Two men dressed in suits and ties and a woman in a suit.

The Bringing Community Back to Community Colleges conference was held at Bergen Community College and co-sponsored by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. The conference aimed to discuss the state of the humanities in community colleges and foster intellectual exchange among humanities faculty. The conference included over 100 people from around the state, with welcoming remarks from Eric M. Friedman, President of Bergen Community College; Aaron Fichtner, President of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges; and Carin Berkowitz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Keynote speaker Paula M. Krebs, Executive Director of the Modern Language Association and President of the National Humanities Alliance, challenged the perception of the humanities as “frills or skills” and emphasized the importance of framing humanities skills within a larger story that prepares students for post-graduate challenges. She cited statistics to counter the notion that humanities graduates are unemployable, pointing out that unemployment figures for four-year degree graduates from various fields were similar and that English majors had better employment prospects than biology or business majors. Krebs stressed that humanistic education builds critical thinking and problem-solving skills, preparing students for a wide range of career opportunities and lifelong earnings. Krebs also affirmed that where the humanities are funded, they are thriving.

Three panels discussed solutions to promote the humanities, including renaming general education as essential learning and putting existing gen ed courses through a course renewal process. The conference also included a deep dive into re-branding the humanities and cross-institutional collaborations to create persuasive narratives for the field.

The conference concluded with a reception at the Bergen Community College art gallery, featuring the “Coming to Jones Road” art exhibit by internationally celebrated artist Faith Ringgold.

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Photos by Russ DeSantis Photography and Video, LLC