Study Literature First, Then Learn to Code

A recent New York Times Op-Ed suggests a humanities background is just the thing for future software developers. Challenging the view that students interested in careers in software should learn to code at the expense of other priorities, Bradford Hipps makes the case for devoting the undergraduate years to liberal arts. Software, he argues, is “far more creative than algorithmic” which makes a liberal arts background uniquely helpful in solving the kinds of challenges developers face.

Follow the link below to the full piece.*

To Write Better Code, Read Virginia Woolf


*Thanks to Scott Miller for the reference.

Astrophysicist Makes Case for Humanities Education

In a recent NPR commentary, University of Rochester astrophysics professor, Adam Frank, argues that college affords a singular opportunity for personal development that would be squandered if treated as “nothing more than job training.” A more balanced approach understands that the “old barriers between the humanities and technology are falling,” and a complete education will incorporate technical training within a broader liberal arts experience.

Follow the link for the full commentary.

Humanities Meets Computer Science

Building on the widespread growth of digital humanities programs across the country, a pilot program at Stanford University enables students in humanities fields to cultivate stronger computing skills with a combined major in computer science. While the program won’t necessarily turn these students into professional programmers, it gives them the chance to tailor their course of study by finding ways the two fields can complement each other. In other words, they can acquire computational skills in information management, analysis, and visualization that augment their humanities research interests.

See the link below to the Chronicle of Higher Education article.*


Thanks to President Kevin Worthen for the reference.

Asking “Big Questions” in College

Popular courses at Yale and Suffolk universities explore “the life worth living” by reading and discussing religion, art, philosophy, and fiction. Both courses encourage a more reflective approach to education, one that has always been a hallmark of the liberal arts tradition. The course at Suffolk was developed with support from an NEH “Enduring Questions” grant. The grant promotes question-centered learning on topics addressed by the humanities.

See links to descriptions of both courses from Huffington Post, as well as the NEH description of the grant.

The “Good Life” at Yale

Suffolk University’s “Big Questions”

Enduring Questions Grant

NYT on Humanities in the Computer Age

New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks argues that the dramatic increases in computing power will place a greater premium on relational work in the future.

David Brooks on The New Romantics


*Thanks to Lindsay Johnson for the link.

A Liberal Arts Degree Offers Long-Term Value

Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at the Wharton School, argues in a recent editorial on CNBC that students who spend their college careers in so-called “practical” majors may be on a riskier career path than their counterparts in the humanities. Using college to learn a narrow sub-specialty can make you vulnerable to the ever changing trends of the marketplace and, at the same time, less equipped to adapt to new professional opportunities.

Rather than trying to outguess the market to dictate what you study, students would be better off getting a broader education in something they are passionate about. According to Cappelli: “Taking the long view that college is preparation for life, including a lifetime of jobs, really does make more sense than seeing it as job training.”

Follow the link for the full piece.*



*Thanks to Rebecca Brazzale for the reference.

How a Liberal Arts Degree Became “Tech’s Hottest Ticket”

A recent issue of Forbes surveys an array of companies in the high tech sector that are discovering how “liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.” The article also challenges conventional thinking on labor statistics which has prioritized narrow technical training as the best professional preparation. As technical skills become more easily automated, industries such as software are placing a premium on a non-technical talent field.

The full article is linked below.*


*Thanks to Kristin Matthews for the reference.

Top Medical School Calling for “Well-Rounded Humanists”

A recent NPR story highlights efforts by Mt. Sinai School of Medicine to attract humanities majors.

Mt. Sinai’s HuMed program addresses the problem of an overly homogenous student body consisting of students from narrowly-defined science backgrounds. Lack of diversity in education and interests, known as “pre-med syndrome,” actually produces less effective doctors.

According to Mt. Sinai’s dean of medical education “Science is the foundation of an excellent medical education, but a well-rounded humanist is best suited to make the most of that education.” Since beginning the program in 1987, Mt. Sinai’s humanities graduates have been just as successful as other students in the medical coursework.

The link below connects to NPR’s written and audio versions of the story.


The Digital Convergence of the Sciences and Humanities

Brown University professor Elias Muhanna offers an account of how a digital humanities project with a cross-disciplinary focus  altered his relationship to his work. He draws upon this experience to generalize about the role of digital scholarship in the future of the Humanities.

Muhanna’s piece appeared in The New Yorker linked below.*
Hacking the Humanities


*Thanks to Melinda Semadeni for the link.

Fareed Zakaria on Thinking Beyond STEM

In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, Fareed Zakaria challenges our country’s obsession with STEM fields at the expense of the humanities. Zakaria suggests that minimizing liberal arts education actually undermines our capacity to innovate. He brings his characteristic interest in international comparison to bear in arguing the America’s historical advantages in fostering a culture of ingenuity stem from its relative commitment to broad-based learning. He goes on to make that practical case that companies prefer “strong basics” over “narrow expertise” knowing that products and services distinguish themselves through narrative, not easily replicable technology. The same goes for employees.

See the link below for the full article.*

Zakaria on the Limitations of STEM

*Thanks to Braden Bolten for the reference.