Engineering For The Liberal Arts Soul
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Student Life

Engineering For The Liberal Arts Soul

Flexing your left (or right) brain muscles isn't going to kill you.

Engineering For The Liberal Arts Soul

For the past few summers and winter breaks, I’ve worked as a marketing intern at a small, elite, and very intense engineering college outside of Boston. That’s the school’s entire focus: engineering. That's the only thing you can get a degree in.

Students came from all over the country and as far away as China, India and South Korea to research and build cutting edge mechanical and technical advancements.

I felt, easily, like the dumbest person on the entire campus.

This is not entirely new. I’ve struggled with “left brain” subjects my whole life; every piece of science and math homework was met with screaming, tutors and several breaks to drink some cold water and calm the hell down. Even the macroeconomics class I took sophomore year of college required a weekly meltdown call to my father because I needed his help to understand Keynesian models. It was very un-feminist.

Part of my job at the college was to write weekly blogs about the engineering projects students were working on. And I got so, so sick of not understanding a word out of their mouths, or when a bunch of punk-ass seventeen-year-olds laughed at me when I asked what a Raspberry Pi was. (For the record, it’s a mini-motherboard. It’s cute.)

So I started taking a coding class online during my lunch breaks.

I loved it. I loved learning Ruby at my own pace, with no grades or pressure about where my competency level “should” be, because I was already the slowest person in ten square miles! I loved that for once, numbers were doing what I wanted them to, instead of flipping places and becoming blurry when I looked at them or when some teacher inconsiderately lined them into complicated algebra equations.

Most of all, I liked learning about something besides character arcs and "this symbolizes that the author hates his father". I felt a part of me was engaged in learning in a way it had never been before, and in turn, my confidence in my place in the STEM world grew.

At the same time I was starting to feel less out of place, I saw the students I was sent to report on giving rushed, mumbling presentations. They rattled off numbers but stared blankly when asked to break them down into layman's terms. Their PowerPoints were in 10-point font that gave you a headache to read. They’d fallen victim to the same thinking I had, but in reverse; that the world didn’t need them to learn communication skills or engaging writing because they were majoring in a STEM field.

Something I learned, long before my brief foray into the Silicon world, is that the idea of an analytical left brain and a creative right one isn’t a scientific fact. It’s a metaphor, a story that has gradually been accepted as a given truth (writers tend to do that - present company included.)

But people can’t survive with only one half of their brain running. We’re not dolphins. Likewise, the world, the citizens of the 21st century, can’t survive, let alone flourish, if we force people to pick an educationjust in STEM or just in liberal arts. So writing majors should learn some coding. Physics students should take an Art and Design class. Technical and creative arts education shouldn't be mutually exclusive. In fact, people thrive when the two are put together.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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