The future of a quality STEM education will be marked by programs that embrace a STEM-based discipline that has integrated the humanities and social sciences. The Purdue Polytechnic Institute is leading that effort and making progress toward fulfilling the promise.
Integrated humanities studies is one of 10 elements that help define the transformation of the Polytechnic undergraduate curriculum. It also is one of the more challenging, but it can have a big payoff. The integration of technology studies with humanities and social science studies improves students’ critical thinking, creativity, logic and innovation skills. Industry has stated that college graduates, in general, do not possess these attributes despite how important they are in the digital age.
Further validation of the Polytechnic’s efforts to integrate humanities into our technical degrees and majors recently came from an editorial in Scientific American. It begins by criticizing politicians who are trying to de-emphasize liberal arts at universities and placing more emphasis on STEM disciplines.
It is pretty much universally accepted that our nation needs more STEM graduates to service and grow our modern economy. However, as the Scientific American article states, “Promoting science and technology education to the exclusion of the humanities may seem like a good idea, but it is deeply misguided. …The need to teach both music theory and string theory is a necessity for the U.S. economy to continue as the preeminent leader in technological innovation.”
The editors suggest that students may need to take steps to integrate their own plans of study. “The undergraduate able to cobble together a course schedule integrating STEM and the humanities may be able to reap rich rewards,” it states.
We in the Polytechnic are not leaving this to chance. We are designing curricula for the students that focus on this important integration. We are meeting with the leadership of Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts to work toward a common goal to integrate liberal arts and social sciences into our STEM disciplines.
I envision a time in the not too distant future when all our graduates will be able to boast not only that they have a degree in a Purdue Polytechnic Institute program, but also a deep learning experience from the College of Liberal Arts. This will become a defining attribute of the Polytechnic learning experience and one that will bring national and international recognition and reap rich rewards for our students and our college.