Carnegie Mellon University

Image of sundial

November 19, 2018

BXA Intercollege Degree Programs Offers New Interdisciplinary Engineering and Arts Additional Major

By Emily Syes

Pam Wigley
  • College of Fine Arts
  • 412-268-1047

Students pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree at Carnegie Mellon University will now have the option to incorporate an additional major in Engineering and Arts. This interdisciplinary program is offered by the BXA Intercollege Degree Programs, and sponsored by the College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts.

The Engineering and Arts program is intended for engineering majors who have an interest in creative production. The additional major responds to the growing voice of students who want to integrate their primary technical field with their artistic passion on a greater level than is available through a traditional minor in one of the following schools in CFA — Architecture, Art, Drama or Music.

BXA Director M. Stephanie Murray is pleased to establish this new partnership between colleges to aid engineers in forging innovative pathways and creative pursuits.

"We're following the lead of students who have been combining technology with creative fabrication through clubs and extracurricular projects," Murray said. "This program formalizes their arts training and gives them a strong critical, theoretical and rhetorical foundation to their interdisciplinary work. They can take advantage of the extraordinary resources on campus to build new paths in the creative and technological fields."

The Engineering and Arts curriculum has two main components: fine arts concentration requirements and BXA requirements. Each student's course of study is structured so it can be completed alongside their primary engineering major.

The fine arts coursework focuses on the same core, methods, theory and studio training as each of the CFA school's major curricula. The curriculum mirrors the CFA concentrations available through BXA's three intercollege undergraduate degrees — Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts, Bachelor of Humanities and Arts and Bachelor of Science and Arts.

In addition, students complete BXA-specific seminars that help to develop the vocabulary and critical context for talking about their work at the intersection of engineering and arts. This includes a yearlong research-intensive capstone where students have the opportunity to produce a project that fuses their disciplines. Upon completion, it provides a concrete product they present at the Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research symposium. The experience is also useful in building a student's body of work when seeking future employment or graduate study.

The EA additional major program marries two strong technical and artistic colleges at Carnegie Mellon with the BXA Programs as the bridging unit. BXA provides the foundation needed for students to succeed academically and administratively. Students also receive extensive advising and support from all areas.

Image of Caroline Hermans
Caroline Hermans

Caroline Hermans, a senior in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), is one of the first students to pursue the new program with an additional major in Engineering and Art. Her projects involve technology in their construction, and she has found the conceptual mindset in the School of Art an advantage when developing her work.

"Being able to take project-based creative courses in the School of Art has really allowed me to explore my interests," Hermans said. "Similarly, the ECE degree has given me a really in-depth amount of technical knowledge that I draw on in my art classes."

Hermans' combination of interests is evident in her innovative devices that range from a light-sensing alarm clock sundial, to hugging and breath awareness jackets, to a virtual reality eating experience that plays with perception.

"The EA additional major allows me to feel like both art and engineering are central to what I do," she said.

EA is an advantageous program for students who wish to complete a full engineering degree in order to achieve licensure, while gaining the creative skills that modern industries are demanding. Hermans has completed competitive internships with Apple and Magic Leap where she developed experimental camera features and mixed reality interfaces.

"Recruiters for the sorts of careers I'm interested in are always really excited by the projects in my portfolio, and I wouldn't have the opportunity to do so many of those projects without the BXA Programs," Hermans said.

Applications are open and will be reviewed twice yearly on mid-semester breaks. Interested students must meet with the BXA director, complete a planned schedule of courses, write an essay of interdisciplinary intent and adhere to the applicable audition, interview or portfolio review their chosen CFA school. Current engineering students can find the EA additional major application and further information on BXA's website.