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Interviews

/ Judith Urbano

Judith Urbano: We all are humanities and we need humanities people to change the world

"We all are humanities and we need humanities people to change the world"

Judith Urbano Lorente was born in Barcelona in 1973. In 2011 she obtained a doctorate in History of Art from the University of Barcelona and her thesis was entitled L’arquitecte August Font i Carreras (1845-1924). She is also a specialist in Tourism Companies and Activities from the School of Mediterranean Tourism (1994). She is currently in 4th year of a Bacehlor’s Degree in Modern Languages and Literature (French and English) at the University of Barcelona. She is married and has 3 children.

 

She was a lecturer in the Department of Architectural Composition at the School of Architecture (formerly known as ESARQ) at UIC Barcelona from 1997 onwards. In February 2008 she was appointed Assistant Director of the School of Architecture and the same year was awarded a grant from the Attingham Trust for their Summer School on museography, museology, and heritage management for various British country houses.

 

On 1 September 2016 she became the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. On 9 December she had spent 100 days in her new role.

 

When you started you declared that you had “plenty of ideas to do things, to start projects, to contribute; to make sure that everyone, the professors and lecturers, students and PAS get involved and feel proud to be part of the UIC Barcelona faculty of Humanities”. How would you rate these first 100 days?

 

The truth is that it has been very very intense, involving a lot of meetings both with Humanities professors and UIC Barcelona services which are related (Communication, Marketing, Admissions, Alumni, International Relations). It was important for me to gain a general idea of the project and the people who make it possible. My appraisal is 100 % positive. We have a Faculty with very good professors (and great people!) a Bachelor’s degree with highly vocational students, with some very attractive double degrees, a consolidated University Master’s Degree in Cultural Management and a strong responsibility to UIC Barcelona through the cross-disciplinary subjects that are taught by our professors on the rest of the degree programmes (Anthropology, Ethics,Bioethics…): 135 credits outside the Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities. For that reason we also hold meetings with all the Boards of the other faculties. It is important that our professors feel welcome and that the Boards are happy with the work they do. These last 100 days have really been highly fruitful and the truth is I am delighted with the people I work with!

 

Sometimes alarming information is published about low employment rates for degrees related to the arts. Does Humanities have a future?

 

Of course! The thing is that neither our society nor politicians are helping us. In Spanish universities there has been and continues to be an unscrupulous progressive elimination of Humanities. Consequently there are increasing numbers of professionals who are specialised in their fields, but are highly uncultured!

 

How can we change this?

 

Humanities should be added to the curriculum for all degree programmes, in order to ensure students acquire knowledge and culture (the cross-disciplinary nature of UIC Barcelona is a very good starting point for this, and it does not exist in the majority of universities). We all come from a humanities background in some ways, based on the tradition of our classics, we cannot understand our world without knowing about literature, history, art, philosophy and the thinking that preceded us, ethics, morality and aesthetics are the cornerstones of our society, we need humanities people to change the world! This is a very wide-ranging project! Our professors and students are committed to this. Would you like to join us?

 

It sounds very interesting. What future projects does the UIC Barcelona Faculty of Humanities have to encourage all of this?

 

Lots!  During the next academic year we will start up subjects that will be taught in English as part of our degree programme, 53 credits in total. The joint doctoral programme we will be running along with the  Education and Communication has been presented. In this way we will be able to have doctoral theses and future researchers who undertake research in the various humanitarian disciplines. Becoming more cross-disciplinary is a never-ending project, we must continue to support this idea which is a basic one in our university, our professors are doing a great job which is having an impact on all UIC Barcelona students.

 

We need to raise awareness…

 

Yes. We are working on the visibility of the Faculty a lot, since a lot of things are organised, it is important that these are disseminated to everyone. I think that people are interested in Humanities, which is why we have opened up the activities we do: seminars, talks, debates, round tables… to the whole of the university community.

 

What advice would you give a student who is not sure whether to study Humanities or not?

 

I would say that it is a vocational choice, that only that particular student can tell whether this is the degree programme for them, therefore it is not necessary to listen to others around them too much, because they will hear comments like: “And what is that for”?  “What will you work as?” “You’ll die of hunger”… In a society in which the only important thing is to achieve a tangible and productive result, if possible with a monetary value, but the idea is that we should not follow what the majority think, but make decisions based on our own opinions, guided by our own beliefs.

 

People who are one of a kind

 

Exactly.  We have to do a degree that makes us enthusiastic, that we like, that we enjoy and that at the same time allows us to become educated people and learn at both an intellectual and a professional level. There are professional opportunities, and highly varied ones: in the publishing world, museums, cultural management and mediation, teaching, research, art galleries, heritage management, and intercultural cooperation and dialogue.

 

What is the profile of a Humanities student?

 

Students who like to read, who have a lot of intellectual and cultural interests, have a desire to learn, enjoy the classics, philosophy, enjoy going to museums and exhibitions… they are humanities people!

 

What makes studying at the UIC Barcelona Faculty of Humanities different?

 

I think that our strong points – and I’m telling you this honestly – is the friendliness and quality of our professors  and a curriculum that offers humanities and other types of subjects and others that are totally focused on the professional world.

 

You have worked at UIC Barcelona since it was founded, how has the university evolved?

 

Wow, a lot! It has grown so much! It has grown in terms of staff numbers (professors, administration and service staff) and students and also in terms of the degree, postgraduate and master’s degree programmes. It is gratifying to observe their evolution and above all the desire to improve, we still have to do a lot more work and continue to improve but we can be happy with what has been achieved since 1997 until now and all the students who have left with degrees, graduate degrees and doctoral degrees are proof of that!

 

And the students?

 

We live in a very different world to the one that existed in 1997, particularly as far as IT is concerned. he internet has revolutionised our society, the immediacy which our young people are used to, the way in which they search for information, WhatsApp, Instagram… Sharing all of that so quickly with the whole world…it is undoubtedly an advantage but it also has disadvantages, particularly when it is misused. Students have been born into this world of image and social networks, in a natural way, but it must be said that our humanities students still prefer a paper book to an electronic one, more or less the same as their professors! I think that we are birds of a feather, and you can tell!

 

What does a Dean of the Faculty of Humanities read?

 

At the moment I am reading Le chef-d’oeuvre inconnu by Balzac, Diccionario de símbolos by Juan Eduardo Cirlot and Le français: histoire de un combate by Claude Hagège. I really enjoy reading the original texts in French and English, particularly 19th century classics: Balzac, Zola, Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Austen, Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and also from the beginning of the 20th century: Proust and Virginia Woolf. I also try to read poetry, but I always leave it until the summer because I need to be very peaceful: Keats, John Clare, Blake, Wordsworth, Byron.

 

Which museums do you visit?

 

In Barcelona I could say that I know them all, I try to go and see temporary exhibitions, above all at the MNAC, the Caixaforum and the Barcelona City History Museum. I always take my students to see the Roman parts of Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia. We also do tours around the city: Roman, Gothic and Modernist Barcelona. We live in a city with 2,000 years of history and we need to take advantage of that!

 

And what kind of music do you listen to?

 

I really don’t have time for that! But my favourites are the Beatles and U2.