Writing STEAM: Composition, STEM, and a New Humanities

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Vivian Kao
contact email: 

Call for contributions to an edited collection

Writing STEAM: Composition, STEM, and a New Humanities

Deadline for Proposal Submissions: September 30, 2019


Editors: Dr. Vivian Kao, Assistant Professor of Composition, Department of Humanities, Lawrence Technological University; Dr. Julia Kiernan, Assistant Professor of Communication, Liberal Studies Department, Kettering University


Contact email: VKAO@LTU.EDU


It’s no secret that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is all the rage in higher education. The National Science Foundation reports that about one-third of all freshmen planned to major in science and engineering disciplines in 2000; by 2016, this proportion had risen to 45% (Science and Engineering Indicators 2018). In response, humanists have explored productive ways of integrating STEM and the humanities to argue for the humanities’ continued “vitality and versatility” (Dimock 478) in the face of global problems that increasingly demand technological and scientific expertise. In the best scenarios, such collaborations have yielded innovative projects and curricula that enhance the experiences of practitioners and students from all the disciplines involved. Wai Chee Dimock, in a recent editors’ column in PMLA expressed hope that “a STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] platform developed under humanist auspices has broad consequences for the arts and sciences both. Bringing a human scale to bear on scientific research, it makes questions of race, class, and culture meaningful to science, even as it harnesses the power of science to give physical forms to humanist aspirations” (478).


Humanists are at the forefront of this cross-pollination between science, technology, and the humanities. In our daily work as educators, scholars, and administrators, we find ways to collaborate with our colleagues in civil engineering, offer new degree programs that allow students to bring the humanities to bear on design experiments, and build an academic culture that promotes a vision of the humanities in the twenty-first century, as well as a vision of technology that is decidedly human.

If humanists are at the forefront of building a vibrant STEAM culture, composition professionals are perhaps the vanguard of the vanguard. The writing classroom is a versatile and exploratory space that, at its best, transcends disciplinary, methodological, generic, political, socioeconomic, and institutional boundaries. Freshman composition, for instance, often required of all students regardless of major or inclination, offers an opportunity to use writing to think through issues that demand the best of what the sciences and humanities have to offer.

This edited volume seeks to explore how writing instruction, writing scholarship, and writing program administration bring STEM and the humanities together in meaningful, creative, and beneficial ways. How do writing professionals contribute to the “vitality and versatility” of the humanities in a moment in which interest in STEM is on the rise? How do compositionists reimagine engineering as a new liberal art?

The volume will be organized into three sections:

  1. 1.     Writing Instruction

In this section, we seek essays that explore innovative practices in the composition classroom that integrate STEM and the humanities. Case studies and auto-ethnographic accounts of everyday, in-the-trenches writing instruction at all levels that promote the integration of STEM and the humanities are especially welcome. We would be grateful for contributions from contingent faculty, and we value considerations of how higher education labor practices intersect with, impede, or otherwise influence STEM/humanities integration in the classroom.


  1. 2.     Writing Scholarship

We are equally interested in scholarship that places existing fields of inquiry in rhetoric/composition and writing studies in the context of fostering STEM/humanities integration. Essay topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • How might basic writers and/or English-language learners contribute to a humanistic STEM culture?
  • How might we reconfigure professional and technical communication, community-engaged or service-learning writing projects, or public writing projects in this spirit?
  • How might traditional notions of “academic writing” or “argumentation” have to change in response to the rise of STEM?
  • How might we harness the power of critical, expressive, ethnographic, feminist, cultural studies, literature-based, transfer-oriented, or process-based pedagogies to envision a technological humanities?
  • How do multimodal and online/hybrid pedagogies create and critique a technological humanities?
  • How do Writing-in-the-Disciplines and Writing-across-the-Curriculum programs contribute to, critique, and/or impede the creation of a meaningful technological humanities?
  • How do maker-based composition pedagogies that utilize 3-D printing, building, crafting, and design contribute to STEAM efforts?


  1. 3.     Writing Program Administration
    Finally, we seek essays that consider how writing program administration, broadly conceived, fosters integration between the humanities and STEM disciplines. Case studies or auto-ethnographic essays by writing program administrators are welcome, as are profiles of writing programs. Additional topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • STEM and humanities integration as a value expressed in writing program mission statements, budget, faculty hiring, or professional development
  • ways in which writing programs can align with or critique institutional mission statements through the work of integrating STEM and the humanities
  • the role of writing programs that incorporate nontraditional or nonacademic spaces for writing, such as prisons, hospitals, corporations, museums, outdoor public spaces, etc.
  • the role of writing centers

Essays in any of the three sections outlined above written by or about instructors, researchers, and administrators employed at technological or polytechnic universities are highly welcome. The acquisitions editor at Utah State University Press has indicated she would welcome a full proposal for Writing STEAM, complete with a table of contents and abstracts.

Please submit a brief proposal (250-300 words) along with a brief bio to Vivian Kao (vkao@ltu.edu). Final essays should be 5000-6000 words. Interested contributors are encouraged to email with questions regarding their proposals.