February 14th, 2013
In April I am participating in “Science and Technology Studies (STS) in the Liberal Arts,” a conference on the role, if any, of STS in an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum. While some of the themes are pragmatic, the goal of the conference is to bring together faculty from liberal arts colleges across the country to articulate how and why STS should be part of the undergraduate experience.
Some of the questions that will frame our discussion include:
- Are there emerging methods for teaching in programs that bridge the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences?
- How might we make connections with small and large businesses, government agencies, and NGOs, who could possibly employ our STS graduates?
- How can the core competencies of an STS graduate be articulated on the open job market? How can we be sure we’re addressing these at small liberal arts colleges?
- Are there strategic ways of building relationships to other multidisciplinary fields, such as Media Studies and the Digital Humanities?
- How might collaborations between small liberal arts colleges foster fundable undergraduate opportunities across or between institutions?
- What modes of curricular organization already exist for undergraduate STS programs?
- How could we align general education, major, and minor courses to enhance the educational experience for students in STS programs and to highlight the contributions that STS makes to campus-wide discussions?
- How could we tailor the content of STS classes for our diverse students, who generally have greater or lesser interest in science or engineering as subjects and as careers?
- How could we integrate cutting-edge issues into the curriculum, especially since our seniors seem so interested in what’s new? Could we do so through a junior seminar on current STEM, maybe a class that incorporates interviews with leading scientists and policy makers?
- How can we use relevant technologies to enhance our teaching?
- How should we understand the relation between the STS curriculum and the sciences, and what role should science courses and science faculty play in STS within the liberal arts colleges?
- How might wider recognition of STS contribute to ongoing reflection on the character and role of the “liberal arts & sciences” for the 21st Century?
What are other ways to think about the relationship between the undergraduate curriculum and STS? How else can we teach STS? Are there other issues that spring to mind? And most broadly, how do we justify committing precious student time and effort to STS or history of science in a curriculum and society that increasingly privileges science and pre-professional subjects over more humanistic ones?