Is STEM Field Push Hurting Liberal Arts Programs?

There seems to be a big push lately for students to go into the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields, and science and technologically-based careers are more in demand than ever.

In 2010, about one in 18 U.S. workers were working in a STEM profession.

On Friday, approximately 135 female high school students from across Trumbull County were at Kent State-Trumbull Campus for “The Road Not Taken,” a conference looking at non-traditional career choices for women.

One of those attendees was Camille Wyand, a sophomore at Howland High School. She has a pretty good idea of what she wants to do with her life.

“I’m really interested in math and science and I definitely want to have a career in math and science,” she said during the conference.

Cindy Harris, career development coordinator for the Trumbull Career and Technical Center, said some of the largest job growth in the next 20 or 30 years will be in the math and science fields.

For years, the Trumbull Career and Technical Center has partnered with Kent State Trumbull to offer the program for young teen girls.

“The goal of an event like this is to introduce and expose students to these kinds of opportunities and to help them to understand and get in touch with what they enjoy doing: What are they good at, what do they love to do, how then can they turn that into an education and career path,” Harris said.

And with the promise of oil and natural gas-related jobs coming to the area, the possibilities are endless.

“They could be the people working for an oil company, they could be the chemists working for an oil company, they could be the engineers,” Harris said.

But what about the careers that are more liberal arts-based? Will they lose funding as the focus seems to shift?

“I think the arts have generally always struggled. Support for the arts has always been a challenge, so even though there’s a push toward the sciences and moving lots of funding toward the sciences, the art situation I think is going to remain the same,” said Lou Zona, director of the Butler Institute of American Art.

Zona also teaches art history at Youngstown State University. He said he has not seen a decline in interest in liberal arts.

“It’s not your typical kind of career choice. It kind of chooses you. The arts choose you,” he said.

While the arts remain stable, STEM occupations are projected to grow 17 percent by 2018.

“I just really think it’s a great career to go into. I mean, math is the universal language,” Wyand said.

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