The Arts Advantage: A Balance Between Theater Studies and Computer Science

Spencer Rosen

Traditionally, the arts and sciences have been viewed as two distant fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon for Duke’s arts departments to see students with defined career dreams in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) also enrolled in performing and visual arts courses—adding the arts to their educations and transforming STEM to STEAM. 

Spencer Rosen (B.S. Computer Science; minors Theater Studies and Creative Writing ’22) is one of these STEAM students and discusses why he’s making a conscious effort to include theater in his studies. He is a general computer science major but hopes to focus on data science and computer security, and while at Duke, he’s been part of a data science team and has worked as a data-driven pricing consultant outside of school—but he also has a passion for theater.

How did you get involved in Theater Studies at Duke?

In high school, I didn’t take part in theater because it conflicted with the sports I played. My sophomore year at Duke, however, I was introduced to the Theater Studies Department through Neal Bell's screenwriting course, which I took because I've always loved film and writing. Since then, I've taken a handful of other theater-related classes, focusing mainly on those with a writing component. This fall, I’m co-stage managing the fall mainstage production of Golem

With a career path that is clearly STEM-focused, why do you choose to include Theater courses in your studies?

I love the balance that Theater Studies classes bring to my learning. They require a completely different skillset to my STEM courses and challenge my creativity along with my ability to analyze existing work. More than balance though, I've just enjoyed all the classes I've taken in the department, so I just kept adding more. 

It's also nice to have a break from the intensive left-brain tasks that STEM classes can demand, and I think I've learned a lot through my theater courses about working in a group to create a final product out of nothing—which is such a rewarding experience.

While I still don't know what I'm looking for in a career, I’d like to find a way to bring an arts element to a STEM-related path, or at least remain involved in the arts. Through my work in Theater Studies, I've realized how important it is to me that my career involves creating something physical and unique, whether that be as an individual or as part of a team.