Why Cluster English Majors with Technology?

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In Fall 2017, Plymouth State University kicked off its integrated cluster program. This program threads complimentary majors into units called “clusters”.

English majors have been placed in the Arts and Technologies with programs such as Computer Science and Information Technology. Some may ask, “Why cluster English majors with technology?” At face value, the two disciplines can seem worlds apart.

But in truth, the two disciplines are constantly collaborating to keep pace with the leaps innovative technology takes each day.

Plymouth Magazine

Apple Inc. is just one example of a company that partners both the technology and the arts. In an article by The New Yorker, Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs explained that a healthy relationship between the two keeps the company afloat:

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

For many people, technology has become an essential part of day-to-day life. Every day, new products are released, looking to fall into the eager hands of consumers.

Competition is fierce for the modern innovator. The internet allows anyone selling a product to have a public voice. In order to stand out from the masses, creators must ask this question: what makes their product unique and relevant to the public?

English majors can answer that question.

In an article by Business Insider, Santosh Jayaram, a former Twitter and Google executive, revealed that he specifically looks for English majors to give products a “voice”:

“Almost anything you can imagine you can now build, so the battleground in business has shifted from engineering, which everybody can do, to storytelling, for which many fewer people have real talent.”

Being able to communicate the nuances of a product from conception, to completion, to consumption is the key to reaching a diverse public. English majors excel at this; creative writing and effective communication are skills they learn from day one. These skills can make them preferable to Marketing and Business majors when it comes to working in technology fields.

Just one example of a successful integration between liberal arts and technology comes from Medium’s story on Anna Pickard.

Anna Pickard

Pickard, a dramaturgy major, found a job writing for the video game Glitch. Her creative chops made her an ideal fit for the video game industry. Pickard had developed the transferable skill of world-building from her time in theater.

After working on Glitch, Pickard was able to make a huge leap; she became the Creative Developer for Slack, a collaborative app for business teams.

The jump from dramaturgy to video game writing isn’t too difficult to see; game writing often takes elements from scriptwriting and screenplays. Marketing for a business app, however, is not a career inherently connected with dramaturgy.

In Medium’s interview, however, Pickard explains that giving a “voice” to a product isn’t all that different from creative writing:

“It’s creating a voice in the mind of the user that they appreciate, understand and, fundamentally, that they recognize wherever they come across it. Giving voice to anything is fundamentally the same job. Giving voice to something that is perceived as so dry was just more of a challenge.”

The question “What can you do with an English major?” often floats in the mind of those considering an English degree. The cluster approach at PSU is showing these wonderers exactly how liberal arts programs, such as English, are a key part in marketing innovative technology.

By working with Technology disciplines, English students will find that their major is more relevant than ever in the current job market.

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