LIBERAL ARTS FOR GEEKS

I fondly remember my hardworking days at the Rochester Institute of Technology where I earned a chemistry degree.  My alma mater has a sterling reputation for its outstanding degree programs in science, engineering, and technology.

That being the case, people don’t always think about RIT and other technical schools placing an emphasis on the liberal arts.  I believe that thinking is changing because the emphases are changing.  Increasing numbers of institutions of higher education are recognizing the importance of broad knowledge and not just specialized knowledge.  William Dube, writing in RIT: The University Magazine (“Making Liberal Arts Matter” Fall 2011, pp. 17–18), elaborates:

“The college ensures students in all majors don’t leave RIT without experiencing the social sciences and humanities.  The goal is to make liberal arts matter for engineers and scientists and in the process create more engaged thinkers.” (p. 17)

This strategy dovetails with the central thesis of Daniel H. Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005).  Pink contends the future of our world will increasingly demand people who have developed right-brain thinking skills and not just left-brain thinking skills.  We need people who are able to think big-picture, conceptually, globally, and contextually about all the knowledge coming at us so we can “make meaning.”  RIT’s dean of the College of Liberal Arts recognizes the validity of this approach:

“Some might question why a technical university would focus on developing strong programs in subjects such as public policy, philosophy, fine arts, communication and modern languages and culture.  But it has been proven that these disciplines assist scientists and engineers in becoming better managers, writers and critical thinkers.” (p. 17)

We know some of the greatest inventions and industry developments were derived from the intersection of a technical discipline with a discipline at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Somehow, this crosspollination bears fruit.  Being able to take insights from one discipline and think about them in a different discipline often unlocks new insights we otherwise never would have discovered.  When we entertain multiple fields of inquiry, our fields of opportunity grow exponentially.

Liberal arts for geeks?  I vote yes—but not just for geeks!





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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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