Florida Atlantic: Expanding the Scope of Humanities

Florida Atlantic: Expanding the Scope of Humanities

Dean Focuses on Interdisciplinary Skills Needed for a ‘Lifelong Journey’

From broad initiatives to individual student successes, Michael J. Horswell, Ph.D., is paving an innovative path for the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. Since Horswell became dean in 2017, the college has been on an upward trajectory, as he continues to expand meaningful learning opportunities for students while enhancing the prominence and prestige of its programs.

“It is more important than ever that students at public universities like Florida Atlantic acquire the critical and creative thinking skills needed for a lifelong journey of career success and personal fulfillment,” Horswell said.

The college recently received national recognition when its public affairs program in the School of Public Administration was named the No. 72 “Best Graduate Program” in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The program has moved up 18 spots in the ranking since 2020.

The college also has received more than $51 million in philanthropic support during Horswell’s tenure. This includes $20 million from Kurt and Marilyn Wallach in 2020 — the largest gift in FAU history at the time — to establish the Kurt and Marilyn Wallach Institute for Holocaust and Jewish Studies. The institute will integrate research, service and educational offerings in Holocaust, human rights, Jewish studies and related programs with a mission to deter hate, bias and discrimination.

In 2019, former Kansas City Royals owner Avron Fogelman donated his vast collection of sports memorabilia valued at more than $10 million. The collection is now displayed in FAU’s Avron B. Fogelman Sports History Museum in the Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence. It provides a source of both entertainment and education for students and members of the community about some of the most significant sports events in U.S. and world history.

Horswell said he strongly believes that intertwining the arts, humanities and social sciences helps students achieve their professional goals. To that end, one of the most pivotal shifts under his leadership has been an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. A minor in sports studies was added to the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, fostering collaboration among the political science, history, sociology and exercise science programs. In the philosophy department, a STEM minor was added, and researchers in the cutting-edge Center for the Future Mind work with researchers in the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute to explore the possibilities of artificial intelligence.

“By expanding the scope of humanities curricula to new territories, Arts and Letters students have benefitted from a more comprehensive education that allows them to broaden their academic ambitions and increase their career opportunities,” he said.

Horswell, who earned a doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of Maryland, College Park, also amplified the college’s attention to intercultural education. As one of his first undertakings as dean, he founded the Americas Initiative, which has strengthened the academic offerings and research output for topics associated with culture and society in the Americas. Additionally, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies launched a global studies major, which teaches students about various cultural, political and economic challenges around the world.

Understanding that humanities scholarship flourishes in the light of diverse ideas, Horswell also co-founded the Breezeway Dialogues series in 2021 with Naelys Luna, Ph.D., dean of the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice. The series provides students from all majors with opportunities to discuss controversial topics while learning best practices for civil discourse.

As the college continues to advance toward new and uncharted triumphs, Horswell is leading the charge with his faculty and staff by reimagining Arts and Letters.

“The world-class faculty in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters prepares our students for myriad careers that will undergo unforeseen transformations in the years ahead,” Horswell said. “Our versatile graduates will be prepared to evolve along with the global society and economy in which we all are increasingly interdependent.”

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.