Education - Page 9 - A Marriage for Success

- Page 9
A Marriage for Success
Infusing technology into the liberal arts reaps rewards

By Linda L. Esterson, Contributing Writer

After sitting in on forensics classes while at Eastern Technical High School in Dundalk, Candice Miller enrolled at the University of Baltimore. Her intent was to pursue legal studies, and she chose jurisprudence as her major with the intent of applying for early entry to law school.

As a freshman, she enrolled in an introductory philosophy course as required.

“I fell in love with it,” recalls the rising junior. “The way the class is taught is different. It’s not about regurgitating information. You grow as a student.”

Miller particularly notes a class called international law and morality, which involves applying ethical theories to the international arena. At the time of the interview, she was working on a paper questioning whether the ethical arguments of intellectual property rights should be more valuable than human rights. For instance, is it unethical for pharmaceutical companies not to sell a cocktail used to combat a particular virus to people suffering in impoverished countries at a reasonable price?

Philosophical theories on ethics offered in liberal arts courses, including the ethics of technology, have proved intriguing to Miller, whose interest saw her join a team and compete in the Business Ethics Bowl at Mount St. Mary’s University. She and a classmate earned third place. Ethics of technology offered many ethical questions about using cameras and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, for example.

Miller enjoys innovative and philosophical ideas leading to questions that do not have defined answers.

“That’s how we grow,” she says. “Technology is about that growth.”

Intrigued by other philosophy courses, Miller now has changed her early-entry pre-law emphasis to philosophy instead of jurisprudence.

At the University of Baltimore, philosophy instructors explore the relationship between liberal arts and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), particularly related to ethics and technology. According to Joshua J. Kassner, JD, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, students are exposed to important ethical questions that researchers must consider in the technology-driven workplaces in existence today.

“Technology is driving new ethical questions that if students are not exposed to these questions they can flounder in the workplace,”  adds Steven Scalet, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at the University of Baltimore. “At this level, college education exposes them to puzzling questions that can become essential to be able to navigate in the

These questions relate to the growing technological advances in most every field. What about the humans who are replaced by technology? What about the ethical questions related to automatic piloting a plane or the self-driving cars? Where is the ethical responsibility when the vehicle has an accident with casualty?

“Liberal arts education provides the resources for answering the questions where there were no obvious questions,” says Scalet.

The philosophy major in liberal arts enables students to think creatively when solutions to problems are uncertain, he adds. This creative thinking enables innovation.

“If we think about people engaged in start-ups not with a plan to adhere to or easy identifiable standards,” notes Kassner, “they are trying to come up with a solution in an environment where the answer is unclear.”

Just having the technology piece in place is not enough for the entrepreneur or innovator.

“Just having the information is not sufficient,” Scalet notes. “Often times, we see those who succeed have the knack for asking the right questions at the right time. That’s not merely about having the information.

“Philosophy and liberal arts train people to ask questions, not merely synthesize information but use the information to formulate questions that lead to new discoveries,” he adds.

An interesting question is asked of applicants for admission to Goucher College, according to Chris Wild, assistant director of admissions.

Beginning in summer 2014, the Goucher admissions process endured a “shake up,” making the application process less stressful and open to more students. This countered the thinking that without a number of Advanced Placement courses and service work every summer, college acceptance was not within reach.

Wild notes that 75.5 percent of students are accepted to their first choice schools, and 80 percent of schools in the country admit more than half of their applications. This 2015 freshman data from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA indicates that most students get into the schools they want to attend.

To make the process less stressful and more fun for applicants, Goucher added a video application option, enabling students to scrap the tedious written essay and instead submit a video essay, which enabled admissions counselors to get to know the students, their passions and their ability to articulate an idea. The two-minute video explains why the candidate would flourish at Goucher, and how they see their passions play out on the Towson campus. The video application requires demonstrating thoughtfulness, clarity and effectiveness, structure and organizational skills.

Students display creativity as well. One student this year provided a “Hamilton”-inspired rap, another narrated over imagery and another used a webcam to tell his story.

“It’s like sitting down and talking to the student,” notes Wild. “It gets a personal feel to it.” Also included in the application is a two-to-five-page graded school assignment. The assignment could fall under any discipline, like portfolio artwork, collection of poems or short stories, chapter of a novel or even a mathematical equation set.

Just as the video application has left tradition, Goucher has added curriculum to move away from the traditional liberal arts model. Interdisciplinary seminars based on solving problems, called Center Pair Explorations, will be offered in spring 2018.

Liberal arts, continued on page 11

Liberal arts and technology innovation

Innovation often relates to new and growing technology, but today’s successful innovator has a liberal arts background that has molded creative thinkers and better communicators.

Steve Jobs famously connected the two, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”

At an Apple World Wide Developers Conference before his 2011 death, Jobs explained that Apple was not just a tech company, even though it was responsible for creating some of the highest technology products in the world. “It is the marriage of that plus the humanities and the liberal arts that distinguishes Apple,” he said.

That advice holds true six years later. Today’s innovator must also be a critical thinker and a communicator. •