New, revised clusters more accessible for non-STEM majors

April 2, 2018

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This poster will be displayed around campus to encourage majors in other fields to sample what engineering is all about by taking clusters of introductory courses.

The Hajim School is offering new, more accessible “clusters” of introductory courses to University of Rochester non-STEM majors. The goal is to entice more of them to at least sample what engineering is about, and perhaps pursue a minor or double major in the field.

“Pursing these new and diverse engineering clusters will provide students with a better appreciation for what engineers do,” says Dean Wendi Heinzelman. “That’s important because engineering and the applied sciences will play an important role in addressing many of the key challenges confronting us in the 21st century.”

Some 300 “clusters” -- a distinctive feature of the Rochester Curriculum – are offered across Arts, Sciences & Engineering. They allow undergraduates to delve into topics they’re actually interested in, by completing three closely-related courses, rather than having them to take prescribed “general education” introductory courses, as required at many other universities.

 A Rochester student majoring in the humanities, for example, takes a cluster in social sciences, and another in math, sciences or engineering – unless they decided to double major or minor in those areas.

Lisa Norwood, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies, spearheaded the development of the new and revised Hajim School clusters, which include:

  • Sonic Arts and Technology – “theater geeks love this stuff.” Students choose three courses from offerings in audio and music engineering, computer science, English, film and media studies, physics, and theory. (Audio and Music Engineering program)
  • Biomedical Design – for “studio arts majors with a premed bent.” Courses in biomedical and mechanical engineering and studio arts classes. (Department of Biomedical Engineering)
  • Biomechanics of Human Movement – “great for dancers.” Courses in biomedical and mechanical engineering, biology, dance and history. (Department of Biomedical Engineering)
  • Design with Materials – “targets studio arts majors.” Offering mechanical engineering, art history, chemistry, and studio arts courses. (Department of Mechanic Engineering)
  • Optics – “it’s light work!” -- the first cluster ever offered by the Institute of Optics. Offering optics, English, mechanical engineering, math and physics courses.

The Hajim School is also taking the lead on these interdepartmental clusters:

  • Modern Technology in Society – “make informed decisions about our future.” Courses in math, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, digital media studies, naval science, optics, and studio arts.
  • Green Engineering Management – “for socially conscious entrepreneurs.” Courses in chemical engineering, biology, chemistry, general business administration, marketing, operations management, and political science.
  • Technology, Food & Society – “we all need to eat!” Courses in environmental humanities; gender, sexuality, and women’s studies; history; studio arts; biomedical and chemical engineering, biology, chemistry, and earth and environmental sciences.
  • Video Games & Media Arts Production—“fun for film and media studies majors.” Courses in audio and music engineering, computer science, digital media studies, electrical and computer engineering, film and media studies, and studio art.

Click here for more details about the clusters and courses offered within each.

The new offerings were created after data showed that very few students enrolled in Hajim School clusters, with the exception of those offered by the Department of Computer Science. In fact, 96 percent of the students registered for Hajim clusters were taking those offered by computer science.

As part of its participation in the BRAID Initiative, which is aimed at recruiting more female and underrepresented minority students in computer science, the department made its clusters more accessible. It has since seen a sharp increase in non-engineering female students deciding to double major or minor in computer science. (Read more here.)

Many of the clusters previously offered by Hajim departments involved prerequisites in math or physics that were thought to deter many non-STEM majors from pursuing them. The new and revised clusters are generally “lighter” on those courses.

“They’re really interesting combinations of classes,” Heinzelman said of the new clusters. “I’d like to take some of them!”