To study the humanities is to seek to understand deeply the context of being human. We do this by learning how to think well, paying attention to the legacy of those whose thoughts have shaped the world. We study creativity and the arts, particularly the literature that has fed our imagination and enabled empathy for those whose experience of the world is very different from our own. Religious traditions have explored the meaning of it all as cultures have sought to feed their spirits and develop compassionate ways to live. And understanding how the flow of history has shaped ideas can teach us so much about what it means to be human today.

Walter Thiessen, B.RS; MA; DTh (UNISA)Academic Dean

OUR HUMANITIES PROGRAM is designed to help you ask good questions, to read deeply and well, and to think critically and appreciatively. You will learn from the perspectives of others as you explore the history of human ideas, successes and tragedies. You’ll be challenged to think critically and present an argument, to express your thoughts and appreciate the thoughts of others. This gives birth to a creative and open-minded approach that uses history and culture to engage the present and build for the future.

We believe that the integration of rigorous interdisciplinary study, community living and study abroad create a unique educational experience that no other university can match. Students whose quest is spiritual and intellectual formation will learn to think through and articulate their ideas and values with a global, historical and philosophical perspective. This is the ideal preparation for diverse career prospects; rather than study a narrow subject field and end up limited in their career choices, our Humanities students can tackle many different careers that deal with people and ideas, from teaching to international development work.

Humanities majors are available in the following:

Ancient History & Religious Studies

Courses in ancient history & religious studies explore the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean to understand the Judeo-Christian tradition within its historical context as well as its contemporary relevance, as well as seeking to understand diverse religious traditions. In this discipline we create an atmosphere where people of profound faith, differing faith, and undefined faith learn how to respect each other and be open to transformative thoughts that come from varied perspectives.


Students of history seek to understand the lives of people in the past: their ideas, motives, values, customs, circumstances, institutions, actions, and artifacts in order to discover meaning, order, and purpose. Large topics in the history of Western Civilization over the past 2500 years are explored, as well as focused regional and national themes. Students are encouraged to confront essential human questions in the context of diverse paradigms and in light of the most relevant historiography.


The study of English introduces students to world literature written or translated into English, from antiquity to the present. Students develop an appreciation of the verbal icon and learn skills in textual analysis that enable them to become proficient readers.  At SSU, becoming a “reader” also relates to making crucial connections and being sensitive to the intricate web of relationships that make up life on earth.  The discipline of paying attention, of ‘reading,’ opens us to paradox, mystery and contradictions, and brings us beyond the judgement that often comes with easy “us” and “them” categorizations.  Learning to read well opens us up to the endlessly rich texture of life-in-relationship, and develops our understanding of the philosophies that shape literary worldviews, bringing our own worldviews into perspective.


Our philosophy program probes the history of ideas and seeks understanding of the thought of the present day. Starting with the pre-Socratic thinkers, studies in philosophy trace the line of formative influences to the present in the Western tradition, and also examine the interaction between philosophy and faith. Students will engage in systematic, critical and rational analysis of the foundations of people’s beliefs and practices.