Alumni Reflect
on their MIT Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences studies


"The introduction to philosophy and the history of ideas turned out to be the most enduring value and benefit from my education at MIT."

— Ray Stata, SB '57, SM '58, Founder and Chairman, Analog Devices

“Studying the humanities has provided insights into seeing things, identifying opportunities, analyzing data, and engaging with other viewpoints that I never would have obtained if I'd stayed in my engineering comfort zone. I use those insights every day.”  —Jim MacStravic, 1984

“An exposure to the liberal arts is essential for scientists and engineers, and vice versa.” —Dr. Daniel Metzger, 1980

“My courses in literature were among my favourite classes at MIT. They were the classes I took for enjoyment, alongside my mechanical engineering requirements. I am currently a writer who often finds inspiration in science, so I think these courses proved to be significant!”  —Sneha Madhavan-Reese, 2000

“My classes were in visual design and art, although my degree was in materials engineering. It obviously had an effect on me because I am now lead visual effects artist on the TV show NCIS. … I can't help but feel that my experiences in art and technology steered me to where I am. MIT is an ideal blend of art and technology.”  —Robert Minshall, 1974



“My MIT experiences with humanities, arts, and social sciences helped to foster an area of interest that grew into a shift in career. Though I majored in physics and subsequently worked in the aerospace industry, my PhD and subsequent work have focused on interactions between technical and non-technical people and individual and organisational learning processes related to energy and environmental issues.”  —Dr. Will Rifkin, 1978

“My experiences with pit orchestras and chamber groups gave me so much insight into working with others creatively, and how to consider different viewpoints and incorporate them into a shared goal. There isn't always a black and white right or wrong way of doing things, and being able to fit different thoughts and creative processes into one coherent message is an invaluable experience.”  —Mary Ann Erickson, 1980

“Life is not a number. Life is seeing what doesn't exist, and what humans need, and creating it in a space where nothing existed before. That comes comes from being able to color ‘outside of the lines.’ Art is preparation for life.”  —Christine Taylor-Butler, 1983

“I took the full poetry curriculum at MIT including reading poetry, introduction to poetry, intermediate poetry workshop, and the advanced poetry workshop twice. That curriculum, more than any other, had the largest impact on my post MIT education and current career. After MIT I moved on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I completed my PhD in Industrial Engineering. The lessons I learned about concise description, providing constructive feedback, and presentation were invaluable to my success there. … I would highly recommend any of the poetry courses at MIT to current and future students. I treasure my MIT poetry experience and am immensely grateful for the opportunity to take those classes”  —Dr. Tony McDonald, MIT ’10



“I fondly remember Professor Margery Resnick as an inspiring woman who was very encouraing not only in the course she taught, but in other aspects of my academic career. I learned so many interesting and shocking perspectives from the HASS courses I took at MIT.”  —Amanda Balderrama, 2010

“The most important courses for me were English literature courses with Dr. Myra Brenner, History with Dr. Thomas Mahoney, Political Science with Dr. Suzanne Berger, and Philosophy with Dr. Ned Block. I'm on the University of Minnesota MD-PhD Program steering committee and I emphasize to undergraduates interested in our program the central importance of liberal arts in the education of young scientists.”  —David A. Potter, MD PhD; MIT 1978

“I think taking Arts and Humanities courses is critical to the development of well-rounded, intelligent people; they provide social, cultural, and communication skills that are very important to a successful life.”  —Nivo Rovedo, 1978

“I received a BA in History along with a B.Sc. in Chemistry. I am now a professor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF. Taking history was great fun, broadened my mind and … I still love the field from afar. From a professional standpoint, however, the key thing I took from it was the ability to write to convince — it is a key skill.”  —Dr. Brian Shoichet, 1985


“I absolutely adored my time with Ina Lipkowitz and David Thorburn. Two exceptional, brilliant, encouraging professors who kept me creative, analytical, and methodical in my approach to both reading and writing.”  —Katherine Brag, 2011

“The literature courses I took at MIT finally gave me an understanding of literature as an insight into human nature.” —David Cane, 1971

“MIT was very important to me in providing a well rounded science and technology education, [and also] providing me with insights into relevant social sciences that supported my interest in law and things I have explored in my adult life.”  —Anonymous, MIT 1966

“More than 20 years after my graduation, I believe the skills I learned in my literature classes are the ones that I rely on in my career and personal life.”  —Anonymous, 1996

“The humanities requirements were an essential part of college education and keeping me a somewhat rounded individual.” —Anonymous, 1973



“The HASS curriculum had a big impact on my life — forcing a young engineering student to open up and step out of his comfort zone.  It gave me an early exposure to diversity and cross-culture understanding — it prepared me well for the inter-disciplinary research work that is so important nowadays.”  —Anonymous, 1977

“The humanities are very important for a broad, well-rounded education and for personal development and skills (communication, writing).” —Anonymous, 1975

“The women's studies department was very important to me as an undergraduate. I became much more interested in philosophy, history, dance, the arts, and other cultures as I got older. I now see these areas as essential to our lives and the world in which we live.” —Anonymous, 1991

“The HASS distribution and concentration requirements were an integral and essential part of my MIT education. As Gandhi said, knowledge without character and science without humanity are two of the seven deadly sins that destroy a society.”  —Anonymous, 1988