CAHSS on the Move

In one respect, the new home for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at CSUMB is simply an important – and badly needed – addition to the campus infrastructure.

In a broader sense, it is also a confirmation of the continued importance of liberal arts education, both to the campus and to the students the building will serve.

Our faculty really wanted to be able to work together.
Ilene Feinman

CSUMB broke ground this fall on Academic III, a $40 million, 48,000 square foot building that will house much of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The building will be located on Divarty Avenue, next to the Joel and Dena Gambord Business and Information Technology Building. It is scheduled to be completed by fall 2019.

The new building will include classrooms, language learning labs, cinematic arts labs, an amphitheater, art gallery and a 200-seat film classroom, along with department and faculty offices.

Bringing the college together

For Ilene Feinman, dean of CAHSS, the building represents a long-sought opportunity to bring much of the college together in one place.

“We suggested that this building presented an opportunity for the college community to have a central home which would generate cross- and inter-disciplinary projects,” said Feinman, who has served as dean since 2011.

“We made the argument that our faculty really wanted to be able to work together. We wanted to have a space where they were able to come across each other at random and discuss projects they might be working on, discover synergies and explore what they might do together,” Feinman said.

CSUMB Academic III Rendering

Liberal arts and careers

That kind of problem-solving lies at the heart of the liberal arts disciplines, which are broadly defined as areas of study such as history, arts, language, literature, social science and communication.

At a time when many students and government decision-makers are placing a higher priority on areas of study – such as technology and engineering – that seem to promise more immediate payoffs, CAHSS continues to attract growing numbers of students. Fall term enrollment in the college is 2,096, trailing only the College of Science among CSUMB’s colleges.

“While it is true we need more people with technological expertise out there, countless studies – from inside academia and outside think tanks – talk about needing graduates with liberal arts degrees, with training in the arts, humanities, social sciences, languages, and communication, with the capacity to take a problem and look for creative solutions,” Feinman said.

Earlier this year, the liberal arts received a strong endorsement from what may seem to be an unlikely source – Mark Cuban, billionaire businessman and star of “Shark Tank.”

Cuban said, “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering. When the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data.”

Similarly, in 2015, Burning Glass Technologies analyzed 25 million online job postings and found the highest demand by employers across all fields was for skills like writing, research, analysis, critical thinking and creativity – the building blocks of a liberal arts education.

Informed citizens, wise voters

In ancient Greece, being well-grounded in the liberal arts was considered necessary to participate in civic life and public debates.

That is an aspect of the liberal arts that CSUMB President Eduardo M. Ochoa discussed in this year’s State of the University address.

“As you well know, we live in an era of political polarization, a time when the public conversation is full of references to “alternative facts” and “fake news,” Ochoa said.

“But make no mistake: Facts are still facts. History still has many lessons for us. An understanding of our culture – how it has changed and how it will continue to evolve – is still a vital part of being an informed citizen and a wise voter.”

A desire to help people

Psychology is the largest undergraduate major in CAHSS. Professor Jennifer Dyer-Seymour, the head of the psychology department, said many students who come into that school are driven by idealistic goals.

Any question you can ask about human behavior, we can study in psychology.
Jennifer Dyer-Seymour

“In my discussions with students, a lot of them are interested in helping people in some way. So a lot of students are looking at clinical psychology. They know about counselors and therapists, and they would like to be one of those,” she said.

“But the part that students often don’t know about is the research aspect. Any question you can ask about human behavior, we can study in psychology. If you talk about jobs, sometimes psychology gets a bum rap, but the jobs that people can get if they have research skills are amazing.

“Almost every company has a research and development office, where they want to assess how people use their product, how they could improve their product. They do focus groups, they gather data, analyze it and present it. That is what we train our students to do.”

A lively, creative place

The other departments and schools within CAHSS are music and performing arts; cinematic arts and technology; visual and public art; humanities and communication; social, behavioral and global studies; and world languages and cultures.

Some parts of CAHSS – including psychology, cinematic arts and visual and public art – will maintain all or part of their departmental homes in their current campus locations. Social and behavioral sciences, world languages and cultures, humanities and communication and cinematic arts degree programs will be housed in the new building.

Feinman praised the designers of the building for making it an integral part of the campus landscape. It will feature an outdoor amphitheater and other outdoor spaces, suitable for both formal and informal events and gatherings.

“For a good part of the year, it is gorgeous outside and I know when I was teaching I was always looking for a day when we could go outside and sit on the ground somewhere in the fresh air and converse,” Feinman said. “So having all that space outside where classes can meet, have breakout groups, and where people can just gather on their breaks; it will be a very lively and creative place.”