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When two STEM professors walk in to an art school


By Kelsey Sanchez.

I came to the Savannah College of Art and Design with an Associate’s degree. I never had to take a math or science class here. I’m an “artist,” so why take a STEM class? But the classes are here, and so are the professors. Why did they choose to continue their careers at SCAD? Are they happy? What does math and science have to do with art?

Carlos Gonzales, an astronomy and physics professor at SCAD, was brought here by chance.
“I think I found this job on Indeed. SCAD posted that they needed two professors of science. I read it and I said, ‘Okay. I could do that.’ I got an interview. It went well and a couple days later they made me an offer.”

He had no ties to the Savannah area, his home was Puerto Rico, but it was a famous, historical town. Of the other places he could’ve gone (Kentucky, rural Georgia), Gonzales thought Savannah would be the nicest place to start his teaching career. Nearly everyone in his family has been a teacher. About teaching, Gonzales said, “I tend to think that I have it in my blood.” On ratemyprofessor.com, he is a recipient of the prized red chili pepper. I’d say his hypothesis is correct.

Even though Gonzales loves Savannah and SCAD, he admitted there is a different culture at an art college than at a more STEM oriented colleges.

“It’s like we’re hidden. We fight some biases because the students can get defensive about math and science classes. We try to make them comfortable, we show them we care.”

That’s when Professor Steven Wagner, who teaches Anatomy and Environmental Science, let out a chuckle.

“You hear all the time about students trying to avoid taking math, but most of them have a good time in class,” he said.

Wagner has an impressive number of publications in science journals (eight) and is involved with local and national ornithological (“bird stuff,” he explained) organizations. He has been in Savannah, specifically at SCAD, since 2004. He is looking forward to his 15-year anniversary next year.

“Anatomy totally relates to art. I mean they teach courses in animation on anatomy. But I’m not just focusing the class on the skin, the muscles—like in visual art. The big thing is: I think that everybody should know how their bodies work. I joke with the game design students that they better know about the inside anatomy as well if they want to make bloody, gory video games.”

Both Gonzales and Wagner believe science and math classes at SCAD can shape any artist’s lens. Both agree that industrial design, film, fashion and many other students have approached them with questions about the specifics of what they were teaching. Not for the class, but because the students STEM experience inspired them to create something.

Wagner put it best when he said, “The inspiration for art or design could come from anything, why not a science class?”