This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
On my Sunday walk, I encounter a variety of people: a resident of the apartment complex enjoying a smoke and expectorating loudly; young executives in khakis carrying their clubs to the golf course; a pair of seniors making their way toward the pickleball courts; soccer teams playing pickup games; families dressed in their Sunday best driving or walking to church.
Two girls giggle as my dog Bubba walks by, then come forward to pet him. I introduce him, say hello. They run back to their mother. We come close without touching. My dogs reach out beyond my circle of comfort to approach strangers, saying hello without speaking. They pull to the extent of their leashes seeking physical and olfactory contact.
Like my dogs, I connect with others of my species not necessarily through touch or smell usually through speech, writing and other forms of communication. I chat over coffee, post on social media, send email, read a book, watch performances, attend lectures or write letters to the editor.
At Weber State University, the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities teaches "students to excel as they seek, understand, question and express complexities critical to the experience of being human as represented in languages, literature, communication, and visual and performing arts." Our students learn how to analyze and interpret the world and express themselves critically and creatively.
Specifically, the students:
1. Navigate our increasingly complex world and interpret it for others.
Our students go into law, medicine, public relations, translation, media, website design, technical writing, etc. One of our 2015 graduates, Legend Dastrup, majored in English with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Writing and a minor in Linguistics. While taking classes, he worked part-time in the campus IT Division as a communication assistant/technical writer for the communications, events, training and planning department. Legend says he likes "to meld my fascination with linguistics into the world of technology and science" and plans to "meld" these skills in his new position as technical writer with Borsight, a local manufacturing firm.
2. Become engaged citizens and connect us to others. Weber State University goes a step beyond and puts coursework into action through community-engaged learning (CEL), which involves a community service or research project. Our college offers 23 CEL-designated courses.
While taking a CEL grant-writing class, Lisa Brown partnered with Applied Technology Foundation, with whom she wrote grants on behalf of refugees at Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City. She said of her experience, "There is much need around us, and there are many good people trying to make a difference. I want to be part of the process, and this class has given me the skills to help. By supporting our own local communities, we can combine our skills, resources, and abilities, which will allow us to solve problems and create opportunities for a better standard of living."
Lisa, who received her BA in Art History from the University of Utah in 1993, plans to finish her Masters of Arts in English at WSU in 2016 and was recently hired to write grants for No More Victims, a foundation that provides financial aid for the professional care and treatment of sexually abused youth.
I encourage you to attend a humanities event near you and share your experience on our college Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels (weber.edu). And consider taking a class that employs all of your senses. Together we can reconnect and rediscover our humanity.
Becky Jo Gesteland is professor of English and interim associate dean for the Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities at Weber State University, where she teaches classes in American literature and technical writing. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Utah in 1996.