Writing and STEM don’t have to be enemies

Emily Caldwell

If you’ve ever found your way to UT’s meme page, you’ve probably seen a picture of  Squidward straining to blow bubbles. Squidward is labeled “STEM majors” and the bubble “3-page essay.” The stereotype that STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — majors can’t write is common because STEM students aren’t often required to reach writing or literary proficiency. However, our University distinguishes itself through one important service: the University Writing Center. Even though it may not seem like it, STEM majors in particular can benefit from the wide variety of UWC services.

For example, computer science students only have to take a combined 9 hours of rhetoric, literature and writing classes within to the total 120 hours they need to graduate. Often imbalances like this can lead to the illusion that writing isn’t important to STEM majors — it is.  

Just because you’re a STEM major doesn’t mean you can’t be a good writer or use the UWC. Rachel Tarrant, the UWC administrative assistant and a STEM graduate, was a UWC peer consultant as an undergrad. Peer consultants are students working at the Center who have been trained to help other students develop their writing skills.

“I thought I was a pretty good writer coming out of high school,” Tarrant said. “I changed my mind on that later. The Writing Center pays really well among student jobs, so I was like, ‘Okay, I guess I’ll try this.’ I learned a lot.” 

Whether it’s one-on-one writing appointments with peer consultants or the large number of pamphlets and presentations available on the website, there is an abundance of help available to people who don’t consider writing their strong suit. Appointments with peer consultants are easy to make. STEM students who do not take the time to learn how to write well are setting themselves up for a future disadvantage. They should take advantage of the easy access UWC provides. 

“If you can write, you can think,” Tarrant said. “Depending on the discipline, your ability to write well affects your ability to get funding. People (need to) understand advances and understand reservations, so there’s no fear around new things in technical fields and there’s support when there should be. You have to be good at communicating for that.”

According to Tarrant, some of the most common types of documents peer consultants discuss and edit with students who come in are health professions applications, which include medical school applications. These are students applying to be doctors, one of the most important modern STEM professions. They won’t get in if they can’t articulate their thoughts on paper. They won’t get in if they can’t write. 

Pursuing the ability to write well shouldn’t be something that only liberal arts majors do. It’s a life skill that will be necessary beyond your years as a STEM student. STEM majors may not be taking rhetoric classes regularly or reading up on how to build the perfect thesis statement, but they can still take full advantage of all the UWC has to offer. Writing is a critical tool for people of all professions, and the UWC can help students reach writing proficiency. 

Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism sophomore from College Station.