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1819 N. Main St.
San Antonio TX, 78212

What is the Humanities program? 

The humanities are about what is uniquely human- our art, literature, science, and civilization. We study the humanities to learn about our own humanity. Today we use the term to encompass many educational disciplines, including:

  • Creative and expressive arts: picture making, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, theater, film, and literature.
  • Attempts to explain our origins and know our future: Religion and myth
  • Intellectual search for truth: philosophy
  • Sciences: physics, chemistry, psychology, biology, medicine, anthropology, and zoology.
  • Physical study of our planet and the cosmos: geography and astronomy
  • Record of our past: history and archaeology

According to Gloria Fiero (author of our current textbook):
The Humanities is the study of the humanistic legacy. The humanistic tradition is the legacy handed down from generation to generation of a specific group’s cultural achievements. Each generation leaves a creative legacy, the sum of its ideas and achievements. This legacy represents the response to our effort to ensure our individual and collective survival, our need to establish ways of living in harmony with others, and our desire to understand our place in the universe. Meeting the challenges of survival, communality, and self-knowledge, we have created and transmitted the tools of science and technology, social and political institutions, religious and philosophic systems, and various forms of personal expression-the totality of which we can culture. (Fiero, vx)

 So, the Humanities can be defined as humankind’s cultural legacy:

  1.  The sum total of the significant achievements and ideas
  2.  Handed down from generation to generation
  3. It is the creative legacy of all mankind- it is global and multidisciplinary

Furthermore, “studying the humanities engages us in a dialogue with primary sources, meaning works original to the age which they were produced. Where literary, visual, or aural, a primary source is a text, the time, place, and circumstances in which it was created constitute the context; and its various underlying meanings provide the subtext. Studying the humanities from the perspective of text, context, and subtext helps us understand our cultural legacy and our place in the larger world.” (Fiero, xvii)  

  1. The text of a primary source refers to its medium (what it’s made of), its form (outward shape), and its content (subject it describes).
  2. Context describes the historical and cultural environment of a text. When and where was it made, who made it, what caused it to be made, who used it?
  3. The subtext of a primary source refers to its secondary or implied meanings.  Subtext discloses conceptual messages embedded in or implied by a text. However, it is important to make sure this implied meaning is associated with what the people at the time took it to mean, not how we in the present see it. 

How does this definition translate into courses at SAC?

Humanities courses at SAC are designed to examine the cultural foundations of past and modern civilizations. In order to gain an overview of the cultural legacy of mankind the course material examines global events and people from the perspective of different disciplines, such as: visual arts, music, literature, philosophy, history and dance. However, the study of the humanities is more than a look at artistic achievements of the past and present. It is also an examination of the change over time. How the same people borrow from others, alter, keep or reject new concepts.

Humanities courses also emphasize the role played by society, governments, economies, and religions in the development of these artistic achievements, rather than just looking at the events or just the artifacts left behind. Humanities is similar to history, art history, philosophy etc., but it strives to put the history, art, society, philosophy, etc. into the context of the time. It connects the dots of why: why did these people made these items, what was the reason they were important, and what do they tell us about how these people lived, thought, and believed.

After taking a Humanities course at SAC students will be able to:  

  • Gain perspectives of the humanistic tradition by focusing on the legacies of civilizations in Europe, the Americas,  Africa and Asia. The courses are global and multidisciplinary, so we look at the ancient civilizations of Europe, Asia, and the Americas through the lens of archaeology, history, art history, philosophy, religion, etc.
  • Analyze the creative ideas and practices of both Western and Non-Western civilizations that shaped the modern world.
  • Identify crosscurrents and trans-historical links between the past and present. One of the key aspects emphasized by all SAC Humanities faculty is “how did these events and developments of the past affect and help develop the world we live in today?”
  • Apply their knowledge to real-world activities. All Humanities courses require a visit to a museum and a concert.

Courses currently offered:

Huma 1301: This course explains the cultural foundations of civilizations beginning with prehistory and going through the ancient and classical civilizations of the world until the beginning of the medieval world (5th century). It is an interdisciplinary, multi-perspective assessment of cultural, political, philosophical, and aesthetic factors critical to the formulation of values and the historical development of the individual and of society. Topics covered in the course include: Prehistory, the Ancient America, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, China, India, Classical Greece, Rome, and World Religions. This course fulfills the Language, Philosophy, and Culture foundational component area of the core.
Instructors: Sewell, Pue, Duggan, Hill, Greco

Huma 1302: This course begins where 1301 ends and explains the humanistic foundation of the Modern World between the 5th and 17th century. It is an interdisciplinary, multi-perspective assessment of cultural, political, philosophical, and aesthetic factors critical to the formulation of values and the historical development of the individual and of society. Topics covered in the course include: the rise of Christianity and Islam, the European Middle Ages, Medieval China, Medieval India, the Renaissance, and the Baroque. This course fulfills the Language, Philosophy, and Culture foundational component area of the core.
Note: The student does not need to have taken 1301 to take 1302.
Instructors: Sewell, Pue, Duggan  

Huma 1315: This course focuses on the creative achievements of the world from the Ancient Period into the Modern, with a special focus on art and music. It is an interdisciplinary, multi-perspective assessment of cultural, political, philosophical, and aesthetic factors critical to the formulation of values and the historical development of the individual and of society. Topics covered in the course include: The formation of art in the Ancient and Classical World, the transition to the medieval style, the classical revival of the Renaissance and Baroque, and the formation of individualism through the modern period. This course fulfills the Language, Philosophy, and Culture foundational component area of the core.
Note: The student does not need to have taken 1301 or 1302 to take 1315
Instructors: Pue, Hill

 Humanities courses are elective courses that are part of the core curriculum in all degree and transfer plans offered at San Antonio College. They are also part of the International Studies and Mexican American Certificate program.  

Why do the Humanities matter?

According to the Stanford Humanities Center:

The Humanities give us insight into everything, help us understand our world, and bring clarity to the future. 

Insights Into Everything

Through exploration of the humanities we learn how to think creatively and critically, to reason, and to ask questions. Because these skills allow us to gain new insights into everything from poetry and paintings to business models and politics, humanistic subjects have been at the heart of a liberal arts education since the ancient Greeks first used  them to educate their citizens.

Understanding Our World

Research into the human experience adds to our knowledge about our world. Through the work of humanities scholars, we learn about the values of different cultures, about what goes into making a work of art, about how history is made. Their efforts preserve the great accomplishments of the past, help us understand the world we live in, and give us tools to imagine the future.

Bringing Clarity to the Future

Today, humanistic knowledge continues to provide the ideal foundation for exploring and understanding the human experience. Investigating a branch of philosophy might get you thinking about ethical questions. Learning another language might help you gain an appreciation for the similarities in different cultures. Contemplating a sculpture might make you think about how an artist's life affected her creative decisions. Reading a book from another region of the world, might help you think about the meaning of democracy. Listening to a history course might help you better understand the past, while at the same time offer you a clearer picture of the future.


What's the point of taking a Humanities course?

How will the humanities apply to your real-world experience and help you get a job?

  1. First, the humanities courses put emphasis on writing and writing well. Now, you may not think writing is something you need to get a job or keep the job you already have; however, in this age of computer literacy and constant email communication knowing how to write a legible, understandable, and intelligent sounding email is very important. Emails are often the first way you communicate with a prospective employer, so it is important to present yourself as intelligent and well-written from the start. The Humanities, with their emphasis on writing, will provide the student with practice of good writing techniques through regular writing assignments and the aid of the instructors experience and expertise in writing.
  2. Second, many jobs today have an aspect of interactions with people or customer service. The Humanities are the study of people, whether it be through history, art, literature, philosophy, etc. Knowing and understanding human history will make you not only a knowledgeable person, but it will also allow you to be more open-minded towards other people and more empathetic to people who have different opinions or beliefs.
  3. Third, often combining a humanities degree with a technical degree is a way to set yourself apart from other applicants. Employers know someone with a humanities background will know how to write, how to speak, and how to relate to people, as described in the first two points, so combining that with a technical skill will make you an ideal job candidate.

San Antonio College Humanities Faculty Achievements  

Below is a list of the projects accomplished by the Humanities Faculty at San Antonio College


- Ronni Pue was part of a team of San Antonio College faculty who received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. With that grant they completed a project entitled: "Bridging Islamic Traditions"
    More information on the project can be found here, or email Professor Pue at

- Tara Sewell presented a paper at Sam Houston State University's 2013 International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Though entitled: "Common Misconceptions of the Medieval Period in Modern American Popular Culture."
    The paper was published by Cambridge Scholars Press in January 2014 with the other conference proceedings in a volume entitled: News from the Raven: Essays from Sam Houston State University on Medieval and Renaissance Thought. More information is available here.

Contact Information

Gilliam “Mike” Burton
Location: Gonzales Hall 123
Phone:   (210) 486-0649

Janice Focht-Hansen
Humanities Coordinator
Phone:   (210) 486-1436