Students of history and religion are now offered work practice in their study programme. The elective course Humanists in practice is a part of the greater commitment to work practice for students at the University of Agder.
By Gustav Try
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”What am I going to use this study program for? is a normal question for many humanities students,” says Hans Hodne, head of the Department of Religion, Philosophy and History.
To make the studies more work relevant, the elective course Humanists in practice is introduced. The course is 10 study points, and would have 15-20 slots which the students compete for based on study progress and grades. The time of practice is in itself the most important, but the students are also given a foundational theoretical introduction to work life, leadership and organisational theory.
”The challenge of the humanities is that our study programmes do not give the students a specific competence adjusted to specific work tasks. We have to raise awareness of the value of the more general competence humanities give – like analytical textual competence, ethical reflectivity and multicultural understanding,” says Hodne.
He believes the practice will help both students and the academic staff at UiA see connections between theory and work life.
”We have focused on the combination of a theoretical and a practical approach, and on finding relevante practice partners. Those we have been in contact with have been very positive. We have completed agreements with the United Nations Association of Norway, The National Archives of Norway and Krisiansands Avis., to mention some,” says Hodne.
”Work practice is worth a lot for a humanist. Several of the students subsequently got a job at the practice places,” says Ingvild Torjussen Gjone, who has experience as project coordinator at Humanist project semester at University of Oslo.
”The students were happy, even though many also experienced it as time consuming and tiresome. The group were well united, and the students took ownership of the project individually,” says Gjone.
She is positive to UiA’s commitment and promotes the students’ language competence and ability to acquire knowledge as traits the businesses noticed.
”The employer often has a ”what's-in-it-for-me” way of thinking, and frequently needed some help seeing how to use the students. Most, however, started seeing the value and were very pleased with the students’ contributions. This also applied to businesses where one originally thought humanists did not have much to contribute with,” says Gjone.
Dag Nordbø is the project manager for the actions group Student practice, which is part of UiA’s strategy area of Social engagement and innovation. He thinks this commitment to the humanities will have positive repercussions.
”Today, many in the humanities experience difficulty in entering work life unless one goes through research, teaching or voluntary organisations,” says Nordbø.
Nordbø thinks the practice course will make employers more aware of the need for broad competence with their employees.
”A student of religion and ethics could, for example, contribute to a business who has to make difficult decisions regarding streamlining being better at safeguarding their values on long term. If students can connect their knowledge and theory to practical challenges in the work life, this will benefit both students and employers greatly,” says Nordbø.