3 Humanities Classes for STEM Majors

If you’re focusing on STEM in your studies, are on the pre-med track, or simply have a disposition that favors objectivity and science over writing, reading, and social studies, it can often be hard to fulfill general requirements like the Visual, Language, and Performing Arts (VLPA) and Writing (W) requirements at the University of Washington. Here are three classes offering credit other than Natural World and Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning that are still focused on medical and scientific topics in case you’re not willing to completely break from your STEM track to fulfill your undergraduate requirements. Or, maybe, you’re a humanities major that wants to branch out beyond classic literary studies or philosophy, for example. The course numbers below are specific to the University of Washington, but in browsing other schools' catalogs, there are often similar topics offered as well.

  1. 1. Literature and Science (C LIT 210)

    This course is an introductory comparative literature class that I took my freshman year. Taught by Gary Handwerk, it combines reading with scientific topics—often climate change—to teach the history and pertinence of global climate issues. Medical and scientific topics like cancer, insecticides, pesticides, and the details of air pollution are incorporated into a balance of scientific technicalities and discourse on the relationship between humans and the world around us. In this class I read books like Silent Spring by Rachel Carson that included intricate chemistry regarding pollution and pesticides as well as literary components to portray science in a creative way. I also read Weart’s The History of Global Warming, which provided a historical study of common scientific theories and beliefs. We also read excerpts from different works by Darwin and other works incorporating the landscape, environmental ethics, and pressing issues like pollution and animal endangerment. This was a great class as it allowed me, a humanities major, to learn about scientific topics and even details of chemistry that often seem out of reach unless enrolled specifically in STEM classes. I also think this class is a great opportunity for STEM majors to improve writing skills and the ability to discuss scientific topics that you study. This class counts for VLPA and W credit, so it is a fantastic chance to cross off some requirements while furthering your understanding of important STEM topics. 

  2. 2. Ethics in Science (ETHICS 291), Introduction to Medical Ethics (PHIL 242)

    Ethics is applicable and necessary in a variety of careers and everyday life. Whether you specifically study philosophy, do work heavily dependent on moral judgements, or have any job that involves other people or the world around you, ethics is a useful topic to study to guide your decision making and strengthen your personal belief system. The University of Washington offers ethics classes like the two named above specifically regarding science and medicine for those on the STEM track that want to take classes explicitly pertinent to their field of study. Ethics classes are a great way to complete VLPA credit, practice writing, and develop personal opinions regarding other studying and work you do. 

  3. 3. Climate Change – An International Perspective (JSIS B 391)

    According to the course catalog, this class combines scientific climate studies with discussions of art and human relationships and their impact on policies regarding climate change. Both technical details of science and science’s position in society are covered, enabling students to gain a comprehensive and useful understanding of current climate issues. Especially in today's world, knowledge about climate change is essential and humanities classes like this one offered through the International Studies department allow students to gain a comprehensive understanding in a creative way. 

University offers an incredible opportunity to take unique classes and explore areas of study excluded from typical high school curriculums. Combining your favorite or major areas of study with other skills like writing and discussing the relationship of STEM topics to society improves overall education and better prepares students for STEM related work.