The College of William and Mary has always been known for its history and therefore has developed the reputation as a school with a focus on the humanities. Regardless, not all students walk around quoting Chaucer, theorizing about Kant or reciting the U.S. Constitution. The College has well-respected science and math departments. It is important that the College strives to emphasize these occasionally overlooked areas in order to break down the inaccurate stereotype that it is an institution only developed for the arts. This importance is increased by the fact that more and more attention is being placed on education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The focus on STEM education began with encouragement from the U.S. government after the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment comparison ranked the U.S. 21 and 25 out of 30 developed countries in science and math respectively. Currently, the White House is sponsoring a movement called Educate to Innovate, which shifts the focus of education toward STEM fields. As a response to this movement, education at all levels has focused on improving the country’s standings in these fields.
As education promotes these fields, the College must be prepared to do the same by promoting its science and math departments in order to break its humanities-only stereotype.
The STEM-outreach summer programs are working to break down that stereotype by hosting K-12 science and technology teachers at workshops dedicated to improving education in these areas. This gives these teachers the chance to learn more about the College’s own STEM programs and experience the facilities that the College has to offer. By holding the programs every year, the College is able to create solid relationships with teachers who always return to take part in the program. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship in which the teachers are able to learn about new and creative ways to teach STEM classes, and in return, the teachers are more likely to recommend the College to their own STEM students. This will increase competitiveness to attend the College, which will boost the standing in all degrees from the College.
Furthermore, this program provides a cohesive tie between the College’s School of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. Not only, then, does this program strengthen the College’s reputation in STEM areas, but it also endorses the School of Education’s status among educators.
As the College works continuously to improve its reputation, it must be able to follow through with STEM education. The emphasis on increasing STEM education in the United States does not seem to be disappearing quickly, so the College needs to make sure that it is doing everything possible to meet this trend in education.
In no way am I suggesting that the College ignore the humanities — as an English and linguistics double major myself, that would be nearly blasphemous. The College is a liberal arts institution; it should emphasize all areas of education equally. It will probably never be known as an engineering powerhouse like Virginia Tech, but that isn’t the image that the College needs to promote. Instead, it needs to foster the image that it can provide a strong education for students in all subject areas, so that a degree from the College will carry significant weight in any field — not only in the humanities.