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Humanities and New Technologies: The Winning Cocktail for Canadian Universities

Two recent studies support projects and curricula combining humanities and hard sciences, many in Canada, advanced “Expat Mail”

Combine traditional disciplines and new technologies to offer more opportunities for new graduates: this ambition, largely supported by Canadian universities, seems more relevant than ever. This fall, students in the Digital Humanities and Engineering at the University of Ottawa are working together on two projects combining a historical approach and digital know-how, reports Maclean’s magazine. On the one hand, it’s about designing an application using GPS technology to guide tourists to the hotspots of Canadian culture - it needs to be ready for events that will mark, in 2017, the 150th anniversary of the Canadian confederation - and, on the other hand, to create augmented reality glasses to visualize in their historical context ancient objects collected in Canadian museums.

“Everyone benefits from this type of partnership,” said Kevin Lee, Dean of the Ottawa School of the Arts and former Brock University Chair in Digital Science Research in St. Catharines, Ontario. . The digital humanities are tracing the path to follow. “

At Concordia University in Montreal, Rebecca Duclos, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, claims instead the Californian movement STEM to STEAM. It is a question of associating the artistic disciplines with the four central disciplines in all advanced technological society: science, technology, engineering and mathematics, gathered under the acronym STEM. In the same spirit, she inaugurated in 2015 a program called “Foyer”, which brings together students from different faculties of Concordia. Objective: to give them the opportunity to discover how their respective disciplines fit together. “What motivates us the most is the empathic desire to know how others see the world,” says Rebecca Duclos.

The approach is not unrelated to the approach that McMaster University in Ontario has been implementing for over thirty years with its undergraduate program called ArtSci. Chosen by 60 to 70 students each year, it does not depend on any of the six institutes of the university, but mobilizes teachers from all disciplines. Half of the courses offered are specific and cover topics such as argumentation and the study of visual cultures. Other courses are optional and may involve the arts as well as science or technology.

For its part, the University of Waterloo in Ontario has created a Bachelor’s degree (the equivalent of our degree) in “BKI”. Its specificity: to propose methods of “holistic” approach of the most diverse disciplines. Tiffany Lin, 24, obtained a BKI in Waterloo in 2015, with two main areas: computer science and sociology. She is currently working as a research associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University in the United States. “I am constantly confronted with different subjects. I need to gather knowledge very quickly to form an informed opinion. My training has helped me develop an interesting way of approaching problems, both theoretically and practically. “

Other comparable programs exist at Trent University in Peterborough or the University of Guelph, both in Ontario, McGill University, Montreal, and the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. All offer to learn to learn rather than lock in a specialization.

This could also be the lesson to be learned from two recent studies. The first, mentioned in the Maclean’s report, was conducted in the United States by the Burning Glass Technologies analysis office on 3.8 million “entry-level” jobs. It shows that a humanities graduate with technical skills doubles the chances of entering the labor market. And also reveals that the core skill most sought after by companies developing software is … mastery of writing. “Not code writing, but writing,” says Matt Sigelman, who heads the analysis firm.

The second study, conducted by the University of Ottawa, examines the career paths of 82,000 of its graduate students from 1998 to 2010. Its promoters themselves were surprised by its results, reports the Toronto daily The Globe and Mail. In particular, it states that students who have completed a course in the human sciences have more stable careers, in the long term, than those who have been trained in disciplines that are a priori better paid, such as computer science.

In fact, even though computer science graduates remain in great demand by companies, their salaries are highly volatile. “Those who had the chance to graduate in 1998 earned 62,000 Canadian dollars (or 42,000 euros) on average in their first year in business. Those who embarked on the same studies a few years later might have been less enthusiastic if they had known their average salary, by the time they were going to start working (after the Internet bubble burst). ), would average $ 44,000 (30,000 euros) only, “says the daily.

Results that have inspired Canadian economist Don Drummond, also Chair of the Labor Market Information Advisory Group, to comment, “The only thing we know is that today’s needs tomorrow will not be the needs of tomorrow. “

Written on Sep 5, 2018.