Recent Graduate Cole Hardman Enjoys Parallelisms Between STEM and Art

Friday, June 03, 2016
Cole Hardman With Sculpture

Prize-Winning Poet: Recent electrical engineering graduate Cole Hardman was the grand prize winner in the 2016 Max Ehrmann Poetry Contest. A sculpture in downtown Terre Haute honors the city's native son, best known for writing the popular poem "Desiderata."/p>

Through carefully crafted literary prose, Cole Hardman has found a creative avenue that showcases there's plenty of room for the arts in science, engineering, and other technical fields.

The budding electrical engineer has used the aliasing techniques found in digital signal processing to create metaphorically mixed forms in poems that have been featured in national literary journals and grand prize-winning entries in a Wabash Valley competition.

"I enjoy the parallelism between aspects of art and science, and believe that my engineering background has been a valuable asset to my artwork," the recent Rose-Hulman graduate says. "I can see how each line of a poem, like lines of code in a software program, are intertwined to tell a story."

Hardman began writing short fiction stories in junior high school and expanded into novel-sized literary works at Mitchell (Indiana) High School. He wrote his first sonnet shortly before attending college. Those artistic interests flourished at Rose-Hulman, with classes in creative writing, modern literature, and literary theory alongside engineering courses in mobile robotics, communication systems, and power and energy systems. Hardman also squeezed in special topic humanities courses studying Chinese poetry techniques, literary theory and criticism, and the works of James Joyce, while serving as editor for Rose-Hulman's Ink literary journal.

"Cole is essentially a double major in electrical engineering and English (because of taking multiple literature classes)," says Corey Taylor, associate professor of English. "The complexity and originality of his thought, combined with his lucidity of written and spoken expression and strong work ethic, make him among the smartest students with whom I've worked. He could easily go toe-to-toe with the best undergraduate English majors from around the country."

Another of Hardman's admirers, associate English professor Mark Minster, adds, "Students like Cole come along once a decade, maybe once in a professor's career…He's a restless learner who takes criticism well. He tries out styles, throws away what doesn't work, and keeps writing. He's made it a habit to seek out classes that interest him, and to beat on professors' doors until we teach him as relentlessly as he wants to learn. I'd hire him, let him bat third in my lineup, and will buy copies of everything he writes."

Admitting that he's an engineer (first) and poet (second), Hardman enjoys the current national dialogue about how the arts should be integrated into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and likes that Rose-Hulman helps put engineering in a broader societal context through humanities coursework, displaying artwork across academic building hallways, and providing a stage for the performing arts.

"One of the great things about Rose-Hulman is that we have a campus where creativity flourishes through the arts," he says. "I love that you can go down the hallway of a residence hall and hear someone playing the cello, people are always playing the piano in the student union, and you can hear people performing in the [Hatfield Hall Theater] on most nights."

Hardman's artistic interests will continue as an engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He plans to take a non-credit, graduate-level literature seminar in Indiana University's English Department.

"Writing and engineering are in my blood and within my brain," he says. "I'm always looking for new ways to stretch those interests. Hopefully, there will be a common pathway for that journey."