Philosophy Dept. to offer new major

By Marcie Heacox

In a time when budget restraints have led to course cuts and
majors being shuffled around or cancelled, a brand new major is
open for business.

Cal Poly students can now get a Bachelor of Arts degree in
Science, Technology and Society with a 180-unit major and 36-unit
minor offered.

“The STS major is for students who are interested in science and
technology, but who are not interested in becoming scientists or
engineers, but in writing and arguing about science and technology
issues in the contexts of law, journalism or public policy,” said
Program Director and Philosophy Department Associate Professor
Peter Ross.

Ross said budget issues played a role in delaying the offering
of STS 201, Introduction to Science, Technology and Society.

“[My] sense is that the budget has required [California State
University] campuses to work on developing distinctiveness,” said
Ross. “From that perspective, the new STS major and minor are good
for Cal Poly since we now have the only STS program in the CSU
system.”

Only three new courses are required: An introductory course,
capstone seminar and senior project.

The STS program requires students to take a qualifying science,
math, or computer-related minor.

There are eight required core courses, and students can choose
from a smorgasbord of elective, core and support courses that span
many different majors, from botany to computer science.

From 1995 to 2008, STS existed as the Science and Society track
in the philosophy major.A new program prospectus was written in
2006.

According to the STS Web site, California State University
Chancellor Charles Reed approved a Cal Poly STS Major on May 28,
2008.

It now exists as a separate program administered by the
philosophy department under the umbrella of the College of Letters,
Arts and Social Sciences.

However, because of the immense scope of STS, it is also listed
as a university program in the 2009-2010 course catalog, the only
one of its kind.

“Since there is no STS department, we can only refer to STS as a
program or programs,” said Ross.

The STS Advisory Board, comprised of faculty members with an
interest in the program, provides most of the guidance.

The members plan events, provide advising for senior projects
and make decisions on adding classes to the curriculum.

Ross said it has been a challenge to raise awareness of the new
major.

It was included in campus forum talks in winter 2007 and
environmental sustainability talks in spring 2009.

Ross hosted a conference Sept. 21 to introduce the STS major,
and flyers on poster boards and online informed students of the new
option.

There are no students majoring in STS yet, but there are several
prospects.

“We expect that many students who will major will transfer from
a science or tech major thinking that they would rather be a
science and tech lawyer than a scientist or engineer,” said
Ross.

Fourth-year physics student, Michael Mansell, is graduating soon
but enrolled in the Introduction to Science, Technology and Society
course to learn about physics from a different perspective.

“Being a physics major and going to class, it’s like physics,
physics, physics, and you never really see how people who aren’t
studying physics are impacted by the technology that we use,” said
Mansell.

A major like STS is new to the CSU system, but not to other
universities in California or other states.

The Claremont Colleges, Stanford, Princeton and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, are among the more than two-dozen schools
offering a similar major.

Reach Marcie Heacox at: news@thepolypost.com

Philosophy Dept. to offer new major

Paul Rosales/Poly Post

Philosophy Dept. to offer new major

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