Art and science are often considered polar opposites, and students can feel the pull to choose one or the other. Engineering or English? Computer science or art? Biology or music? However, employers today are increasingly seeking graduates with skill sets that blend the best of both worlds—the ability to interpret data and draw conclusions, to think and communicate creatively, to reason effectively, to work with others to solve problems, to make informed decisions.
Meet Carston Haffner, a Walla Walla University student who is finding creative ways to combine his passion for areas of study that are stronger together.
These days you’re likely to find WWU senior Carston Haffner studying in the Atlas, leading out in student government, or birding in the Blue Mountains. “I love to be outside,” Haffner says. “I like to ski. I like to hike. I like to climb. I like to bird, and I like to find new plants that I haven’t seen before.”
Haffner grew up hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. “I grew up enjoying the outdoors, but I didn’t really appreciate the depth of what there is in nature and how it works until I was starting college,” he says. “Getting a better understanding of that has instilled in me the desire to help protect what nature there is.”
Three years ago, as a sophomore, Haffner was winging his way to Sagunto, Spain, for a year of study abroad with the Adventist Colleges Abroad program. He was eager to learn a new language and experience a new culture. “The way we think, behave, and live hinges on culture and language. I was interested in learning a different language to try to get closer to a different culture,” he says.
Haffner returned to WWU to dive deeper into his major field of study—biology. After his experience in Spain exploring how different world communities interact, it was something of a natural next step to begin investigating how different organisms relate to one another in the biological realm. While he’s open to exploring a variety of career paths, he’s interested in learning how he can combine his three areas of study—history, Spanish, and biology—through ecology or other disciplines related to the environment.
“I’m curious about how humans impact our environment. How do we mitigate that?” Haffner says. “A historical perspective is not really one that’s at the forefront of most scientific questioning. I’m really interested in the human impact on ecosystems. That’s not a static thing; it has been increasing and changing over time. So having that historical perspective is something that’s important.”
Haffner counts many additional benefits of combining a study of the arts and sciences, including developing the ability to write well both to express opinion and to present scientific research data. “Every course of study has their own way of doing things and methodologies for asking and answering questions. In science we have a very definite way of doing that; in history it’s a little different,” he says. “Being able to write in those terms is helpful no matter what field you end up in.”
“The biggest impact for me during college has been being hopeful about the future because there are a lot of us out there who are trying to figure out the world and how to do good by it,” Haffner says. “What I like to do outside of class relates to what I do inside of class, which is a good and happy place to be.”
Posted Jan. 30, 2020