Uni has a reputation for being a more STEM focused school. However, when interviewed, majority of students said that they felt that humanities at Uni are as good, if not better, than the science and math departments. They felt that they had better relationships with the teachers in humanities departments, and more options when choosing humanitarian classes to take at Uni. Senior Umar Hanif pointed out that, “within the culture of the students we talk more about the history and english departments and have better relationships than with the science and math departments.”
Despite all this, students still felt that there is a STEM emphasis at Uni. However, rather than coming from the administration or staff, it takes root in the students themselves. Many students first come to Uni with the intent of going into a STEM major in college, and have parents in STEM who encourage, and sometimes push students into similar careers. Additionally, living near the U of I campus has exposed students to STEM from an early age.
Biology teacher David Stone points out that, “In later years, students tend to choose classes in STEM based more on employability.” Many high school students today choose to go into STEM because they want a “safer” career option, with higher chances of them being able to support themselves. As a result, they hold their STEM classes to a higher standard than humanities and fine arts, often taking classes in these subjects “just for the credits.” Sophomore Minji Choi also pointed out that, “If you have math homework and an english reading to do the next day, most people would prioritize the math homework.” Many students agree that they would rather have their grades slip in a humanities or fine arts class than in a STEM class.
Some students felt that for Uni’s reputation of having mostly STEM focused students, there should be more of a STEM focus and more options regarding math and science classes at Uni. Sophomore Dylan Bowman pointed out that Uni, “doesn’t allow students to explore options when it comes to STEM classes.” He adds that with the increasing amount of jobs options in STEM, there should be more of a focus on science and math in schools.
While going into STEM may be a popular option, students who are more inclined towards other fields say they feel that their interests are overlooked in favor of STEM. A problem not just at Uni, but in all high schools, is that the only students who are considered “smart” are the ones with high math and science scores, even if other students might have more impressive achievements in humanities or fine arts.
With Uni’s smaller size, placement near the STEM-focused UIUC campus, and competitive atmosphere among students, these problems become more obvious. Students with achievements in humanities and fine arts are also not given as much publicity as those with STEM achievements. As Umar Hanif points out, “There’s a lot more visibility for things like Exploravision whereas if a student gets published in a [literary] journal then they won’t be as recognized.”