New Human-Animal Studies and Critical Thinking minors available for students

Karly Kaufman
Staff Writer

The university is adding two new minors to the mix of academic classes students can take.

The first is the Human-Animal Studies minor that looks at the relationship between humans and non-animal humans. The second is the Critical Thinking minor that focuses on building necessary skills such as writing and problem-solving.

Professor Julie Wulfemeyer from the Department of Philosophy, Professor Melissa Purdue of the Department of English, and Professor Carol Glasser from the Department of Sociology are affiliated with creating the Human-Animal Studies minor with their collective interest in animal ethics and the relationship between humans and non-human animals.

The interdisciplinary field of Human-Animal Studies “investigates non-human animals themselves,” as well as their relationship with humans, both past and present, said Wulfemeyer.

“Students will learn about non-human animal thought and cognition, the representation of non-human animals in art and literature, and the role non-human animals play in society and the world around us,” she said.

This involves ethical questions and concerns between humans and non-human animals and the use of testing, treatment and representation.

Scholars among various disciplines created a widespread interest in human-animal studies across the country, and programs involving such studies have been appearing across university campuses. With no other program like it in the state, MNSU is believed to be the first campus to have a Human-Animal Studies minor.

“We think the minor would be a great fit for students pursuing animal-related careers,” said Wulfemeyer. These include “careers that involve caring for animals or researching animals, careers in wildlife management or animal protection, and so on,” she said.

Many professions that students are going into will have to create positive relationships with animals.

“Recreational Parks and Leisure needs to design leisure activities around and with animals, urban planners will build in communities where people want to incorporate wildlife and domesticated animals, therapists might work with animals for therapies, etc.” Wulfemeyer explained. “Ultimately, we hope anyone interested in the subject will consider the minor and contact us to discuss how it might benefit them.”

There are three required courses students must take for the Human-Animal Studies minor: SOC 214W: Animals and Society, ENG 319: Animals and Literature, and PHIL 447: Animal Minds. Students must complete three more elective courses to obtain the minor on their transcript. With only six classes needed for the full minor, students could likely finish it in less than two years.

Professor Richard Liebendorfer from the Department of Philosophy helped create the Critical Thinking minor. It serves the interests of developing critical, analytical, and writing skills. The classes will help explain the thoughts and views students have about the world in a logical and rational way.

The reason for creating such a minor is due to many college graduates not having the skills they need for the careers they are going into. According to a study done by Forbes Magazine, nearly 60 percent of employers do not see critical thinking, nor adequate problem-solving skills. Whether community or state colleges and universities, all schools are facing the same risk of not preparing their students with the skills that will help them succeed in their future careers.

With a Critical Thinking minor, students can see direct change in the way they read, write and think about real-world issues. Their skills can flourish through the courses they take and advance their philosophical mindset. It requires a total of 18 credits, often coinciding with other classes a student needs to take.

Liebendorfer also mentions the importance of interdisciplinary studies: “Disciplines often have overlapping subject matter and no precise boundaries. Interdisciplinary majors [and minors] are in this respect cutting edge. They address subject matter at the intersections of those interconnected fields of inquiry.”

Human-Animal Studies and Critical Thinking are currently open for enrollment. For those interested in the Human-Animal Studies minor, the three required courses are all offered in the fall, giving students the opportunity to knock out the core classes right away. If the demand for the minors are strong enough, discussions will be made to possibly create majors out of them.

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