Students entering university revel in their newfound educational independence: After completing their basic core requirements, they can study whatever interests them. However, after making the initial distinction between science and humanities majors, students tend to cling to their respective choice and to avoid any exploration of the other field. Liberal arts majors often groan at the mention of equations and science majors frequently cringe at the thought of essays, neither recognizing the practical benefits of the other course of study.
We may not despise the other side as much as we think we do, but declaring a major is a type of personal labeling that inevitably causes us to believe, for example, “I’m an English major because I can’t do math” or “I’m a biology major because I hate writing.” While higher education specialization is necessary and desirable, this narrow-minded perspective on knowledge not only restricts our intellectual scope but also limits our professional possibilities.
Created in 1935, the Plan II Honors program at UT embodies cross-disciplinary study, as it emphasizes the importance of the sciences and the humanities alike and their real-world applications when unified. However, despite its success in dispelling the respective stereotypes of science and humanities fields by having students study both, its competitive admission makes it exclusive to a relatively small body of students, sidelining the majority of the student population at the University.
The argument against a more holistic higher education experience may rely on the fact that there is simply no room in the majority of students’ schedules to include classes from both the humanities and the sciences beyond the basic core requirements. Once a major is declared, there is a very specific track students must follow to graduate on time.
However, certificate programs present every student with the opportunity to specialize in his or her own field while still acquiring knowledge from others. A recently proposed certification program offers pre-med, pre-dental and pre-pharmacy students an opportunity to study their chosen field with the tools of the social sciences and through the lens of the humanities, according to The Daily Texan. Courses such as sociology of health and illness, philosophy of mind and body and global health are designed to increase students’ appeal to medical schools by providing them with a broader education.
While certificate programs are accessible to a wider population of undergraduates, it is ultimately the responsibility of the student to become involved. Students must be willing to put forth the extra effort to seek these programs to enrich their university experience and broaden their professional appeal. In the case of the humanities certification program, many students expressed enthusiastic interest, claiming that their schedules had been too narrow and did not allow for significant exploration of the humanities.
Majors in both the sciences and humanities certainly offer specific indispensable professional skills. The sciences promote innovation and real-world application of methodologies and theories, while the humanities train students in problem solving, analyzing and communication. Since people of both the sciences and humanities often collaborate to encompass such a broad range of knowledge, there is no reason to ignore one while eagerly pursuing the other.
Manescu is an international relations and journalism freshman.