UC Santa Cruz Receives National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to Link Humanities and Engineering Studies

The certificate program will include new courses to broaden the perspectives of engineering students at Baskin regarding the effects and potential for positive impact of technology on the planet and its people. Victoria Ly, left, and Erik Jung with a picroscope, an incubator cell culture imaging device in Associate Professor Mircea Teodorescu’s lab. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

With a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), UC Santa Cruz will create a new Humanities Certificate introducing students enrolled at the Baskin School of Engineering to humanities disciplines aimed at helping them better understand the social and cultural impacts of technological change.

The $149,500 grant will be funded through NEH Humanities Initiatives at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, which seek to develop new humanities programs or strengthen existing courses. Twenty-one percent of incoming freshmen who intend to declare an engineering major identify as Hispanic/Latino, according to the Office of Institutional Research, Evaluation and Policy Studies.

Jasmine Alinder, Dean of Humanities, is the project’s principal investigator with linguistics professor Pranav Anand and literature professor Sean Keilen as co-principal investigators.

“We have three goals for the new certificate,” Alinder said. “Ensure that our many engineering students use humanistic methods to explore and understand the social, cultural and historical ramifications of new technologies; establishing deliberate general education requirements that students now complete at random; and, by introducing engineering students earlier to humanities disciplines, giving them options if they change majors, without extending their study time.

The core of this new certificate program will be new courses that will seek to broaden the perspectives of engineering students at Baskin regarding the effects and potential for positive impact of technology on the planet and its people. Some classes under study for this program include an exploration of the development of communication technologies throughout human history, a look at how new technologies and scientific innovations can both strengthen the voices of the BIPOC community while by reinforcing racial and patriarchal hierarchies, and a course that unpacks the ethical and sociopolitical issues surrounding technology. Although intended for engineering students, the courses will be open to all UCSC students.

These courses will also be deliberately designed to incorporate state-of-the-art, learner-centered teaching practices through collaboration between participating instructors and the Center for Teaching and Learning Innovations.

Jody Greene, Professor of Literature and Director of CITL, who originally proposed the development of a Humanities Certificate for Engineers in 2019, celebrated “the opportunity to design a comprehensive program from scratch, using what we, as a campus, have learned about active and engaged pedagogies over the past few years.”

Greene added that this certificate could be a model of new and creative educational opportunities for students who “build on UC Santa Cruz’s longstanding interdisciplinary excellence while honoring its history of educational experimentation and innovation.” ‘curriculum innovation’.

The ultimate goal is to ensure that Baskin Engineering students can, in their first two years, fulfill their general education requirements with a cohesive sequence of courses directly relevant to their majors in Applied Mathematics, Electrical Engineering, and Robotics. , computer science and biotechnology. By linking engineering education to subjects that resonate with students’ personal and community values, the Humanities Certificate has the potential to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to persevere in the engineering fields of their choice – areas in which they have always been excluded.

“Baskin’s engineering programs aim to develop the critical and humanistic thinking skills of our students. This certificate will deepen their understanding of the social and cultural aspects of new technologies,” said Alexander Wolf, Dean of the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz.

Development of this new humanities certificate will begin in earnest this spring, with a launch event scheduled for the start of the fall 2022 academic year. In winter 2024, the faculty plans to introduce a cornerstone involving projects as a team that will encourage a cohort of students to join the certificate program together and complete the capstone as a group, building needed skills in STEM fields.

“This is a fantastic achievement and very promising for our future of producing humanized technologists (and tech-infused humanists),” said campus provost and executive vice chancellor Lori Kletzer.

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