The Influence Arts-Based Instruction May Have on STEM Students

STS Students

By Elizabeth Benzmiller

Elizabeth Benzmiller is a senior in the Science, Technology, and Society: Policy & Law Major.  Throughout her time as a student at South Dakota Mines, she studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland, participated and held leadership roles in student organizations, and interned at the South Dakota Legislature and Raven Industries/Viaflex, Inc.

I was raised by two polar opposite parents. One chose a STEM career, worked in healthcare and laboratories, and was a very analytical and logical thinker. The other was a professional artist, singer, ballroom dance instructor, writer, and more. Growing up, I was able to see first hand how a STEM professional and an artist communicate and view the world very differently! One parent was a logical, straight to the point teacher who learned from a textbook and lectures, while the other was a creative, adventurous, empath who learned through experiences in their life.  

Photo of Elizabeth and her family.
This is my family in Italy, while we were visiting my sister while she performed in an opera. She did this before she graduated college with a degree in Computer Science and Data Analytics. From left to right, Sonya (older sister), Elizabeth (myself), Vincent (younger brother), James (father), and TracieLea (mother).

I was taught the importance of the arts and STEM from a young age and told I didn’t need to choose between the fields. From a young age, I was playing instruments, singing in proper form, reading like a true bookworm, and looking for any opportunity to get crafty and creative. We would have Craft Thursdays and Field Trip Fridays, exploring museums and historical centers, trying new things, and seeing the world from a new perspective each week. At the same time, I was encouraged to ask questions, research the world around me, explore nature and get my hands dirty.  I could build rockets, play with Legos, and learn how to use a microscope. I could travel the world and see new sights, cultures, and experience new things.

Every day, I was encouraged to explore my passions and be a lifelong learner. I didn’t have to choose between the Arts and STEM, and I was a more well-rounded individual because I could do both. I eventually decided to study in a STEM-field, but I never wanted to lose my grasp on influences that the arts had on me and I wanted to explore their interactions with the scientific community. This led me to my senior capstone project researching the influence and impact that arts-based instruction has on engineering and STEM undergraduate students. 

I plan to conduct this research by first examining literature and research on this topic. This will give me a better foundational understanding of STEM education, what arts-based instruction looks like, and the differences of the learning styles. Next, I will investigate the influence it has on the South Dakota Mines campus, whether positive or negative. I will do this by interviewing faculty that use arts-based instruction at a STEM educational institution. I will be able to analyze their teaching methods and then be able to compare this with the students’ experience. I will also conduct a survey of the student body to get the students’ perspective on the influence of the arts and humanities has on their education. This will give me a comprehensive look at how arts-based education impacts engineering students at South Dakota Mines. I will then use my findings to explore the possible implications of art-based instruction on engineering education by compiling my data, analyzing it, referencing previous literature and research, and using my new perspective from the interviews.

I have worked in various interdisciplinary teams over my academic endeavors at South Dakota Mines, and I have found great benefit in working with engineers, scientists, and businessmen and -women who provided new perspectives, creative solutions, and different areas of expertise. This diversity is crucial, and so I will also examine how arts-based instruction in engineering education could possibly include more underrepresented groups in STEM and improve collaboration in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams (Rabalais, 2014). If there is a correlation between adding arts-based instruction and the inclusion of underrepresented groups, this could positively impact women in STEM specifically, a topic that I am personally passionate about. By including an examination of these topics, we can gain a better understanding of STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) educational environments and how to influence them positively. 

I look forward to working on this research further and finding what conclusions that are to be drawn. By trying to answer how arts-based instruction influences and impacts undergraduate STEM students, I will be able to take a deeper dive into not only my educational experience but also the experiences of others. This research could determine whether this type of learning is necessary for engineering education and to produce well-rounded engineering professionals. It could also improve visibility for the Social Sciences and Humanities department at South Dakota Mines.


Forget, B. (2021). Merging dualities: How convergence points in art and science can (re)engage women with the STEM field. Canadian Review of Art Education / Revue canadienne d’éducation artistique, 48(1), 20–37.

May, G. S. (2015, March 30). Essay criticizes idea of adding the arts to push for STEM education. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from

Rabalais, M. E. (2014). STEAM: A national study of the integration of the arts into STEM instruction and its impact on student achievement (Order No. 3687702). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global; Publicly Available Content Database. (1669973460). Retrieved from

Rodier, C. ., Galaleldin, M. ., Boudreau, J. ., & Anis, H. . (2019). FROM STEM TO STEAM IN ENGINEERING DESIGN. Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA).

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