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Science, Technology and Society News

New Minor Expands STS Concepts Beyond Scholars

The Science, Technology and Society (STS) Scholars program has long pushed students to consider the ethical, social and political implications of science, research and technology. It’s the kind of thinking that isn’t readily incorporated into most STEM curricula, despite the high likelihood that these students will one day design or introduce innovations that could significantly impact society. Thanks to a new minor, however, more University of Maryland students will soon be exposed to STS teachings.

The science, technology, ethics and policy minor is jointly sponsored by the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the School of Public Policy and the College of Information Studies. It will be led by Dr. David Tomblin, who continues to serve as director of the STS Scholars program.

“I hold out hope that there is a fairly decent body of students out there craving this kind of education,” Tomblin says, referencing the positive reception he has received when giving guest lectures in engineering classes. “Quite a few students realize this [ethics component] is missing from their education, which is why we’re offering this minor.”

While the minor is meant to expand the lessons of STS to non-Scholars students—though without the living–learning component that makes College Park Scholars a particularly valuable experience—Tomblin explains it also will allow existing STS students the opportunity to expand upon their Scholars curriculum. The minor offers three areas of concentration: the sociopolitical implications of science and technology, science and technology development, and information economy. “Depending on which track they want to study, we’ll accept a certain number of STS Scholars courses” as credit toward the minor, Tomblin says.

Other minors aligned with Scholars programs

Science, technology, ethics and policy isn’t the only minor closely aligned with the curriculum of an existing Scholars program. According to a number of Scholars program directors, their programs offer a natural transition to minors typically offered by their sponsoring colleges. Among them:

  • Environment, Technology and Economy (ETE) Scholars encourages its students to consider the sustainability studies minor from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and many do add it, observes ETE Director Tim Knight. “A lot of our students had never thought about the issue of sustainability before, get interested in it through ETE” and subsequently add the minor, he explains. ETE’s first-year colloquium course, CPET101, further counts as an elective course, and a number of ETE’s supporting courses may also count for the minor.
  • According to International Studies (IS) Scholars Director Dr. Stacy Kosko, the curriculum, pedagogy and ethos of both IS and the minor in international development and conflict management from the Center for International Development and Conflict Management are closely aligned. She says the minor provides “a natural way for IS students to continue their studies, irrespective of major.” Kosko, who previously served as associate director for the minor, is currently revising the IS curriculum so that one of the options for IS’s second-year courses will serve as a gateway course for the minor.
  • Justice and Legal Thought (JLT) Scholars provides a good grounding for students who may want to consider the law and society minor from the university’s MLAW undergraduate law program. JLT Director Dr. Robert Koulish, who also directs MLAW, explains that JLT focuses on the dialectic between law and justice, while MLAW focuses on law from a social science perspective. “The minor provides the next stage in skill-building for law-related careers or law school,” he says. Students may use one of the two required first-year JLT courses as an elective requirement for the minor.
  • The Public Leadership (PL) Scholars program offers good preparation for two minors offered by the School of Public Policy, nonprofit management and public leadership. (PL Director Susannah Washburn actually oversees the nonprofit management program.) Further, the core course that students take for PL Scholars, PLCY201, counts as an elective for the nonprofit management minor and is one of two required courses for the public leadership minor.




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