However, I'm not always excited about what I'm learning,” said Gates, a psychology major. “This course has reinvigorated me and made me more excited. I want to be at school. I want to learn. I credit this course for that because I just haven't felt that way in a long time.”

Madelin Gates studying at the library

(Great TEXTS student Madelin Gates studies in Mabee Library.)

Kerry Wynn, professor of history and director of the Honors Program, is team teaching the class this fall with Madeline Eschenberg, lecturer in art history.

“It’s part of the richness of life to look at art over the centuries or to read fiction over the centuries. There's a beauty in it,” Wynn said. “I still have the books that really moved me in college. I still have those books on my shelves.”

Great TEXTS faculty implement trips to places like museums, plays and historical sites. They have dreams of nationwide or international travel as part of the curriculum.

“I believe the program will have tremendous demand as the word gets out, and then I think it's going to invigorate and help us attract the very best and brightest faculty,” Mazachek said.

The success can already be measured in the responses from students.

“To have these discussions that are changing my worldview in such a big way, it's just really exciting and I’ve never experienced a class like this,” Gates said.

Learn more about the Great TEXTS certificate program.

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

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