When I talk to people at Elon University about the intersection of business, science, engineering and the arts the expression I hear most is cross-disciplinary. It’s about meeting the growing demand by students for multiple fields of study often in wide-ranging disciplines. By extension there is also a demand by employers for students with a wide variety of skill sets. The job market now craves a work force that not only has training in engineering but engineers who can write; have strong public speaking abilities; a grasp of history or sociology; understand marketing, finance and entrepreneurship, or have the people skills to work in a collaborative setting.
Elon and other universities are working to meet this need. And there is a need. Over the past 20 years the growth in the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors at Elon is 103 percent. Elon just ended the first year of its four-year engineering program that works with its previous dual-degree program in engineering. The focus on engineering is because employment in that field is expected to grow 7 percent over the next decade. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that STEM jobs grew by 24 percent over the past 10 years while non-STEM occupations only grew by 4 percent. Locally the potential is even greater. North Carolina has 19,000 tech-related companies and is projected to have the second-highest growth rate in tech jobs over the next five years.
So yeah, I’d say there’s a demand, and then some.
Elon is obviously already moving in this direction by dedicating resources to science and engineering as well as entrepreneurship, marketing, sales and analytics. A priority of the Elon LEADS fund-raising campaign is creating an innovation or discovery hub dedicated to STEM and its relationship to nearly every field of study on campus. Two other key areas related to STEM or even STEAM are design thinking and making. Of the two, making is where this cross-disciplinary approach is most evident.
I wrote in an earlier post about the interesting work produced by Elon students for the Maker Takeover on May 1. My friend and regional leader in the maker movement in Alamance County, Ben Harris, attended the Maker Takeover and produced three videos of his interviews with Elon students talking about their creations and how they got to this point in their creative lives. Harris founded the Alamance Makers Guild and co-founded STEAM Junction, a downtown business dedicated to fostering those who want to invent or have fun.
The Elon students in these videos are clearly doing both through the maker space on campus. I note with interest that nearly all are double majors and some in varied fields. Sam Jiminez, for example, is a major in computer science and finance. Many are minoring in entrepreneurship or sales. Not all are majors in STEM but have a serious interest in it.
The videos help illuminate how STEM studies cross all areas of the campus. Harris calls the series, Meet the Makers. It could also be called Meet the Future Economic Leaders. The three-part videos follow.
Here’s Part 2
And Part 3