Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Liberal arts + STEM = engineered for success

September 28, 2016

Brian Knip

Brian Knip

Last year, a Washington Post op-ed declared "We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training." Author Loretta Jackson-Hayes, an associate professor of chemistry at Rhodes College in Memphis, echoed what many employees are saying: STEM fields can be more innovative when combined with the liberal arts, and liberal arts skills can give STEM majors a leg up in the workplace.

For IUPUI alumnus Brian Knip, the dual engineering and German degree program offered by the School of Engineering and the world languages and cultures department within the School of Liberal Arts is already paying dividends. Knip is now in his second year working for Cummins, which designs and manufactures vehicle engines.

Knip's childhood was filled with Lego and K’NEX construction kits. At Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield, Indiana, he was part of Project Lead the Way, which gives students access to engineering courses.

Liberal arts didn’t come into play until Knip attended an October fest event sponsored by the School of Engineering at IUPUI during his freshman year. It was there that he learned about the dual degree program.

The program led to a fall 2013 international internship for Knip. Knip worked and learned at the Bosch Engineering Group in Abstatt, Germany. His software engineering position gave him experience with vehicle calibrations and the code and logic functions involved in operating vehicles. Knip said he also learned about corporate culture, how a large business operates, and how he could be successful within one.

Now a Cummins software engineer, Knip submits test plans for engines and interprets the results of those tests. One of the biggest challenges he faces on the job is communicating with other departments and teams within the organization. Knip said his liberal arts training helps him to be a better communicator. And while speaking German isn’t part of his job at the moment, there are future opportunities for Knip to travel to Germany.

“One of the main benefits of taking German is that it’s taught me to think about things differently,” said Knip. He’s also learned the importance of clear expression. For example, he said, he knows to avoid the use of colloquialisms among a diverse group of co-workers.

To be sure, STEM teaches much-in-demand skills. But in concert with liberal arts education, job seekers and STEM professionals alike can leap ahead of the competition. With the strong writing, communication, and reasoning skills liberal arts can bring to the table – plus the ability to adapt to new situations – those graduates equipped with a liberal arts + STEM combo have a built-in advantage over the competition for short- and long-term success.

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