Liberal arts? STEM? It's a 'false dichotomy,' say some college leaders

A new focus on interdisciplinary work emerging

Despite political and media debates about the comparative value of the liberal arts and STEM, the two are more compatible than you may think, Sergei Klebnikov argues in Forbes.

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The recent buzz around science and engineering has been driven by the growth of jobs in those fields—and how much they are projected to keep expanding in the future, says Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Lead the Way.

So the new spotlight on science and engineering makes sense, says Alison Byerly, president of Lafayette College. But she also says the debate perpetuates a "false dichotomy."

"Seeing STEM as threatening to liberal arts is false," argues Byerly. "They are two important forms of education that complement each other."

Liberal arts institutions seem to be making an effort to reach across the aisle. Klebnikov says that leaders from Hollins University, Clark University, Wellesley College, Davidson College, and more told him they were integrating STEM offerings into their traditionally humanities-focused curriculums.

Some traditionally STEM-focused institutions are also incorporating more of the humanities into their curriculum and partnering with liberal arts institutions to provide a holistic education.

For example, the Rochester Institute of Technology is launching two new interdisciplinary degrees in human-centered computing and digital technology (Klebnikov, Forbes, 6/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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