Liberal arts add variety to Tech curriculum

While Tech may be known primarily as a technical university, many other non-scientific majors at the Institute are beginning to emerge toward a more prominent position within the Atlanta community and the state of Georgia as well.

With six schools and ten different majors, the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts (IAC) has established itself as another option for students who would like to go to Tech, but do not necessarily feel that they would like to focus primarily on the sciences.

Named for famed Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr., the school was established in 1990 in order to provide Tech with a new method of exploring its primarily scientific model through new a social, cultural and political program.

As the Ivan Allen College Student Advisory Board (IAC SAB) President, fifth-year ECON/INTA major Elena Petrakieva and the members are working on plans to increase national awareness, starting locally within the Tech community, hoping that, over time, the liberal arts program can grow into a prominent and nationally acknowledge curriculum like that of the already well-established engineering programs.

Locally, the IAC SAB already hosts Networking Nights, which were established to help IAC students learn about internship and job opportunities in Atlanta. As students learn about these opportunities, employers are also being educated on the Ivan Allen degree options.

Past participants have included Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The future plan for Networking Night is to expand, reaching more employers and reaching this desired national recognition.

Erin Robinson, a third-year INTA major, believes the liberal arts schools of Tech are great.

“We may not be known around campus. However, if people do their research, they’ll see that the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) along with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center at Yale University. Our college has schools of that caliber. I know we’re on the same level as these great institutions,” Robinson said.

For Austen Edwards, a fourth-year PUBP and INTA double major, it is the flexibility and freedom to create his own vision. Edwards has taken the curriculum into his own hands by integrating his interests in liberal arts and technology into one degree.

Now, as Student Body Vice President and member of the IAC SAB, he’s working on designing more interdisciplinary opportunities for students.

Edwards strives to tell students to make their own curriculums through the use of the liberal arts program’s flexibility.

“Students are designing their own degrees in a different way than the curriculum has laid out for us.  There is the potential of pairing Public Policy or History, Technology and Society with the engineering fields,” Edwards said.

For students not sure why to meld the disciplines, Edwards shapes the idea.

“If you are a nuclear engineer, you would not only know how to design these devices, but you would also know the policy implementation and international research and development behind these devices,” Edwards said.

These interdisciplinary avenues are focused primarily on creating well-rounded Tech students. Liberal arts students can learn the technical aspects behind the devices, while engineering students can learn the social, cultural and political aspects behind the scientific purposes.

For the future, Edwards doesn’t think IAC recognition should necessarily come from becoming the “other” option.

“[The] greatest potential for the Ivan Allen College is not competing for more students from the other colleges, but enhancing our education with a new way of thinking,” Edwards said.

“Get to know the people who can actually make the change. Get to know the school’s Director of Undergraduate Programs. Get to know the advisors. Look up who’s on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC). Be persistent. Nothing is going to change with just one meeting. Offer a viable change. Sometimes the changes we want are not always feasible, but we can work together to come up with a solution,” Petrakieva said.

In addition to the opportunity for undergraduates here at Tech to pursue liberal arts degrees, the college also offers graduate educational programs ranging from a master’s degree in economics to a doctorate in public policy.

Along with research specific curriculums, the IAC also offers Tech students with the chance to engage in international learning on a global scale with language intensive courses. According to the official IAC website states, over 71 percent of the IAC student body achieves some level of international experience with educational programs at various colleges abroad.

With a new degree debuting, the B.S. in Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies, the college is adding yet another major to the rapidly growing list of programs available, hoping to expand its reach further.

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