The World Outside of STEM

By: Chelsea Igtanloc

Pacific is often labelled as a science focused school, drawing students across the globe for its Dental and Pharmacy pre-professional programs. Students are often pushed towards the STEM field, citing good job opportunities with comfortable salaries. Although the STEM field is great, it is important for Pacific students to obtain a well-rounded education, with courses in the arts, humanities, etc. As funding for the liberal arts chips away, it is important to keep in mind the value these classes have, even for students entering into the health field.

The key to getting a balanced education may lie in the General Educations or GE classes. Yes, obtaining a STEM degree is very difficult all in itself, and sadly many students prioritize these courses so much to the point that they do not see the purpose in GEs or extracurriculars. GEs and extracurriculars, however, give students the capability to get out of their comfort zones. In fact, companies often value students with more of a diverse background. In 2013, Google tested what skills were most important from all employees since its making in 1998, and found that STEM was one of the least needed. The top qualities were being a good coach, having a clear vision and strategy for a team, and being a good communicator, skills not necessarily taught in the average BIO 061 or CHEM 025 class.

Other than GEs, participating in extracurriculars is a great way to explore different interests and build new skills. Jonas Sung, a Pacific alumni ’18 with a degree in bioengineering from SOECS, acknowledged and explored his own traits through many different extracurriculars. During his time at Pacific, he joined the Pacific One Word Project, Kilusan Hooligans Dance, Hooligan Apparel, Kilusan Pilipino, Pacific Photography Club, and even dabbled in DJing. “I’ve always thought of my extracurricular activities as valuable supplements to my education during undergrad,” says Sung, “I’ve taken on leadership responsibilities in all organizations and groups I’ve been a part of, equipping me to have the knowledge and skills be a good team member and leader in my current job. The activities are far from what my job consists of, but the collaborative and leadership aspect is transferable.” He is now focusing on his early career within a small-size biotech company, does photography and DJing on weekends, and even picked up rock climbing.

Professor Shelly Gulati, chair of the bioengineering department in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, uses a variety of different skills that are not STEM-inspired. In her leadership position, she creates strategic direction in planning what needs to be done for her department, whether that be purchasing supplies or figuring out ways in how to grow their team. In advising, she works with students in creating a career for themselves in the future and pushes them to find what their passions are. “The reality is that every graduate of a specific degree has that basic technical knowledge,” says Gulati. “It’s all the other things that you bring that make you the unique candidate for the job, the unique person who brings 2 or 3 ideas together and makes this brand new category that we never knew existed on what you could be.”

Getting out of your comfort zone is also not limited to STEM, but is also a life lesson for everyone to explore what they are passionate about. Professor Ken Albala from the history department came to Pacific to teach about the Renaissance and asked if he could teach a general education course on food. He now teaches an excellent class called Global History of Food. “Your life will be more enjoyable if you are better trained to look at things and appreciate them and understand the context,” says Albala on seeing the world outside of your intended major. “You’ll enjoy the music and the art you look at everyday more if you have the critical tools to look objectively.”

If you are a STEM major, consider this as an invitation to explore different fields and use extracurriculars and GEs to build new skill sets and find new interests. It can help you build leadership skills and learn how to work with a team, which are traits highly valued in the work force. Worst case- it’s something to put on your resume.

Student-run newspaper at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.