The Humanities Division connects students and professors

During a pandemic-free semester, Monday mornings in Anderson Hall are full of life, music, and breakfast. Major Minor Mondays were started by the Humanities Division and offered students coffee or tea, pastries, and community. 

Major Minor Mondays originally started, as the name would suggest, for students who had a major or minor within the Humanities Division. The division faculty and staff, though, recognized a need for community among the entire student population. Monday mornings often offer little excitement, so offering all students something to look forward to (coffee, snacks, and friendship) made coming to classes that much more bearable.

According to Wendy Specter, Administrative Assistant to the Humanities and the Languages & Literature Divisions, the division faculty and staff wanted to “create a welcoming place where students and faculty could socialize and connect outside of the classroom, as well as offer students outside of the discipline an insight to how a history, religion, or philosophy major or minor could benefit them.”

“Major Minor Mondays helped demystify the department,” said Shelby Davidson, senior history major. “Ms. Wendy has done a lot to make the department less scary to first-year students.”

When Maryville College suspended in-person classes in March due to COVID-19, the division staff realized that students had come to rely on that set time to connect with one another in a relaxed, non-classroom setting. Therefore, Major Minor Mondays became a weekly virtual meeting on Zoom.

“Having Major Minor Mondays on Zoom helped me feel connected during a time when I didn’t really have anyone to talk to,” alumna Abbey Fritts said. “It was nice to be able to connect with the staff and other students for some form of normalcy.”

The Humanities Division tried to keep that sense of normalcy moving into the fall semester but found that not everyone could make the scheduled Zoom meetings on Monday mornings due to class or work. This prompted the faculty and staff to try something new.

A new meeting time was proposed for every Wednesday at 12:30pm. These meetings are as similar to in-person Major Minor Mondays as possible, bringing everyone the sense of belonging that the Humanities Division has become known for. 

At the kickoff of this new event, each person took turns talking about what they were eating and the most interesting thing they’ve read recently. These new meetings are lovingly coined “Nosh with Hugh,” referencing the Humanities Division’s mascot, Hugh Manatee. 

Wendy Specter and Hugh Manatee in The Humanities Suite.
Photo by Laura E. Palmer.

Hugh Manatee has been the mascot for the Humanities Division since November 2018, after members of the Maryville College community raised money to adopt a real-life manatee. The idea to adopt a manatee mascot came from Dr. Nancy Locklin-Sofer, and Specter said she, along with the rest of the department, “ran with the idea.” While Maryville College’s Hugh resides in the Humanities Suite in Anderson Hall, real-life Hugh’s home is Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. 

“Students are attracted to the department because of Hugh,” Specter said. “He has over 300 followers on Instagram, he has his own student ID and school email address. It’s all about brand recognition.”

On Hugh’s Instagram, @hughmanateemc, students and faculty share pictures of Hugh’s travels around campus and around the world, as well as upcoming events in the department and on campus.

When asked why Hugh and the Humanities Division’s events are so important to campus, Specter said, “We want the students to feel like the department is a cool place to hang out. Yes, we’re your educators, but we also want to be your cohorts, your friends, your family away from home.”

Everyone is welcome, so be sure to join Hugh Manatee and the Humanities Division every Wednesday at 12:30pm on Zoom for some nosh and a chance to catch up with your classmates and professors! You can find the link on Hugh’s Instagram page or in MC Today.

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