The Humanities 101 Program: Paying Education Forward to Disadvantaged Populations at St. Mary’s University, Calgary, Alberta

The Cause

St. Mary’s Humanities 101 program provides free access to university courses designed for adult learners from disadvantaged populations such as poverty, mental illness, discrimination or homelessness. Some of our students have survived abuse, violence or war and have experienced interruptions to their education due to situations outside of their own control.
The program aims to help students step beyond the constraints of poverty, encouraging them to engage in a life that reflects their true gifts and abilities. We create a safe place where students can build a strong academic and social foundation
Students meet in a university classroom two afternoons a week for a 14-week term and take two different courses over two terms. Students learn about the stories that connect us to others and the world around us, using resources from English literature, history, philosophy, art history and music to build that academic foundation.

Who Will it Benefit?

Poverty acts as a barrier to post-secondary education for many individuals; which in turn has a negative impact on the health, level of education, and economic self-sufficiency of our citizens. There is direct a correlation between education and economic prosperity. Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of education tend to earn higher wages, experience shorter periods of unemployment and have access to more prestigious jobs than their less-educated counterparts (Statistics Canada, 2006). The positive relationship between education and employment has been well recognized in Canada, where a post-secondary education is seen as a path to higher wages, employment stability and social integration for the individual and to economic growth and prosperity for the country as a whole (Statistics Canada, 2006). St. Mary\'s feels that accessibility to post-secondary for all community members is of vast importance, as it impacts not only the future of our citizens but our community as a whole. St. Mary’s has created Humanities 101 in an effort to improve accessibility to post-secondary education for non-traditional learners and those individuals who would otherwise face barriers to continued education, including poverty. This program has the capacity to benefit its participants on many levels including academically and professionally. Moreover, as education acts as a determinant of health, this program also has the capacity to improve personal well-being including both mentally and physically.