Social Sciences... We Don't do That Here
By: Aaliyah Karim
Published: August 18 2021

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You might be wiping sweat from your brow right now or looking over your shoulder - guilty of saying the aforementioned. To some extent, I get it. Hamlet wasn’t really that great.  Writing essays can be difficult and confusing. Thinking about something other than engineering is next to impossible. You’re not alone in these thoughts. 

But to avoid acknowledging the intersectionality between engineering and the social sciences, or even worse, denying its importance , you may be missing out on expanding your horizons and challenging your character. Let me tell you how.

Broadening Our Perspective

The world we live in is ever-changing, requiring frequent adaptation. Throughout our lifetime we may expect to work across different fields and change our careers several timesflsjfkdl. In order to help us best adjust to this multi-setting lifestyle, it’s critical that we adopt certain skills. To list a few: interpersonality, empathy, communication via the written and spoken word, self-critical reflection, and civility. 
   
Through investigating ideas and human culture, we are being offered a window into understanding society and how it functions. It introduces us to notions from outside our areas of comfort and challenges our status quo. To think about who we once were, and who we will become. The humanities demand more of our imagination and our creative thinking skills (which may be why some engineering students are turned off by it). However, in doing so, we unknowingly are given tools to reimagine the future.

The Importance of Interdisciplinary Learning
The theory of constructivism suggests that people construct their own knowledge, by integrating what they are experiencing with what they already know. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to engineering, we are enabling ourselves to create entirely new experiences, and relating them to our current understanding of the world. Oftentimes, interdisciplinary learning includes the nurturing of foundational knowledge and harmonizing this with ideas from across disciplines (shout out to the Engineering Physics stream) . Through constructivism, we can learn to connect the dots and identify any parallels between ideas, which encourages creative problem-solving skills! 

Additionally, studying a wide range of diverse topics might open doors for discovering an entirely new interest! 

Our Futures Have Endless Possibilities 

We are not presented with two choices; either we adopt a logical, scientific approach to problems, or a value-driven, empathetic approach. You don’t have to fall into the category of being a nerdy, anti-social engineer who can only speak in beeps and boops.  We are certainly not confined to the stereotypes we are associated with. 

Next time you find yourself saying, “This is why I went into engineering!” (or anything along those lines), pause to think about why that is. 

Engineering doesn’t imply the absence of writing, reading, or imaginative thinking. It encompasses all these things and more. Engineering is crucial to our society; it’s behind everything! As it is a field so vital to the development of our world, we need engineers who have great collaborative skills, adaptability, and good work ethic, in addition to the obvious problem-solving skills. According to PayScale’s 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report, 44% of hiring managers

identified writing-skills to be the most lacking in new graduates, and 39% said that public speaking skills were dire as well.  

Writing, which is so often associated with the social sciences, shifts the responsibility of learning away from the teacher and onto the student. It is an integrative process that involves both the discovering of knowledge and the expressing of it. In engineering, writing often comes up in the context of scientific reports, emails, communicating technical information, and delivering messages between departments. Good writing in engineering brings clarity to projects and decreases the chance of miscommunication, which can potentially prevent blunders and other errors. 

Final Thoughts   

If you find yourself with an aversion to anything related to the social sciences, I’d highly recommend for you to step out of your comfort zone and pursue hobbies or interests that are entirely different. You could join a public speaking club, challenge yourself to read one book this month, or take a course in a non-STEM department . Identify the skills that you believe need improvement and investigate ways in which you can develop them. 

To further inspire yourself, you could look into the lives of people who’ve successfully delved into both the arts and the sciences. Some examples include Ibn Sina (Avicenna), both a philosopher and a physician of the Islamic Golden Age, or Leonardo Da Vinci, an artist and engineer, amongst many other things.

As you hopefully begin to reflect on the intersections between these two important fields in your life, don’t forget the saying; “Step so far out of your comfort zone that you forget how to come back”. 
 

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it at least once as engineering students. There are different ways to say it, and it usually comes up when writing is brought up in conversation. 

 

  • “This is why I went into engineering.”

  • “English class was my worst nightmare!”

  • “Blah blah humanities is dumb blah blah!”

  • “Social sciences… We don’t do that here!”