Humanist Worldviews: Then & Now

Course Overview

Registration opens July 1 for Fall 2023 semester. Syllabus provided upon registration.

Course Description

There is not one single “Humanism,” but many. That is the fundamental assumption of this course, which seeks to explore a number of “Humanisms” which have arisen and flourished in different parts of the world and across time. Students new to Humanism will end the course with an appreciation of the core values of Humanism, and how they can be discovered and applied in different ways in different cultures. Students who already have a basic understanding of Humanism will deepen their appreciation of the worldview, learning how complex and variegated are the expressions of Humanism. The intent of the course is to broaden students’ understanding of what “Humanism” can mean, by complexifying traditional Humanist narratives and presenting lesser-known ones.

Learning Objectives

Students completing this course should be able to:

  • Describe how different forms of Humanism have arisen at different times and places.
  • Articulate the common features which link different Humanisms together.
  • Sketch their own personal philosophy of Humanism, in relation to those studied.

Supporting Learning Outcomes:

  • Analyze their own and other articulations of Humanism.
  • Reflect on the differences and similarities between Humanist experiences within the United States and globally.
  • Apply the multiple histories of Humanism to the way we describe this worldview to others.


Vanessa Gomez Brake

(she/her/siya) is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California.

She is the first humanist chaplain to serve in this capacity at any American university. In her role, she works to support and promote university religious and spiritual life broadly conceived, and helps oversee more than 90 student religious groups and 50 religious directors on campus. She also serves as an advisor to the USC Interfaith Council and the Secular Student Fellowship.

By recommendation of the Provost’s Advisory Task Force on Immigration, in 2017 – 2021 Vanessa provided confidential counseling and support to undocumented Trojans. In this capacity, she assisted members of the university community in navigating USC’s campus resources: financial aid, academic & housing issues, basic needs, community connection, confidential advising, and legal support.

Previously, Vanessa worked at Stanford University’s Office for Religious Life, where she led campus programming and worked closely with student-led religious groups. At Stanford, she organized ceremonies, events, programs, and worship services at the historic Stanford Memorial Church and CIRCLE: Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning, and Experiences. Additionally, she played a supporting role at the Windhover Contemplative Center, and the campus-wide series Contemplation-by-Design.

As an accomplished Filipino folk dancer and multi-instrumentalist, Vanessa has performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall for Filipino American History Month celebrations. Her folk artistry is an extension of her interfaith work, as her performances showcase the diverse traditions, rituals, and beliefs of Muslim, Christian, and indigenous peoples of the Philippines.

Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and Psychology from Arizona State University. She received her Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, with an emphasis in religion and peacemaking from George Mason University. She also earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Chicago Theological Seminary. Vanessa also holds a Certificate in Humanist Studies & Leadership from the Humanist Institute and is endorsed as a humanist chaplain by the Humanist Society.

In 2018, Chicago Theological Seminary awarded Vanessa the Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Interreligious Leadership Award. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association – Person of the Year Award.  She holds a variety of board positions with the Association for Chaplaincy & Spiritual Life in Higher Education, the American Humanist Association (AHA)Parangal and Burning Pride meditation.

Kevin Jagoe

(he/him/his) is the Minister of BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

He was born and raised in small-town Minnesota. He lived in Brooklyn, NY before being called by BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in 2018 and now lives outside of Philadelphia, PA. He completed his Master of Divinity at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL and is currently working on his Doctorate of Divinity at United Lutheran Seminary.

Beyond congregational life, Kevin is Adjunct Faculty with the Humanist Studies Program of the American Humanist Association. He currently serves on the Education Committee of the American Humanist Association and was a past Board member of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association. He is a contributor to the books Humanist Voices in Unitarian Universalism & Values in Action.

Kevin’s background includes more than a decade of work in the nonprofit sector with organizations ranging in size from five members to several thousand. He has worked within the Humanist movement professionally and as a volunteer. He was a very dedicated lay leader in his home congregation (First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis) and has been on staff with four UU congregations.

Prior to seminary, he completed a BA in anthropology, criminal justice, and forensic sciences with minors in psychology and biology as well as a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management. Kevin also obtained a Certificate in Humanist Studies & Leadership from what is now known as the Humanist Studies Program of the American Humanist Association.

Register Fall 2024