A Role for the Arts in STEM
By: Anthony Herrera
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) in UMB Graduate School.
The debate for STEAM education has been on-going for the better part of this decade. And for full disclosure, I am a proponent of incorporating the creative arts and design principles into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. But I am aware of some of the criticisms of STEAM education. The former dean of Georgia Tech College of Engineering, while agreeing that the arts and humanities are a significant part of every student’s education, is concerned that the pendulum may swing too far and begin to dilute the critical STEM skills needed for America’s workforce. This logic also argues that the limited resources made available by the America COMPETES Act should not be allocated toward non-STEM disciplines. Other arguments go further in saying that arts are incompatible with STEM, or that the importance of the arts should stand on their own.
I believe that the arts, in its varied and diverse iterations, can serve a vital role in STEM. The natural curiosities fostered by the arts only serve to burnish the intellectual curiosity in the sciences. Additionally, the arts can help grow creative thinking skills that can complement the critical thinking skills that are developed in STEM education. The arts promote the types of innovation skills that UMB had in mind when it created The Grid at the BioPark. For the introverts among us, the arts also encourage personal communication and expression. They also provide an outlet for individual passions and can improve mental and emotional well-being. Let’s be honest, Graduate School is stressful and we all need to take some time away from our studies to blow off some…STEAM (amirite?). I’m not saying STEAM education would turn us into well-rounded polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci, but really, that’s not a bad role model to emulate. But the main reason why I’m a proponent of the arts is that I find it fascinating when I find that someone has a passion for the arts, whether as a creator or a consumer. It usually gets me out of small talk and into more substantial conversations.
For the sake of my curiosity, I wanted to run a short, 2-question survey to gauge the level and types of artistic interests among student in the Graduate School. Take 30 seconds and let me know what you think. I’ll report the results in a future Grad Gazette.