ABSTRACT

Exploration of the breadth of the Arts and Sciences lies at the core of liberal arts education and gets prominently featured in most undergraduate general education programs. The authors of this study investigated student perceptions of the three branches of the Arts and Sciences using cohorts of high-achieving first-year college students enrolled in an innovative 3-week course designed to increase interest, familiarity, and research competency within each of the three branches. Stated and revealed preferences of these students were measured through student surveys and course work. The data often showed a retreat to pre-existing disciplinary preferences, particularly the data on revealed preferences. Students became more familiar with all three branches during the course, but their interest in Arts and Humanities and STEM decreased unless they were majoring in the branch. Also, despite the course’s emphasis on crossdisciplinarity, students informally sorted themselves into two groups: STEM students (who avoided Arts and Humanities), and non-STEM students (who avoided STEM). Faculty and administrators of general education programs will therefore need to think carefully about how to structure disciplinary and interdisciplinary coursework, especially when it comes to bridging the perceived divide between the STEM and non-STEM disciplines.

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