UChicago offers new research-based major in the humanities

University of Chicago undergraduate students now have another way to pursue humanistic research. A new major has been added to the College’s growing number of programs: Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM).

IRHUM is intended to introduce students to the techniques, tools and practices of humanistic research and thereby prepare them to conduct advanced research projects under the mentorship of experienced faculty. 

While scientific research has traditionally been incorporated into UChicago’s programs for undergraduate students, opportunities for humanistic research have been harder to find. Recognizing a desire among humanities students to work more closely with established professors in their fields, the College adapted a former major called Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, giving it a more structured curriculum and increased support for mentored research experiences. 

Led by Benjamin Morgan, associate professor of English and the College, the major is designed for students who are not just excited about taking classes, but who also want to build a scholarly profile to do intensive and extended research in the humanities, preparing them for a variety of careers.

Each student will be paired with a faculty member who will mentor them during their course of studies and for their research projects. Unique to the major is its emphasis on applied research and preparing students to succeed beyond their college careers. To that end, between the summer of students’ third and fourth years, they will receive financial and logistical support to conduct research for their BA thesis project, which they will later present in a formal setting to showcase their work.

The IRHUM major also features undergraduate research seminars in which students learn from faculty members how to produce advanced scholarly research and to pursue their own research projects. 

“The idea behind these research seminars is that you would take a class with a faculty member in an area in which they are an expert, and they would teach you how they did the research that got them to that area of expertise, and train you to do that research as well,” said Morgan, the director of undergraduate studies and a scholar in the Department of English Language and Literature.

“The major doesn’t assume that students already know how to do research,” Morgan added. “The point of it is to train students to do these things.” 

One of the founding tenets of IRHUM is its interdisciplinary focus. Students are encouraged to do coursework in several fields of study and to explore disciplines outside of the humanities. Students design their own course of study with the help of their faculty mentor, and classes can be drawn from a variety of departments.

Applications to the major consist of a discussion with the IRHUM faculty chair and co-chair and a written proposal explaining the student’s motivation to enter the major and a possible course of study. Interested students can view the major’s website for more information on how to apply. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The application deadline for Spring Quarter is Apr. 19, 2021. 

—This story was originally published on the University of Chicago College website