Big Picture Thinking

The Governor’s School highlights connections between and among artistic and academic disciplines. Students learn to go deep into their specialized art disciplines while thinking broadly about how the arts and academics compliment each other. Through a range of activities and coursework, the Humanities program, led by Dr. Jennifer Thomas, sets up time and a structure for this kind of "big picture" thinking.

Humanities Course

The Humanities course emphasizes the arts in context. Students study the ways in which the arts have influenced each other as they also connect to specific times, places and people. The point of view on the past is also a conversation with contemporary culture as students examine continuities with current artistic and intellectual creativity. 

This course is also designed to help students reflect on their experiences in the Governor's School community as they learn from peers, staff, and faculty through seminar-style discussions, film screenings, readings, TED talks and guest artists. 

Since it is fundamental to the mission of the school, the successful completion of Humanities is required each year. Along with their work in the arts, this course of study allows students to earn a Scholars Diploma in addition to their S.C. high school diploma.

Faculty and Guests

Governor's School faculty from all of our arts and academic departments collaborate on the Humanities course design, and they co-teach the course itself throughout the school year. Dr. Jennifer Thomas directs the program and monitors the progress of juniors and seniors. Ms. Kathryn Dey teaches the Introduc­tion to Humanities course for sophomores.

Humanities Why-Days also feature school-wide guests, through both our Presidential Guest Artist Series and in conjunction with art departments.

  • Faculty leading Humanities discussion
  • Photo of faculty with students
  • Photo of faculty with students

Why Days

In a series of school-wide Humanities Why Days, the entire community explores three guiding questions: 

  •  Who are we as artists?
  • Why do we do what we do?
  • Why do the arts have value for society?

On designated Fridays throughout the year, the morning’s academic instruction is dedicated to Why-Days, which run from 8:30-11:30 a.m., sometimes in large gatherings and often in small groups. They feature our own faculty collaborating across disciplinary lines and alongside guest artists and scholars whenever possible.

Why-Day Schedule

  • Aug. 17:  Who are we as artists? Summer reading discussions
  • Sept. 28:  Why do we do what we do?
  • Nov. 9:  Why do the arts have value for society?
  • Jan. 11:  Juniors: Drama  //  Seniors: Intro to PechaKucha
  • Mar. 1:  Juniors:  Music & Dance  //  Srs: PechaKucha presentations
  • Apr. 12:  Juniors: Creative Writing and Visual Art //  Seniors: Exit readings


    PechaKucha presentations are a global phenomenon, and they’ve become a sort of Govie rite of spring for seniors, who make and give this unique form of presentation as a capstone project in the Humanities course.  It’s a 20 x 20 presentation, in which 20 images are set on auto-forward to advance every 20 seconds. The format started in Tokyo among young architects who were looking for a way to keep their professional presentations more lively and dynamic. As the fun has spread to creatives of all sorts, presenters share their hobbies, passions, theories, quirks, or samples of recent or upcoming work. 

    The energy (not to mention content and design) Govies bring to this project make it feel like no regular school-day presentation. They prepare and present their PechaKucha talks in small groups of peers, faculty, and staff. These groups then nominate the most compelling ones for a showcase open to the public: PechaKucha Night….Govie Style.