Curricular materials created for the 2012 SAIL seminar:
In a recent article in the New York Times (January 2, 2012), James Gorman described animal studies as “the growing, but still undefined, field [which] … includes ‘anything that has to do with the way humans and animals interact.’ Art, literature, sociology, anthropology, film, theater, philosophy, religion – there are animals in all of them.” As Gorman notes, “Institutes, book series and conferences have proliferated. Formal academic programs have appeared.” The Animals and Society Institute lists a number of undergraduate courses in animal studies, including fellow midwestern liberal arts colleges Albion, Augustana, Macalester, and Wittenburg, and at liberal arts colleges such as Hamilton, Wesleyan, and Williams, as well as at many highly prestigious universities, including Harvard. Wesleyan University runs a summer fellowship in animal studies in association with the ASI.
With a biology and humanities heavy path – consistent with the national trends in the discipline – we have decided to call our minor “Animals and Society,” so as not to mislead students into thinking this is just a subset of biology. We know there is always concern among faculty about new programs’ use of resources, and rightly so. But because the study of animals is already embedded in most of the traditional disciplines and many of our courses, and because we have designed the minor to rely on foci in regularly-offered courses, most of which do not regularly fill to bursting (we are particularly concerned about the biology courses), we are confident that the minor will not require any additional FTE.
Perhaps more importantly, however, we would argue that it is wrong for a good liberal arts college to overlook the study of non-human animals. Perhaps this is especially so today, when meat and pharmaceutical safety are headline issues, and the welfare of companion animals is a trillion-dollar set of industries. But we don’t need to look to current events. Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. It’s surprising that animal studies is only now becoming a popular field at colleges like ours.
*Note: Content adapted from Curricular Project.
Overview and Goals of “Animals and Society” Minor
Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. The minor in Animals and Society is widely interdisciplinary, and accords students great autonomy in their programs. In addition to its intrinsic interest, Animals and Society provides depth to applications to jobs and graduate and professional schools.
The goals of the Animals and Society minor are that students:
- Identify and consider the experience of non-human animals as part of scholarship;
- Identify and consider human-animal relationships in their lives and in the world around them;
- Be versant in ethical, moral, political and legal concerns about animals; and
- Gain understanding of the significance of animals in human evolution, history, culture, and civilization
Achievement of these goals is assessed by a review of the final assignments for the core courses in the minor.