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Dietrich College embraces “STEMification”

Credit: Tami Tedesco/ Credit: Tami Tedesco/
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There may be no place on the internet more representative of the sentiment of Carnegie Mellon Univeristy students than Carnegie Mellon Memes for Spicy Teens. The Facebook Group consists of over 5000 members and countless jokes on various topics related to the Carnegie Mellon experience. A common theme throughout much of the group’s content in recent months has been mocking Dietrich College, the home of the humanities and social sciences at Carnegie Mellon. These memes often joke that Dietrich is not a “real college” and that the work done there is not as valuable as the work done at Carnegie Mellon’s science, engineering, and computer science colleges and schools.

While many of the sentiments expressed in this space are not meant to be taken seriously, there is likely still some anti-Dietrich sentiment among many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students at Carnegie Mellon. However, what these STEM students fail to recognize is that despite the college’s name, many students, faculty, and classes in the college of humanities and social sciences have as much or more to do with STEM than with the humanities and social sciences.

If the premise of the anti-Dietrich memes is that Dietrich College students and faculty ought to study STEM fields, then the students creating the memes have already largely won. In Dietrich College you will find very popular majors like Information Systems and Statistics. There are researchers applying computational methods to neuroscience, English and history. You can take classes like Modeling Complex Systems and Technology and Policy of Cyber War. Even the Dean of Dietrich College, Richard Scheines, has courtesy appointments in the Machine Learning Department and Human-Computer Interaction Institute on top of being a philosopher. And it’s not just Dietrich faculty who blend STEM with the humanities and social sciences. Computer Science Professor Luis von Ahn now leads Duolingo, a company which exists at the intersection of computer science and language acquisition.

To be clear, traditional research and education in the humanities and social sciences are very challenging and valuable. But there are thousands of colleges doing only the traditional kind of humanities and social science work. It is okay if one liberal arts college takes a different path. More than that, it is great that Dietrich College specializes in interdisciplinary studies and plays to the strengths of the university in Computer Science and STEM in general.

So before mocking Dietrich College, understand that it has already been influenced by the pro-STEM environment of the university, and while the traditional humanities and social sciences are important, the “STEMification” of Dietrich College is actually a good thing.