Recently I was having a conversation with a roommate and someone new whom I had just met that day. Naturally, we started asking the typical get to know you questions. As we were discussing names and hometowns, we go to the infamous question of “what is your major.” This new girl was explaining how she is an electrical engineering major and the difficulties of it. My roommate soon joined in, discussing how she’s a pre-med student. They seemed to bond over the fact that they were both STEM majors and how they have some difficult classes. I pointed out how we are all in STEM, and I was just given a look by the two of them. I was then told that my majors don’t truly count as STEM, and it’s not the same as theirs. Just because I wasn’t a traditional STEM major, I wasn’t allowed in this “club.”
This got me thinking about how STEM is so much more than we realize. We need to stop trying to section things off to a seemingly small definition and think outside the box. We all understand that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. With this simple breakdown so many majors and careers are declared not real stem. I am studying Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management with a concurrent major in Environment and Natural Resources. With this major, I will have a range of careers to choose from such as a soil scientist, rangeland manager, conservationist, and, my own personal goal, a wildlife biologist.
There is a connotation that I am not STEM because I am an agriculture student, and no one understands my major. They hear that I study vegetation, soil, hydrology, and land management practices and can’t comprehend what I truly do and how I could possibly be connected to STEM. Yet I am in as many if not more labs and science classes as many other STEM students. I use statistics, algebra, and other math pathways almost every day in my classes to identify the soil water holding capacity or to determine how much precipitation we need this winter to avoid a drought in the summers. Weekly, I take various measurements and conduct calculations that I then use to make graphs to communicate my results. I cannot comprehend how this does not qualify me as a STEM student. I regularly use science to understand the processes of the land; I use technology to communicate my results and to conduct calculations to make my measurements meaningful.
So how am I and countless other agriculture students not also labeled as STEM? Agriculture is a very heavily science-based path. From animal science, food science, plant science, soil science, and more. The word science is in numerous of our majors and careers paths, yet we aren’t real STEM majors in some people’s eyes. This is something that needs to be changed. So many people overlook and don’t understand what agriculture students do, how it is harder to get into veterinarian school than it is to get into medical school, or how we are taking live measurements constantly through various majors. Agriculture students are very different from engineer or premed students, but we are as much a STEM student as they are.