Humanities and Sciences


The Humanities and Sciences Department provides a curriculum that engages Cornish students in an exploration of the social, environmental and cultural contexts in which artistic production takes place. The aim of the department is to inspire curiosity about the world, cultivate civic awareness and foster the habits necessary for life-long learning.

Letter from the Chair:

Becoming an educated artist means more than developing deep knowledge and practice in one’s artistic discipline and craft. It means becoming conscious about how that discipline connects with the world at large.  College should not be a departure from but an engagement with the “real world,” the skills, methods and knowledge supplied providing strategies for living and acting in that world. The humanities and sciences provide different frameworks for inquiry and problem-solving, broadening our perspectives and developing our capacities for critical and creative thinking.

At Cornish, we want our students to become artists who are able to negotiate their way in the world, having successfully acquired the communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to do so. Our aim is to inspire the habits necessary for life-long learning and for students to develop the kind of confidence and competence that will serve them well both during and after college, whether in their personal or professional lives.

In order to achieve these aims, our classes are small and seminar style, engaging students in discussion and analysis as much as possible.  Students take an active role in helping to shape the classroom experience, learning to contribute as much as they receive.  Courses are primarily theme based and explore a variety of subjects drawing on time-honored and contemporary topics.

We invite you to explore our curriculum to find out more about our program and offerings.  Feel free to contact the department with any further questions you may have about our classes or instructors.

Chris Kellett
Chair of Humanities and Sciences


All baccalaureate degree candidates must complete thirty credits in the Humanities and Sciences.

For students in the Visual Arts departments (Art,Design, Film & Media), the Humanities and Sciences are one component of an integrated learning experience. The curriculum is intertwined with studio work and critical/contextual studies via shared program themes and shared learning outcomes. In the first two years, students do directed coursework that introduces them to academic writing and to topics from three different disciplinary domains: the Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences. As students move into their third and fourth years of Humanities and Sciences, they have the opportunity to continue with directed coursework as well as guided inquiry projects.

For students in the Performing Arts departments (Dance, Music, Theater and Performance Production), the Humanities and Sciences program is organized around a first-year Integrated Studies experience, after which students select additional HS coursework from a wide range of disciplines and a variety of interdisciplinary themes and topics. HS elective coursework affords students with the opportunity to focus more closely on specific areas of interest within the HS curriculum. Credits for performing arts students are distributed in the following way:

  • 12 credits -- Integrated Studies (first year) 
  • 3 credits – Humanities 
  • 3 credits – Social Sciences 
  • 3 credits – Sciences 
  • 9 credits – Humanities and Sciences Electives

All performing arts students are required to have at least six credits of college writing in their program and that requirement is either satisfied by successful completion of Integrated Studies in the first year or by completion of coursework in expository writing and research writing or their equivalent.

Once matriculated into a degree program at Cornish, Humanities and Sciences requirements may not be completed at another institution. The Humanities and Sciences Program does not award credit for prior learning experience.

Humanities & Sciences Course Descriptions

Course descriptions are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s course descriptions for this program. For previous years, please refer to the online archive of catalogs


Humanities & Sciences Textbook Policy

Textbooks for Humanities and Sciences Department classes are available at the following locations.​

Individuals are free to purchase new or used books as long as the specific edition guidelines are adhered to. If information for a specific course does not appear, a textbook is either not required or information will be distributed by individual instructors.

Note: It is expected that required texts for individual courses should be purchased prior to the start of each first class meeting. Information regarding additional textbooks, reading material or supplies may be provided at the first class meeting at which time a deadline will be provided (usually within the first two weeks of the semester).


Humanities & Sciences Learning Outcomes

Disciplinary Domain: Science

Students will investigate the nature of the physical world through studies in one or more of the following scientific disciplines: environmental science/ecology; human biology and health; physics of light, sound and motion; materials sciences. As a result of their studies, students will be able to:​

  • Differentiate between cause and correlation within scientific disciplines
  • Evaluate how empirical evidence is used to make claims about cause and effect
  • Explain basic concepts that are fundamental to the discipline studied
  • Apply scientific concepts to relevant issues in society, the natural world or artistic practice

Disciplinary Domain: Social Science

Students will investigate perspectives from one or more of the following social science disciplines: anthropology, linguistics, sociology, political science, psychology, economics, geography. As a result of their studies, students will be able to:​

  • Recognize relationships between individuals and social groups or systems
  • Identify patterns of human behavior in local, regional, national, and/or global contexts
  • Ask relevant questions about social systems, institutions and/or patterns of human behavior
  • Apply one or more social science concepts to relevant issues in society or artistic practice

Disciplinary Domain: Humanities

Students will investigate the nature and meaning of human experience as reflected in one or more of the following humanities disciplines: literary studies, history, philosophy, religious studies. As a result of their studies, students will be able to:​

  • Recognize the significance of historical and cultural context in relation to texts, artifacts and/or key concepts drawn from the humanities
  • Employ interpretive methods that are relevant to the discipline studied in relation to texts and artifacts
  • Apply humanities-based concepts to relevant issues, texts, artifacts or artistic practice


Students will learn to communicate effectively to diverse audiences and for diverse purposes using written, oral, visual, and/or electronic means appropriate to a given context. As a result of their studies, students will be able to:​

  • Identify a purpose for a specific  communication
  • Generate, draft, revise and edit texts
  • Write in different genres for different audiences and purposes
  • Provide specific feedback on works-in-progress

Quantitative Reasoning:

Students will learn to reason about and solve quantitative problems. As a result of their studies, they will be able to:​

  • Identify the kinds of questions that require quantitative data to answer them
  • Identify the forms of data that will be useful to answer such questions
  • Interpret quantitative representations such as graphs, tables and charts and draw inferences from them
  • Apply the relevant quantitative skills to solve practical problems encountered in daily life

Cross-Cultural and Contextual Understanding:

Students will learn about the significance of cultural context in relation to artifacts or texts, and in relation to interpersonal, social and political interactions. As a result of their studies, they will be able to:​

  • Recognize multiple cultural contexts including one’s own and those of others 
  • Describe how cultural contexts influence world views
  • Apply understanding of cultural contexts to new situations or subjects encountered


Faculty & Staff

The Humanities and Sciences Department at Cornish College of the Arts is staffed by liberal studies faculty representing a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds. All faculty are deeply committed to teaching, and to helping you develop as a learner while exploring the connections between the arts and the world at large. Our aim is to inspire the habits necessary for life-long learning and to help you develop the kind of confidence and competence that will serve you well both during and after college, whether in your personal or professional life. The department is headed by Chris Kellett, Ph.D., who has a background in literature and writing and has worked in higher education for over thirty years. Core faculty include Lauren Basson, Amanda Hill, Erica Howard, Tanya Matthews and Raymond Maxwell.


Core Faculty:

Interim Faculty:

Ranked Adjunct & Adjunct Faculty: