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New LTU degree combines technology with the humanities

Release Date: May 7, 2020

SOUTHFIELD—Lawrence Technological University is offering a new degree that combines high tech with the humanities to prepare graduates for the jobs of tomorrow.

The Bachelor of Science in Technological Humanities will be offered through the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Communication, part of LTU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The curriculum begins with a freshman year that combines courses in mathematics, computer science, and the natural sciences with courses like literature, psychology, and history. Sophomore year, the curriculum includes technical communication, computer science, and statistics, blended with courses in writing, rhetoric, and economics.

Junior year, students learn computer coding and take other technical electives, along with courses in history, ethics, and literature. The senior year is dominated by a senior thesis elective. Internships are strongly encouraged during the four years.

The new program already has its first student, Ellen Forsgren, a 2018 graduate of Port Huron Northern High School. “Originally I was going into architecture, and Lawrence Tech is one of the best schools of architecture in the country,” she said. Other factors: LTU’s small size allowed more interaction with professors and fellow students, and the opportunity to earn a scholarship for playing in the LTU Marching Band.

But another passion was calling: “I’m very passionate about writing. In architecture I never had the time to explore the ideas in poetry and short stores. My ultimate goal is to write a novel. I thought I should go into something where I’d have more time to explore my passion.”

She talked to Paul Jaussen, associate professor of literature, and other humanities professors at LTU. “They told me about this brand new major,” she said. “It was the perfect fit for me.”

Forsgren plans to concentrate on software engineering in the major, while at the same time exploring creative writing. In 10 years, she says, “hopefully I will have established myself in a software engineering company, and I hope to have made progress on writing a novel and getting it published.”

The idea behind the major, Jaussen said, is to integrate the “big ideas” of a traditional liberal arts education with practical training in technological skills that will be in demand in the future.

For instance, students skilled in computer science, mathematics, or design can develop these skills while exploring the social implications of AI, big data, or sustainable design. Similarly, students with an interest in communication, writing, or cultural history can couple these interests with practical training in coding, website design, or nanotechnology.

Where will graduates of this program work? Said Jaussen: “Companies that want to communicate their technologies to broader audiences. Companies that have interpersonal skill needs in high-tech sectors. We’re thinking about what a liberal arts program for a future tech-heavy world would look like.” The major could also be a foundation for a graduate degree or law school.

Added Vivian Kao, assistant professor of composition: “In designing this major, we tried to imagine what larger fields our graduates would be useful in or prepared to go into, rather than specific jobs we were training them to perform. For instance, we think they’ll be well-poised for careers in science and technology journalism, public policy, or website design.”

And Daniel Shargel, assistant professor in the department who teaches classes in cognitive science, said the new degree is “more focused on what happens to you over your entire career. It’s important to develop skills that will help you over your entire life, to learn how to be a leader.”

For more information on the degree, visit https://www.ltu.edu/arts_sciences/humanities_ss_comm/technological-humanities.asp.

LTU has pursued the integration of technology and the humanities in other ways as well. Supported in part by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Michigan Humanities, LTU established the Humanity + Technology Lecture Series, which explores the crossroads of what technology makes, and how it affects people. And LTU is the only university in the United States to allow humanities majors to enter research projects in the Grand Challenge Scholars program established by the National Academy of Engineering.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 15 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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