Friday, Oct. 1, 2021
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Well, this is the term many of our recruiters use when describing our graduates. When I inquired what they meant by this term, their response was, “Graduates of S&T are ready to engage with our projects on day one.”
Translation: graduates of S&T are economically savvy, environmentally conscious, globally aware, diversity-minded, challenge-ready professionals who are prepared, willing and able to provide critical contributions to critical global challenges. More than “street ready,” our graduates are “career ready” and “life ready.” And our humanities and social sciences curricula play an important role in their development.
I am often asked, why is humanities and social science education so important in a technology-centric university such as S&T?
You see, universities like Missouri S&T work at the forefront of many developing technologies, but there is far more to the notion of “street-ready engineers” than technology alone. Issues related to the impact of technology on the environment, global health, privacy, natural resources, space exploration and more all demand serious investigation of the role science and technology play in our world. And broader questions of economics, diversity and community development require insights provided by humanists and social scientists as well as scientists and engineers.
Last week, I was delighted to participate in a national symposium titled “The Futures of STS in Engineering and Polytechnic Universities.” Hosted by and at S&T, the symposium was a terrific set of presentations and discussions on the future directions of science, technology and society (STS) that brought together scholars from around the country to engage in important questions about how science and technology affect, and are affected by, people. The event was hosted by our own Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) and was funded by the National Science Foundation. Although the symposium covered many topics, the common thread was the tremendous value that history, philosophy, literature, sociology and other non-STEM disciplines bring to STEM-focused universities like S&T.
You would be proud of the STS research that our own faculty accomplish, and I know how critical it is for our students to leave S&T with the SKAs (skills, knowledge and abilities) to address society’s challenges from many perspectives. Individuals from a single discipline can rarely solve important problems. It takes teams of people – scientists and technologists and engineers and humanists and social scientists – all working together to provide critical contributions to critical global challenges. The symposium, in my view, was designed to build internal and external bridges, to ensure that our graduates are not only able to address challenging engineering issues but also able to articulate how the world can be different if they achieve the goals of their education and research. In the age of artificial intelligence, fuzzy logic and autonomous systems, our “street-ready engineers” must be able to answer questions such as, “When the automated system pulls the trigger, who is responsible?”
In its successful efforts to build bridges, our CSTS has sponsored many exciting research projects that will make a difference in our local, national, and international communities. To name just a few:
STS scholarship on our campus will soon benefit from a new research space called the Collaboratory. Partially endowed by our own Dr. Petra DeWitt, associate professor of history, the Collaboratory will provide humanities and social science professors a collaborative environment where they, and their students, can work on technology-driven research projects. The formal opening and ribbon-cutting to launch the Collaboratory and DeWitt Gallery will take place 2-4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, in Room G-2 of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, and you’re all invited to attend and visit this important new campus lab.
All of us here at S&T work to make sure that our students learn everything necessary to have a successful career. But as educators, we do more than just train them for a profession. It’s our graduates’ deeper understanding of how and why they do what they do that results in “street-ready engineers,” and the knowledge that this requires is much broader than the technical know-how our graduates are famous for.
Wishing you a good weekend!
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