Humanities 101 is a free educational program that St. Mary’s University pioneered to serve non-traditional marginalised and vulnerable low-income learners who face significant barriers accessing a post-secondary education. Offering free university-level courses, the Humanities 101 program introduces students to the field of cultural studies through English Literature, History of the Canadian West, Philosophy, Art, History, Cultural Anthropology and Music.
St. Mary\'s University identified the following outcomes for success to continue growing this very successful initiative:
1. To reduce barriers for adult learners to access post-secondary education - In the reflective space of the humanities, the goal of Humanities 101 is to help low-income and marginalized Calgarians increase their capacity for thinking, acting, and learning that will help them to become more fully engaged citizens who feel a measure of control in their live. This aligns with the mission of St. Mary’s University to “…prepare our students to become lifelong learners, engaged citizens and compassionate members of society”.
2. Increased capacity and civic engagement for participants -Students will be better able to understand themselves and have increased capacity to give back to society through employment and volunteering.
3. Improved ability for participants to have hope for themselves and their families - Research interviews conducted at St. Mary’s University revealed matching data against standardized measure such as the World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQL). Early WHOQOL results have shown the self-esteem scale saw the most improvement with 60% of student scores increasing. This demonstrates capacity to improve the quality of life for Humanities 101 participants.
The funds from the Field Law Community Fund will be utilized to cover program costs and allow St. Mary’s University to continue to offer this program at NO charge to participants and help to reduce the financial barrier that is typically associated with post-secondary education opportunities.
Who Will it Benefit?
Humanities 101 serves adult learners over the age of 18 who have experienced barriers to learning. This includes people who have experienced some or all of the following barriers: previous negative or interrupted education, low-income, homelessness or unstable housing, violence, substance abuse, physical or mental health disability. Participants have included Aboriginal persons, immigrants, single parents, and people accessing a wide range of social supports.
Humanities 101 engages marginalized groups through partnerships by implementing an intake process with community agencies and services organizations in Calgary (including Women\'s shelters, Elbow River Healing Lodge, Literacy Canada, The Mustard Seed and others). The benefits of education include: reduced levels of poverty, improved access to meaningful employment, and improved physical and mental well-being. As an inclusive initiative, the Humanities 101 program ensures that Calgarians have the access to post-secondary education; breaking barriers that affect a portion of our city’s community.
The Humanities 101 program runs twice a year during the fall and winter university semesters. Each semester hosts one cohort of students who participate in weekly classes and activities. In total an average of 60 students per year are enrolled, with 30 students in each cohort. The program concludes each semester with a celebration of learning where participants’ accomplishments are recognized, and students are given the opportunity to share their experience with family and friends.
The program has proven itself a success with students completing degrees at several post-secondary institutions, obtaining employment, volunteering in the community, and demonstrating an increased capacity for decision making and civic engagement. Since the inception of the program in 2003, twelve students have enrolled in degree programs at St. Mary’s University showing increased momentum of their learning. To date, two students have graduated with degrees and two more are nearing completion.