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The Humanities 101 course goes from September to April, meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 - 9:00 pm at UBC. The course focuses on relevant, interdisciplinary approaches to critical and creative thinking from the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Generally, one area is taught each week, with the same teacher and topic on Tuesday and Thursday. Past students have regained or developed a love of certain subjects which carry on long after the course has ended – philosophy is a frequent favourite. On the other hand, students report that, by the end of the year, they’ve begun to enjoy even the subjects which don’t appeal to them!

To view a sample of the classes that you may enjoy in a semester, see the sample syllabus.


If you were a fly, and flew with us to class, here’s the kinds of things you’d see:

After taking your fill of the remarkable view of Howe Sound from the window, you see a classroom filled with all mod cons (including built-in technologies), chairs with aisles between them, a table filled with readings and information, name-tags spread out for everyone to put on before class (and used for the book draw at the end of class), a table at the front with notes, a laptop and a fresh bottle of water. The stage is set and all the players arrive: students, volunteer discussion facilitators, faculty and staff and tonight’s teacher.

Act 1 is announcements of Hum stuff (upcoming class info, field trips, assignments due, etc.), DTES/South and UBC news and students’ fieldings.

Act 2 is the introduction to this week’s topic and teacher.

Act 3 is the teacher’s lecture/workshop, each week fascinating and each time different in topic, concepts, vocabulary, discipline, teaching style and speed. (Hum students have as many teachers in one year as many other students have over the course of their whole Bachelor’s degree; they are experts at learning and savvy interdisciplinarists.) It’s not unusual for teachers to have a hard time getting further than their first slide because of all of the questions from students so keen and prepared and curious, drawn from many years’ experiences, memories and insights, and drawn through their current perspectives and situated knowledge. And as the year goes on, our questions are informed by previous class topics and discussions, and the feeling of being a collective - with shared conversations, experiences and practices - grows as the players/workers (students, volunteers, staff and faculty) all chip in together. With so much shared focus both during and between classes (Hum101 students wrote 5 essays this year, and Hum201 students did assignments each week in which they wrote the ‘hinges’ between weekly topics) the classroom can be a hive of intensity, challenge and fun….

Act 4 is the break, which goes from 8:15 to 8:30 (okay, more like 8:40), and is held with the Writing 101 students in the Meekison Lounge downstairs.

Act 5 involves a breakaway: students go into 4 different rooms for small group discussions that are facilitated by volunteer university students, and based on questions from the lecture. These discussion groups are a good place for people who are shyer to speak, for everyone to try out new ideas, and for the teacher to move out of lecture mode; facilitators are not Teaching Assistants, and are there purely to facilitate students’ conversations.

Act 6 is the part where we all return to the main classroom, discuss what happened in the small groups, thank the teacher and ask any final burning questions, and do the draw for 3 or 4 or more books.

Act 7 takes place at 9:30 when we leave the classroom, with students heading for one of two campus bus loops, and staff and faculty slipping into their file cabinets, only to burst out the next day, ready for more!


University is often thought about in terms of what students get out of it, but in Hum, it’s as much about what students give to it – and not just their attention, and not just in class. If you were a fly on a wall in the Hum office before class, these are the kinds of things you’d see:

Adele bringing in sketches for her yearbook essay;

Aiden arriving to volunteer as a mentor for Writing 101, and reporting that alumnus Bernie Boyd has broken his hip;

An update on what’s happening at the Aboriginal Front Door from Pat D., one of the founders;

Anne asking if she can use the empty room next door to work on her Writing assignment;

Boxes of pastries for the class break from Alison’s other workplace;

Charlize with the latest Ubyssey newspaper, one of many that she’s worked on;

Dev giving us updates on the UBC farm and his DTES garden work that eventually leads him away from class;

Doug coming in to collect the basket of juggling balls, and putting on the kettle for tea before going to the lounge to teach us how to juggle;

Georgia reminding us that we need more cookies and tea for the break;

Hanging on the office wall, a painting by Krysta;

James (an octogenarian) travelling all the way here to tell us that this trip is too much for him, but he’ll see us on the DTES;

Jen downloading class photos from her camera onto Paul’s computer;

Jose asking us to sign a Hum canvas memento;

Katherine and Gord bringing in boxes of books donated by the Writing Centre;

Kimble bursting in to tell us that this course is blowing his mind (regularly) and that he’s arranged for us to have a private Sweat Lodge with his friend OldHands;

Kris fishing under the desk for a bottle of water to give to the teacher who he welcomes to class;

Krysta picking up the laptop she takes notes on in class;

Maureen making a point of coming in to thank us for bugging her to come back to class;

Michael G. popping by to work on his writing;

Mike bringing in books for our donations library, and checking how we’d like the classrooms set up that evening;

Nikki bringing in extra copies of the B.C. Studies journals which are being given away downstairs; later, Nikki’s backpack bulging with must-read books!

Norman Flynn, an alumnus who’s studying philosophy, telling us about the assignments he’s working on;

Paola, having lost her housing, getting help from Will to find another;

PaulR sending Hum multiple copies of every Carnegie Centre newsletter;

Raul arriving early for the monthly Hum201 meeting;

Recuperating from her latest swim, an elated Janice;

Rob offering to take us on a tour of The Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and reporting on his meeting with UBC’s CITR radio which is interested in working with him and Hum;

Robyn unfailingly distributing magazines and weekly updates on DTES events, most of which he volunteers for;

Ron, an alumnus, delivering every issue of the Megaphone, which he writes for and sells, and also the “Hope in the Shadows” calendartheTHTHE ;

Shahla, having discovered that the food bank is giving away bread, rallying students to help her collect enough for everyone; and later, asking us to add well wishes to a hand-drawn card for Margot;

Standing in front of the bookshelves, Gerry trawling the library for some good writing manuals (ending up with two (one light and one heavy));

Susan dropping in before going to every Homework Club;

The sudden appearance of many hand lotion samples, courtesy of Krysta;

Tulips and daffodils from Kathleen, and from Pat D.;

Wil arranging for Hum students to use the computer centre at the Gathering Place where he and Shahla volunteer; and later, with an update on his Cyberculture study group;

Willie coming in to tell us that he has to go to Beijing to help his family which is being displaced due to gentrification;

With her hair damp and cheeks rosy from the swimming pool, Pat bringing in her homework and asking for her next Hum201 assignment;

Yvette trucking in loads of fancy, donated bread;

And, in the meantime, there are people sitting, and chatting, and just calling in for a visit.

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