On Sept. 10, several hundred MIT undergraduates attended the annual TOUR de SHASS, an academic expo that gives students a chance to discover the range and depth of MIT courses in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (MIT-SHASS).
Kendrick Manyueles, a junior in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the TOUR made him feel especially fortunate to be a student at MIT today: “There are so many opportunities in addition to the sciences. I’m very grateful for the breadth of the fields available to me here at the Institute.”
An MIT education combines the STEM and SHASS fields — not least because generating solutions for the world's great challenges requires both technical/scientific creativity and an understanding of the world’s human complexities in the political, cultural, and economic realms. Alongside their STEM classes, all MIT undergraduates take a minimum of eight SHASS classes (nearly 25 percent of total class time). Many students go deeper to major or minor in one of the MIT-SHASS fields.
At the TOUR this year some 400 students visited information stations staffed by faculty and undergraduate academic administrators from all 13 MIT-SHASS fields: anthropology; economics; political science; global studies and languages; history; linguistics; literature; comparative media studies/writing; music; theater arts; philosophy; science, technology, and society; and women’s and gender studies.
With all the MIT-SHASS fields represented, at one time, in one room, the event is a convenient and efficient way for students to gather information, talk informally with faculty, and explore possibilities.
“It’s great to have all the SHASS areas here in one place, especially for a freshman like myself, so I can ask questions about the courses," said freshman Matias Hanco. “I’m really interested in video game development and in Comparative Media Studies. The two should complement each other really well.”
Students at the event were pleased to discover the wide range of fields in MIT-SHASS, and many were glad for a chance to get input and guidance directly from the faculty.
“It was great to get recommendations by talking to the faculty,” said freshman Lily Jordan. “I’m enrolled in an intro linguistics class right now. After taking the TOUR, I’m also going to look into classes in literature and writing.”
“I just think it’s so important to get perspectives from both STEM and HASS,” said freshman Nick Pape. “I’m interested in philosophy and linguistics, and I might like to major in one.”
Meeting global challenges
Luisa Kenausis, a junior majoring in nuclear science and engineering and political science, explained that her interest in HASS courses is related both to her work in the sciences, and her desire to help solve the world's biggest challenges.
“There’s lots of overlap between my nuclear coursework and political science, in terms of nuclear energy policy, the climate, and nuclear weapons," she says. "But I’m also really interested in issues related to race and social justice, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to study those issues independent of my science field.”
That observation was a common refrain among students at the TOUR, and it is a view that echoes the perspective of the Institute's leadership. As MIT Presdent L. Rafael Reif said recently, “To tackle our global challenges — from water and food scarcity and climate change to digital learning, innovation, and human health — we need ambitious new answers from science and engineering. But because these challenges are rooted in culture, economics, and politics, meaningful solutions must reflect the wisdom of these domains too.”