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November 14, 2013 - 10:47pm

Coleman and Stanford president publish op-ed in Washington Post


University President Mary Sue Coleman published a letter in the Washington Post Thursday evening addressing the value of humanities and social sciences in higher education.

The op-ed, co-authored with John Hennessy, the president of Stanford University, focused on the risk of devaluing liberal arts due to pressure on students to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We cannot allow that to happen,” Coleman and Hennessy wrote. “These disciplines play an important role in educating students for future leadership and deal most directly with the human condition.”

While Coleman and Hennessy reiterated that STEM fields are important for the country’s economic future, they wrote that humanities and social sciences are vital in promoting leadership, social skills, strategic decision-making and cultural appreciation.

Coleman and Hennessey also noted in the op-ed that success in technological and engineering fields have a foundation in human experiences. The two wrote that success requires “sensibility about the world,” which the humanities and social sciences help cultivate.

They added that “blurred lines” between traditionally “hard and soft” disciplines are becoming the norm as education becomes increasingly interdisciplinary.

Coleman and Hennessey concluded by stressing the need to move away from inflexibility in choosing a field of study, but rather to promote the type of skills to stimulate innovation and leadership in the world.

Coleman is currently on business in India, her last official international trip abroad before the end of her term in July 2014.