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Perceptions of STEM and Liberal Arts Policy in Florida

Lurz, Rudolph (2018) Perceptions of STEM and Liberal Arts Policy in Florida. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The promotion of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education is similar to the rhetoric of the Space Race. Only 19% of U.S. degrees are in STEM fields, compared to over 50% in China (National Science and Technology Council, 2013). Policy makers like President Obama, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley tie STEM investment directly to economic impact, using language similar to the rhetoric President Eisenhower utilized to promote the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. Florida Governor Rick Scott places STEM in zero-sum competition against liberal arts subjects with the rationale of stimulating economic growth.

I surveyed and interviewed Florida policy makers to explore their perceptions of STEM and liberal arts fields. I wanted to know how these perceptions influenced policy formation. I examined press releases to identify trends and messaging from Governor Scott's office. The majority of policy actors supported balanced positions on the 7-point Likert scale survey items, recognizing the economic importance of STEM education while also noting the value of liberal arts disciplines. However, when given the freedom to respond in open-ended survey items and semi-structured interviews, many policy makers revealed positions closer to the zero-sum strategies of Governor Scott. They were dismissive of the utility of liberal arts subjects, and saw them as frivolous and unnecessary. Other participants defended the value of the liberal arts and saw them as a necessary component of a tertiary education.

My research demonstrates that the relationship between higher education and economic impact is unpredictable. To maximize economic growth, universities should produce opportunistic communicators who recognize opportunities in the Information Age economy and communicate to consumers across state and national borders. Zero-sum competitions between STEM and the liberal arts are unnecessary and detrimental in a non-zero-sum global economy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lurz, Rudolphrwl12@pitt.edurwl120000-0002-9102-9778
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPorter,
Committee MemberSutin,
Committee MemberWeidman,
Committee MemberNess,
Date: 29 January 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 April 2017
Approval Date: 29 January 2018
Submission Date: 7 January 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 190
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: STEM, Liberal Arts, Education Policy, Higher Education, Politics of Higher Education, Education Policy Theory
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2018 20:37
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2018 20:04


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