Why we still need to study humanities in a STEM-focused world
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Why we still need to study humanities in a STEM-focused world

Why we still need to study humanities in a STEM-focused world

In the age of disruption, the humanities has never been more essential to mankind than ever before.

This may not sound like it’s true, not when governments from China to Great Britain to Malaysia are pouring trillions of dollars into the sciences or when public discourse tends to paint the humanities as less relevant and useful than science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

But far from receding in importance, an education in the humanities has become extremely crucial.

A field that teaches communication, observation, empathy and logical thinking, they strengthen the very foundation that makes us what we are: human. They help us to learn, live and work productively with others, skills that employers today are looking for the most in their new recruits. Without these undervalued traits, we reduce our chances of succeeding or becoming good leaders. 

Entrepreneur Tracy Chou of Project Include regrets her younger self’s condescending attitude toward the humanities.

While building products at Quora and Pinterest, she and her team found themselves asking what it should be, whom it would serve, what behaviors they wanted to incentivize amongst users, what kind of community it would become, and what kind of value they hoped to create in the world.

When designing their anti-harassment feature, they had to think deeply about free speech and moderation. The philosophical question of whether people were by default good or bad were also raised.

The engineering graduate from Stanford found herself wishing she had a proper liberal arts education: “That I’d learned how to think critically about the world we live in and how to engage with it. That I’d absorbed lessons about how to identify and interrogate privilege, power structures, structural inequality, and injustice. That I’d had opportunities to debate my peers and develop informed opinions on philosophy and morality,” she wrote in Quartz.

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University of New Orleans

In choosing between the humanities and STEM as a course to take during university, students would do well to ask these same questions. They should note that a study found trained doctors who were exposed to the humanities had higher levels of positive personal qualities such as empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, wisdom, emotional intelligence, self-efficacy and visual-spatial skills.

It is worthwhile to take a step back and ask: What is the true purpose of a university education for you?

If it’s to develop the capacity for open-ended inquiry, or gain skills that will outlive the many “digital disruptions” to come, and be sought after by the biggest companies of today, then a humanities degree from any of these five universities is the answer.

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS – USA

The College of Liberal Arts, Education and Human Development is where traditional discipline barriers are broken down and students get to experience an innovative approach to learning the liberal arts. From an online Master of Fine Arts to BA in English or History, it’s hard to find a better place to study than in the living laboratory that is the culturally, ethnically, and artistically diverse city of New Orleans.

The Philosophy program is well-known for its high success rate in placing its graduates in law schools and other graduate programs across the country.

Another standout feature of the College is its Writing Workshops Abroad. Previous participants attended these workshops, lectures, performances, and excursions in places like Edinburgh, Prague, Madrid, San Miguel, Cork and Brunnenburg Castle. This year is UNO’s seventh in Cork, Ireland. A month-long program of study in Creative Writing, Literature, Philosophy & Film is planned for an unforgettable study abroad humanities experience.

UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN – CANADA

Offering degrees, certificates and minors in more than 60 different fields of study, the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is one of the largest and most diverse colleges on a Canadian university campus. Established in 1907, USask is a member of the U15 group of Canadian research-intensive universities and is the only university to hold two Canada First Research Excellence Funds.

The college’s humanities programs include the study of history, language, literature, philosophy and religion. With one of the strongest history departments in Canada, housing a Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine, studying the humanities propels College of Arts and Science students toward solutions-focused critical and creative thinking. Choose from courses such as Environmental Philosophy, History and Future of the Book, Scientific Terminology or Human Rights in History.

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USask

Many experiential learning opportunities ensure graduates of this college stand out. From internships and practicum courses, to undergraduate research experiences and study abroad opportunities, Arts and Science students put the arts into STEM to give their careers STEAM.

UNIVERSITY OF BATH – UK

As the 6th best university in the UK and 4th best for student experience, this university provides a high-calibre curriculum and engaging learning environments. With TEF Gold (2017) standard research, the university sheds light on subjects like internationalisation, academic leadership and language practice. 

The Humanities Department comprises six academic departments: Economics, Education, Health, Psychology, Social & Policy Sciences, Politics, Languages & International Studies. A diverse range of undergraduate courses covering economics, education, psychology, policy and languages are offered here, as well as a variety of taught and research-based postgraduate courses, from master’s to doctorate qualifications.

Many undergraduate students take a placement year as part of their degree. These include stints at a school in Derbyshire, the Bank of England and the International Citizen Service (ICS) in Nepal. It’s a great way to increase employability while gaining valuable work experience and contacts for the future.

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University of Bath

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON (UCL) – UK

The UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities at London’s Global University is ranked sixth in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). From Arts & Sciences to Languages and Philosophy, students can choose programmes of study from their nine departments: Arts and Sciences; English Language & Literature; European Social and Political Studies; Greek & Latin; Hebrew & Jewish Studies; Information Studies; Philosophy; Modern Languages (in the School of European Languages, Culture and Society); the Slade School of Fine Art.

Students benefit from London’s global connections, placements, partnerships & employment opportunities. They have landed placements at places like the British Museum, Science Museum, Bloomberg, Camden Carers Service and Transparency International UK. 

Master’s student Katarina Jesterle who interned at full-time position in their Technical Support department said: “This wouldn’t have been possible without the great support from UCL Careers, and Grad Club especially, who guided me through all the stages of my five interviews.”

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY – USA

Transcending boundaries is encouraged at the Humanities faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Whether your dream is to curate a museum, become an author or produce an original motion picture, it is possible as a humanities student here. Renowned faculty support and collaborate with students to break new ground and make an impact on society.

“Hopkins believes in the essential value of humanistic inquiry and its capacity to aid you in realising your aspirations and building lives you want to live and of which you will be proud,” said Ronald Daniels, Johns Hopkins University President.

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Johns Hopkins University

Some of the majors and minors here include: archaeology; classics; English; German and romance languages and literatures; history; history of art; history of science, medicine, and technology; Near Eastern studies; philosophy; and Writing Seminars. Students get to choose what they’re most passionate about and combine them according to their unique aspirations. Interdisciplinary courses are plenty for them to try out. 

*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International

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