For more than twenty years, colleges have been responding to the public and private demand for highly qualified people with solid-subject matter expertise and technological abilities by expanding the size and expertise of faculty in STEM fields, creating strong STEM-based academic pathways, and investing in ultra modern engineering, maker spaces, hands-on lab facilities, and technology learning centers. Here are two of note:
Now, more students are applying to STEM and STEM-related fields and these majors and programs are increasingly more selective. Competition has increased for spaces in engineering, computer science, and business programs, and colleges are responding by developing new interdisciplinary majors. College admissions teams are also directly calling on students to look to the social sciences and humanities recognizing that we need all kinds of minds and subject matter expertise to work together.
I was thrilled to listen to a podcast of Kelly Corrigan interviewing Dr. Manuel Vargas, a philosophy professor at UCSD about the value of studying philosophy, and be able to relate it to my work with students. (For a quick listen, start at minute 17.) The two talk convincingly about how philosophy majors are not afraid to ask and attempt to answer big questions that analyze how we relate in community and seek to understand some of the world’s unsolved mysteries. Practice in using their brains to solve mind boggling challenges of ethics, the human mind, and the purpose of existence, philosophy students urgently seek truth about and further understanding of important principles, many that are still widely disagreed on. Vargas notes that the foundations of physics and mathematics began with questions posed and solved by philosophers.
The message here is that we need experts in the STEM field, but we also need the social scientists and creative artists and thinkers from all kinds of disciplines to help us solve many of the big problems we face as a society. University programs are evolving to help students operate in interdisciplinary spaces with the benefits of cross pollination where new ideas are created and diversity of thought and experience promotes progress. Colleges are offering new majors, more opportunities for minors and certificates, and even study that begins on one campus and finishes on another. Here are a few interesting programs I’ve recently learned more about:
Colorado University, Boulder – Certificate in Engineering, Ethics, & Society (engineering and philosophy intertwined!)
What a student can choose to study can be more tailored and personalized than ever before, and I enjoy helping my students consider all the possibilities and open their minds to the unique programs that are being created in this current environment.