Division of Humanities and Fine Arts

Welcome from the Dean

Welcome to the Arts and Humanities at UC Santa Barbara!

When I tell people that I am the dean of humanities and fine arts, I often get a slightly puzzled look.  I can almost see the question forming in their minds -- what exactly are the arts and humanities?

Humanists and artists explore how individuals, societies, and cultures make sense of the world. Human beings have a profound need to ask who we are and why we are here, and to ponder the meaning of our lives, the world, and the universe.  The humanities and arts seek to comprehend how peoples and cultures across the globe -- both now and throughout history -- address these big issues.  We are like code-breakers, trying to understand the messages embodied in literature, art, philosophy, history, music, and the many other ways that diverse groups of people express what is important to them.  To put it most directly, humanists and artists are in the business of understanding significance and meaning.

Cracking the code of significance and meaning is a difficult enterprise.  Sometimes it requires specialized knowledge of novels, poetry, and other forms of literature, while in other contexts we have to understand complex philosophical doctrines or religious beliefs and rituals.  We also explore meaning through the stories we tell about the past, which is why historical studies are important for the humanities.  Sometimes cultures change the way they communicate meaning, so we humanists strive to understand the new mediums, which is why many humanities scholars now analyze film, television, and various forms of digital media (ranging from tweets to computer games).  Of course, humans also express meaning through art, music, dance, and theater.  

The fact that studying the humanities and fine arts is so complex and multi-faceted is the primary reason why there are 22 department and programs in the humanities and fine arts at UCSB, offering 29 different undergraduate degrees.  The diversity is stunning -- you can perform on stage in our highly renowned BFA acting program, or you can travel to Greece to work on archeological digs, or explore the foundations of Kantian ethics, or analyze the politics of ancient China.  The cultures and societies of the world -- and their varied pasts -- are all open for your exploration.

Whatever major you decide to pursue, you can feel good that students with degrees in the humanities and arts have rewarding and fulfilling careers.  You will be trained to carefully examine and analyze a broad array of texts, images, artifacts, and other cultural productions.  And you will learn how to communicate those findings through papers, presentations, and performances.  The ability to grapple with challenging and difficult ideas -- and then translate those ideas into your own words and thoughts -- is indispensable training for a wide variety of jobs.  That is why our alumni have succeeded in a wide range of careers in teaching, business, and public service.

If you are concerned about future salaries and earning potential, don’t worry: salaries for humanities majors are competitive with majors such as business, economics, and biology.  Our economy is always rapidly changing and different sectors of the economy rise and fall, but understanding what’s important and significant is a skill that never goes out of fashion.

Please explore our website, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

—John Majewski, Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts