Bravman emphasizes essentiality of both liberal arts and STEM

Reed Widdoes, Staff Writer

University President John Bravman served as the guest lecturer for the class, Engineering: A Humanist Enterprise” on Feb. 26 in the Elaine Langone Center (ELC) Forum. The class tackles the human aspects of engineering and enables students to identify and describe the different human dynamics in the field.

Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Philip Asare transformed the lecture from his class into an event open to the public. During the lecture, Bravman was encouraged to explore the question, “Is engineering a liberal art?”

Bravman, a former professor at Stanford University, earned a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering. Combining his expertise in engineering with his knowledge as a University president, Bravman explained the relationship between the liberal arts and the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields to those in attendance.

Referencing an article published in the New York Times, Bravman spoke about the distinction author Kwame Appiah makes between “utility and utopia”: STEM disciplines offer utility–degrees which provide students with jobs after college–and liberal arts disciplines offer utopia–paths meant to expand the mind. Bravman disputes the idea that these two are independent of each other, saying “Can we speak about the utility of the liberal arts, and the aesthetics of engineering?”

Bravman stated that both instructions are essential to the progression of civilization. Asare added to this sentiment, explaining that “[s]ociety must have both engineering and the liberal arts in order to advance.”

Students who attended the lecture appeared to agree with Bravman’s position.

“I think the barrier between the two [liberal arts and engineering disciplines] should be broken down to encourage more cooperation,” Jake Bower ’16 said.

“I really appreciated how President Bravman approached the fusing of liberal arts and engineering. What makes Bucknell great is the aspect of engineering having a liberal arts requirement,” Doug King ’16 said.

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