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Engineering students weigh in on new arts requirements

BY RAPHAEL GELFAND | JUNE 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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Incoming University of Iowa engineering students this fall will have a different curriculum from that of those who came before them.

The College of Engineering has decided to add a new general-education requirement for future engineering students. The requirement states that new undergraduates must take at least three semester hours of creative arts classes.

“In addition to providing a rigorous undergraduate engineering education, the college has long focused on key nontechnical areas to help enhance a student’s academic experience,” said Engineering Dean Alec Scranton in a press release.

Students, however, have mixed reactions to the move.

“I chose to do a Chinese minor, and I’m already taking 18 credit hours a semester,” said electrical-engineering junior Blake Campbell. “So if they would have told me that I would have had to take these extra credit hours … I may never have decided to pursue this minor.”

According to the engineering-school website, students currently have a general-education requirement of 15 semester hours, and they may choose courses from more than 30 different departments.

The engineering school’s proposal for the creative arts states the courses are designed to complement Engineering Problem Solving I — currently a required class — and provide skills to first-year students on creative problem solving.

“I think this will be beneficial for students,” said UI mechanical-engineering senior Bailey Krstic. “Engineering requires a certain degree of creativity; we’re problem solvers, finding unique and alternative solutions is what we do.”

In the future, the college’s Curriculum Committee is planning to work with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to create and develop more arts-based classes.

One of the main purposes of these courses is that they be “maker” courses that focus on activity rather than study of knowledge.

These courses will be drawn from theater, painting, sculpture, 3-D design, creative writing, music composition, and cinema and will focus on active learning specifically designed to benefit engineering students.

“I think if they’re interested in broadening the academic experience, then designing the classes to complement engineering would somewhat ruin the point,” said incoming chemical-engineering freshman Adam Weis. “Not to mention it wouldn’t diversify the class; it would still be engineers with engineers rather than a mix.”

Many incoming freshmen may not be aware of this change in curriculum because officials did not decide on the change until the middle of May.

“I would rather they force us to do something extra besides engineering,” Weis said. “But let us choose it; that way it feels less restrictive.”

According to the press release, the push for this cross discipline educative expansion is partially in response to the increase in job placement for engineers in more than the typical engineering carriers.

“Not that I don’t think this will be valuable; it just ties into my belief that this could take away from some students’ passions on the other side of the humanities spectrum,” Campbell said.


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