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Former Dean Paula Krebs discusses importance of humanities

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Dean Paula Krebs left Bridgewater this summer for a top job at the Modern Language Association. Monday, she was back on campus, fulfilling part of her new duties – spreading the word about the importance of the humanities.

The event began on a somber note, as Karim Ismaili, acting provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, asked for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, which had taken place less than 12 hours earlier. He then introduced Dr. Krebs, calling her “a great colleague” and someone “who is thoughtful about the big picture of higher education.”

Adding to the praise for the former dean was President Frederick W. Clark Jr. “She taught me so much about the importance of the humanities, and why we need to focus on that today,” he said.

In her new role as executive director of the MLA, which is based out of New York City, Dr. Krebs lobbies on behalf of the humanities. This includes pushing for federal funding, (she delivered what she felt was good news about the FY18 amounts possibly going to the National Endowment for the Arts and related programs), as well as promoting the grassroots work that takes place in the meeting rooms and classrooms of institutions like Bridgewater State.

“The good news is that humanities majors are actually getting jobs,” she said. “We know that they earn less than their classmates in STEM and business, but after a few years they pull even and in many cases, they pull ahead.”

Those familiar with Dr. Krebs’ tenure at BSU know that an important part of her mission all along was to teach people – from business leaders to faculty members to students – that the humanities teach skills that transcend the narrow definitions of any single major.

“These students have skills and preparation that means they can become managers, CEOs, venture capitalists, teachers, social workers…” she said at Monday’s event. “There are plenty of jobs that people get with a degree in the humanities.”

Dr. Krebs said she talks to the types of employers one would assume typically hire students with degrees in the STEM fields. However, these managers are looking for students who can communicate well, take risks and think creatively. All skills and traits associated with humanities majors. 

Students and business leaders have been “sold a particular story,” that STEM jobs require STEM majors, Dr. Krebs said. Changing the perception to the contrary begins in the classroom, she said. Faculty members in humanities departments must make clear to students all the various skills they are using in their studies and research.

“We have to teach students to be articulate about what they can do, in addition to what they’ve learned. Right away, right in the classroom, we have to name what it is they are doing,” she said.

Much of her thinking on the subject Dr. Krebs said came from her time and experience at BSU. 

“I loved my time here at Bridgewater and I love my new job,” she said. “I love advocating at this level.” (Story and photos by John Winters, G ’11, University News & Media)

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