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Program Highlights


Degree Option

Associate in Arts (AA)


In a sense, the goal of studying the Humanities is the goal of understanding nearly everything.

The range of subject matter studied extends from the most important and powerful things ever thought or written, to the cultures that have shaped and been shaped by those ideas, to the specific people - good and sometimes less than good - who have created and continue to create our world's mental landscape.

You might decide to concentrate particularly on literature, philosophy, drama, music, writing or foreign languages. Exploring any of those areas separately is well worth your time. Pursuing them in combination will give you a knowledge base that will never fail you as your life unfolds.

No matter what career you pursue, studying the Humanities at SUNY Cobleskill will develop and refine your critical thinking skills. It will make you a better communicator. It will spark insights that you might otherwise never have had. It will set you on the path to understanding.

Courses in the Humanities are broad and varied so they can engage and consider our world through everything from writing and literature to philosophy, drama, music, and foreign languages. Students in the program learn to not simply comprehend course material but to also apply it to the larger human experience as a way to gain deeper understanding and appreciation. This gives graduates a wide-ranging background and the creative and critical thinking skills that are central components for a variety of job opportunities. Sample classes include:

  • Intro to Humanities
  • Creative Writing
  • Multi-Cultural Literature
  • Cinema and Society
  • Asian Philosophy
  • Jazz Band
  • Arabic
  • Spanish
  • Write: Human Expression and the Natural World
  • Intro to Drama
  • Stagecraft
  • Women's Literature
  • Readings in Native American Literature
  • Intro to Philosophy
  • Choir
  • 20th Century American Music
  • French
  • Art History
  • Humanities Special Projects

The skills acquired in the course of earning a Humanities degree are numerous, wide-ranging and transferable to many different work environments. And this, in turn, makes our graduates highly attractive to employers large and small, public and private.

Among the skills that SUNY Cobleskill's Humanities students will develop and hone are:

  • To write well in a variety of styles
  • To convey meaning precisely
  • To summarize, argue and debate
  • To research, select, analyze, organize and present information
  • To think logically, creatively and critically
  • To problem-solve

Our Humanities department provides students with many opportunities for real-life learning through study in places like Finland, Mexico, Costa Rica and Italy, as well as many other countries.

Humanities students are required to complete a Capstone project in the final semester of their senior year.

Students work within a general topic (determined by the course instructor and publicized in advance), bringing to bear their own interest and the learning gained from their experience in the program. These projects demonstrate students' competency in core learning outcomes such as teamwork, critical thinking, information literacy, writing and speaking proficiency, and a depth of knowledge in some specific area of the humanities. Projects that involve the campus community are encouraged.

Matthew Burns

Matthew Burns, PhD
Associate Professor - Humanities


Born and raised in upstate New York, Matthew Burns, an assistant professor, teaches a variety of writing and literature courses. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Binghamton University, a Master’s in American Studies from Lehigh University, and a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Rochester. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous national and international journals and his poem “Rhubarb” was the winner of the James Hearst prize from North American Review; others have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. Beyond creative work, Dr. Burns has served as editor of Harpur Palate and a special graffiti-themed issue of Rhizomes: Culture Studies in Emerging Knowledge. His scholarly work often focuses on the less-than-common and has included papers and courses on subjects as varied as Graffiti Linguistics, 20th-Century Music Subcultures, Hobos and Contemporary Transience, and Working Class Literature.

Dr. Leigh-Ann Christain

Leigh Ann Christain, PhD
Assistant Professor - Humanities


Dr. Leigh Ann Christain is an Associate Professor of Composition and ESOL in the Liberal Studies Department, and her responsibilities include teaching a wide variety of English courses. An English BA and Philosophy & Religion BA graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, Dr. Christain earned an MA and PhD in English (with a Creative Writing concentration) from the University of South Dakota. She is a Pushcart nominee and an Arctic Circle Art and Science resident who has had poems published in such journals as Seneca Review, Oxford Poetry, and The Lifted Brow, among others, and her full-length poetry collection, Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, was published by C&R Press in 2016. Her recent poetry awards include the Green Mountains Review Neil Shepard Prize, Phoebe’s Greg Grummer Poetry Award, the Oakland School for the Arts Enizagam Poetry Award, and ICON’s Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest Grand Prize. Dr. Christain’s writing and teaching is informed by her international teaching experience in China and South Korea, and as co-advisor of the International Club, she creates opportunities for students to share cultural knowledge. 

Dr. Sinikka Grant

Sinikka Grant, PhD
Associate Professor - Humanities


A native of Finland, Dr. Sinikka Grant joined the Liberal Studies department in 2014. Her areas of specialization are American literature, African American literature, and drama. She teaches a variety of classes in Humanities, such as Introduction to Literature, Introduction to Drama, Multicultural Literature, African American Literature, Stagecraft, and the Humanities Capstone Seminar. Dr. Grant’s research interests are the intersections of history, memory, and violence in African American literature and culture, and notions of community in American literature and culture. Dr. Grant has presented her research in many national conferences, such as American Literature Association and College English Association. Her article, “'Their baggage a long line of separation and dispersement’: Haunting and Trans-generational Trauma in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” was published in College Literature. To further her education in theatre arts, Dr. Grant recently attended an intensive workshop on directing at Yale School of Drama. She also advises the college drama club, The Dramatic Tigerians. Dr. Grant has a Ph.D. in English from University at Buffalo and an M.A and B.A. in English from Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland.

Kristina Johnson

Kristina Johnson
Assistant Professor - Humanities


Kristina Johnson has been directing the music performance groups and teaching music history at SUNY Cobleskill since 2001. The college offers a Jazz Band and Choir which perform for various events such as Homecoming Weekend, Commencement and Showcase Concerts. On the professional side, Professor Johnson has been playing saxophone for a few decades. She started performing during high school in Los Angeles, mainly in jazz quartets and big bands. Her love for jazz and dance bands has continued through the years. For the last 17 years, she has been the lead alto saxophonist for the Joey Thomas Big Band. The swinging Albany-based, Grammy-nominated ensemble performs Sinatra and World War II music. The group has also backed up the legendary Temptations.

She also performs in various groups such as The Sam Whedon Band, Brass'O'Mania, The Blues Maneuver that play funky dance grooves while the whole room is dancing, and the walls are vibrating.

Academically, she holds a BA - Music from UC Santa Cruz, BS - Education from SUNY Oneonta and a Master's Degree in Music Education from The College of Saint Rose.