Humanities (A.A.)

The Humanities are concerned with the study of human thought, texts, cultures, and people in pursuit of a broader, deeper understanding of the individual and the role they play in the world around them.

No matter what career you pursue, a foundation in the Humanities develops critical thinking, a broad knowledge base, and sought-after skills in written and verbal communication. SUNY Cobleskill’s Humanities courses help you grow both personally and intellectually while evaluating the world through the lenses of literature, philosophy, drama, music, foreign languages, and writing.

     Program Highlights

 Small classes and one-on-one attention with professors who specialize in diverse fields

>> A program with a variety of courses including applied learning-based offerings that culminates in a student-designed and -driven Capstone Project

>> Opportunities for real life learning through study abroad to places like Finland, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, and many other countries and regions

>> A deep focus on developing critical thinking and writing skills, creativity, expression, as well as cultural appreciation and understanding

>>Easy transfer into 4-year programs at SUNY Cobleskill as well as other SUNY and private schools

The Humanities help us grow, both personally and intellectually.The Humanities provide an objective base for knowledge and understanding. They link us with the cultural, philosophic, and religious world of which we are part. They enable us to recognize human dreams and struggles in different places and times that we otherwise would never know existed. They help us develop mature sensibility and compassion for the condition of all living things, human, animal and vegetable. They give us the knowledge and perception to appreciate the beauty of order and arrangement, which a well-constructed song or a beautifully painted canvas also gives us.

The Humanities provide the comparative basis from which to see worthiness in the aim of all people, and they therefore help us see beauty in the world around us. They exercise our emotions through interest, concern, sympathy, tension, excitement, regret, fear, laughter, and hope. They encourage us to assist creative and talented people who need recognition and support. Through our cumulative experience in the Humanities, they shape our goals and values by clarifying our own identities - both positively, through acceptance of the admirable in human beings, and negatively, through rejection of the sinister.

The Humanities enable us to develop perspectives on events occurring locally and globally, and thereby they give us understanding and control. The Humanities are one of the shaping influences of life. They make us human.

– Edgar V. Roberts

     What Will I Learn?

Courses in the Humanities are broad and varied so they can engage and consider our world through everything from writing and literature to philosophy, drama, music, and foreign languages.

Students in the program learn to not simply comprehend course material but to also apply it to the larger human experience as a way to gain deeper understanding and appreciation. This gives graduates a wide-ranging background and the creative and critical thinking skills that are central components for a variety of job opportunities.

                                                      Sample Classes

Intro to Humanities
Creative Writing
Multi-Cultural Literature
Cinema and Society
Asian Philosophy
Jazz Band
Write: Human Expression and
   the Natural World
Intro to Drama
Women's Literature
Readings in Native American Literature
Intro to Philosophy
20th Century American Music
Art History
Humanities Special Projects

See program details and course breakdowns >

     Career Outlook

A quick glance at any major news outlet will tell you: humanities graduates are attractive to many employers because of their transferable skills and ability to adapt. Many of the skills that are gained on a humanities degree are highly sought after in almost every job. Our Humanities students develop and hone these abilities in their courses:

write well in a variety of styles
convey meaning precisely
summarize, argue, and debate
research, select, analyze, organize, and present information
think logically, creatively, and critically

These skills are all important and necessary for success in a variety of fields. After completion of the Humanities associate degree, graduates are well-prepared to continue their studies at SUNY Cobleskill or transfer into a 4-year Humanities program.

     Meet the Faculty

Burns Matthew Burns, PhD
Born and raised in upstate New York, Matthew Burns, an assistant professor, teaches a variety of writing and literature courses. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Binghamton University, a Master’s in American Studies from Lehigh University, and a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Rochester. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous national and international journals and his poem “Rhubarb” was the winner of the James Hearst prize from North American Review; others have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. Beyond creative work, Dr. Burns has served as editor of Harpur Palate and a special graffiti-themed issue of Rhizomes: Culture Studies in Emerging Knowledge. His scholarly work often focuses on the less-than-common and has included papers and courses on subjects as varied as Graffiti Linguistics, 20th-Century Music Subcultures, Hobos and Contemporary Transience, and Working Class Literature. | 518-255-5391

Dr. Christain Leigh Ann Christain, PhD
Dr. Leigh Ann Christain is an Associate Professor of Composition and ESOL in the Liberal Studies Department, and her responsibilities include teaching a wide variety of English courses. An English BA and Philosophy & Religion BA graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, Dr. Christain earned an MA and PhD in English (with a Creative Writing concentration) from the University of South Dakota. She is a Pushcart nominee and an Arctic Circle Art and Science resident who has had poems published in such journals as Seneca Review, Oxford Poetry, and The Lifted Brow, among others, and her full-length poetry collection, Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, was published by C&R Press in 2016. Her recent poetry awards include the Green Mountains Review Neil Shepard Prize, Phoebe’s Greg Grummer Poetry Award, the Oakland School for the Arts Enizagam Poetry Award, and ICON’s Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest Grand Prize. Dr. Christain’s writing and teaching is informed by her international teaching experience in China and South Korea, and as co-advisor of the International Club, she creates opportunities for students to share cultural knowledge. | 518-255-5712

dr. grant Sinikka Grant, PhD
A native of Finland, Dr. Sinikka Grant joined the Liberal Studies department in 2014. Her areas of specialization are American literature, African American literature, and drama. She teaches a variety of classes in Humanities, such as Introduction to Literature, Introduction to Drama, Multicultural Literature, African American Literature, Stagecraft, and the Humanities Capstone Seminar. Dr. Grant’s research interests are the intersections of history, memory, and violence in African American literature and culture, and notions of community in American literature and culture. Dr. Grant has presented her research in many national conferences, such as American Literature Association and College English Association. Her article, “'Their baggage a long line of separation and dispersement’: Haunting and Trans-generational Trauma in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” was published in College Literature. To further her education in theatre arts, Dr. Grant recently attended an intensive workshop on directing at Yale School of Drama. She also advises the college drama club, The Dramatic Tigerians. Dr. Grant has a Ph.D. in English from University at Buffalo and an M.A and B.A. in English from Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland. | 518-255-5221

Kathy Johnson Kathy Johnson
Associate Professor Kathy J. Johnson earned both a MA and a BA from Michigan State University and has worked for SUNY Cobleskill since 1987. Prof. Johnson’s first twenty years on campus were supporting students as director of the tutoring center, but since 2007 she has been in the classroom teaching composition and literature. She believes the real purpose of education is to mentor students and to help them discover what is important to them to become the engaged, thoughtful, self-aware citizens of tomorrow. In class, Prof. Johnson stresses the importance of effective communication because this may be the determining factor in a hiring or promotional situation for students; employers are looking for strong skills in writing and presenting. Prof. Johnson also holds permanent NYS teaching certifications and can teach not only what to learn but also how to learn. Her favorite class to teach is Women’s Literature, and she enjoys travelling to warm climates to study literature and culture during cold months. Prof. Johnson was born and raised in agricultural West Michigan and feels right at home in this region. She lives on the Helderberg Escarpment with breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley with her family including two dachshunds. When not grading papers or preparing for class, she enjoys sewing for charity auctions, gardening, baking, and reading. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service. | 518-255-5271

Kristina Johnson Kristina Johnson
Kristina Johnson has been directing the music performance groups and teaching music history at SUNY Cobleskill since 2001. The college offers a Jazz Band and Choir which perform for various events such as Homecoming Weekend, Commencement and Showcase Concerts. On the professional side, Professor Johnson has been playing saxophone for a few decades. She started performing during high school in Los Angeles, mainly in jazz quartets and big bands. Her love for jazz and dance bands has continued through the years. For the last 17 years, she has been the lead alto saxophonist for the Joey Thomas Big Band. The swinging Albany-based, Grammy-nominated ensemble performs Sinatra and World War II music. The group has also backed up the legendary Temptations.

She also performs in various groups such as The Sam Whedon Band, Brass'O'Mania, The Blues Maneuver that play funky dance grooves while the whole room is dancing, and the walls are vibrating.

Academically, she holds a BA - Music from UC Santa Cruz, BS - Education from SUNY Oneonta and a Master's Degree in Music Education from The College of Saint Rose. | 518-255-5834

McGiver Terence McGiver
Professor McGiver teaches a variety of courses in the department, including Intro to Humanities, Public Speaking, Short Story, Nature Writing and Cinema & Society. In the past, he has served as the president of both the Schoharie County Arts Council and the “Everyman Theater Group.” Prof. McGiver is a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and has been in two off-Broadway theater productions and made five television commercials. Early in his career at Cobleskill, he directed productions for the stagecraft course and wrote and performed “The Life and Times of Jack London” – a dramatic monologue for the campus and community. Prof. McGiver holds a BA in Speech Communications and Theater from Richmond College, an M.Th from the Swedish Institute, an MA of Humanities from SUNY Albany and is currently finishing his DA in Humanistic studies. He always tells his students to try and discover a lifestyle in which they will find great satisfaction, enjoyment and reward. That is what SUNY Cobleskill has done for him. | 518-255-5134  

     Further Reading & Suggested Resources