By: Jasmine Saunders, Editor-in-Chief
On September 7, Dr. William D. Adams, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) visited Delaware State University to discuss how the humanities can retain its relevance with an increasingly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-oriented society.
According to a DSU press release, Dr. Adams met with President Dr. Harry L. Williams, spoke to group of people in Loockerman Hall, and then he rounded it off by having a meeting with DSU faculty and concerned students at the Optical Science Center for Applied Research (OSCAR) Building.
The topic of the meeting was that as the world is moving into the direction of STEM, it is leaving the humanities without much of a leg to stand on.
Even at DSU, STEM majors are getting a lot of grant funding from sources that are invested in developing students in these fields.
According to DSU’s 2015 Annual Report, the OSCAR was awarded a $5 million NASA grant “for a NASA research and education program.”
In the same report, it says that the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology had gotten a $300,000 grant from InterDigital Inc. to build three new laboratories in the Luna I. Mishoe Science Center: a lab for digital and analog electronics, a wireless communications, signal processing and controls lab and an advanced micro-controller design laboratory.
“Higher education [is] signaling this is what [they] value,” said Dr. Adams.
One person at the meeting even mentioned that the conditioning for perceived importance in STEM starts from youth.
For instance, DSU was the place where the Science and Technology Academy for Residence Scholars (STARS) program housed tenth to twelfth graders for a two week enrichment program where they are, according to the DSU website to “stimulate and extend the interest of high school students in the fields of mathematics, science and information technology.”
With all the programs that offer an introduction into STEM, how can the humanities compete?
A professor from the University of Delaware who was in attendance had an interesting response to this question.
He teaches a science course where he incorporates communications and has students who are science majors create projects to help decipher all the dense information for the average person to understand.
“We [the humanities] are makers of meaning,” he said.
Dr. Susmita Roye, associate professor of English, who was in attendance, also tries to incorporate technology into her courses.
While she does require no cellphones in her classrooms, she still takes a technological approach to her courses through use of Blackboard and holding online classes.
“There has to be a balance,” she said.
While not at the meeting, Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky, the Director of Special Programs for the OSCAR Building and professor spoke about the dilemma with keeping the humanities as relevant as STEM.
“These fields are artificially separated in academic environments,” he said. “In the real world, issues are really commingled.”
The issue is not that the humanities need to try and regain its relevance, it needs to be related back to STEM because the humanities are the “roots” of STEM, as Dr. Roye put it.