STEM Majors, Art Thinkers – Issues of Duality, Rigor and Inclusion

Fay Cobb Payton, Ashley White, Tara Mullins

Abstract


There is a growing interest in STEAM (STEM + Arts) education nationwide. To uncover why these interdisciplinary initiatives can play a significant role in the student educational experience, it is crucial to identify characteristics of university students, who are participating and enrolled in STEM and arts curricula. We are interested in students who would like to actively participate in dance curricula while pursing STEM degrees, and how those students perceive social inclusion given the dominant presence of STEM fields at a predominantly white institution (PWI). We conducted focus groups with undergraduate students from two NC State University dance companies. Focus groups transcripts were coded according to our research questions along with an additional taxonomy including academic emotional engagement, self-efficacy and level of activity. Sub-themes were analyzed using pattern matching and thematic analyses. Data themes included personal, academic and institutional issues, as well as career workforce preparation. Students indicated
that rigor, stigma, enhanced problem-solving skills, interdisciplinary thinking, and increased diversity and inclusion opportunities characterize their dance
experiences. These experiences highlight aspects of human diversity including ethnicity, race, gender identity and class, and how dance provides a safe zone that is significantly different than their STEM coursework. Current dance students expressed why the arts are an intentional part of their academic experiences. The students drew parallels to problem-solving approaches, team collaboration and data-driven application for the “think and do” ethos that is central to the university. Our findings offer STEM researchers and leaders, along with policy-makers and funding agencies, opportunities to reframe the current thinking and approaches central to broadening participation in STEM.

Keywords


STEM; STEAM; Arts; Dance

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JSTEM. ISSN: 1557-5284