BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois Wesleyan University’s inaugural group of First-Year Humanities Fellows (FYHF) explored the real-world interdisciplinary connections among fields in the
humanities during a five-day cultural immersion experience in Chicago over Spring
The Fellows travelled to cultural icons such as the Harold Washington Library and
the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, met with successful IWU alumni with careers in the
liberal arts, and engaged as a class in challenging questions about art, history,
the social sciences and other relevant issues in the humanities. By experiencing a
wide range of fields through memorable, hands-on learning moments, the Fellows gained
a richer understanding of the city of Chicago and the cultural identity that surrounds
“As First-Year Humanities Fellows, students enjoyed the wonderful cultural opportunities
that the City of Chicago has to offer, but they were not passive observers,” said
Associate Professor and Chair of English Joanne Diaz, who developed the FYHF program.
“They prepared for these events by reading about them beforehand; they approached
each excursion with a series of critical questions; and they reflected upon their
experiences by writing in their journals and conversing during meals. This engagement
is crucial to a complete education.”
Developing this level of engagement with the humanities across disciplines and beyond
the classroom encompasses the overall mission of the First-Year Humanities Fellows,
to allow students to explore their interests in literature, philosophy, art and language
through an immersive learning experience. The program challenges students to examine
the purpose of attending a liberal arts institution like IWU, and to appreciate the
value of a liberal arts education in professional and personal spheres.
Throughout their first year, students engage with these topics in the classroom during
a unique Gateway course, through interdisciplinary events on campus and at off-campus
events such as the Chicago Humanities Festival and the FYHF Spring Break Immersion
In reflecting on the trip, FYHF Taylor Plantan ’21 looked forward to how future Humanities
Fellows will develop intellectually from these experiences.
“I think that students will notice a significant growth and change as they progress
throughout this program, and I think that this immersive opportunity not only strengthens
this transformation in a student on a personal level, but it also transforms how they
view and interpret the world around them.”
For further insight and details on this year’s Spring Break Immersion Trip, see the
first-person student blog.