I'm wondering, this morning, as I walk the dog soon after sunrise, looking north across Utah Valley, if it is even possible to do work so focused that it doesn't involve some kind of interdisciplinarity. Scientists talk disparagingly about people they call "one mugs," teachers/researchers who are able to do only a single, tightly focused thing. But we don't see many of those kind in successful positions in academics or business or the professions. These days, even a proctologist works with an interdisciplinary team. And even a white-haired professor of Integrated Studies has to learn how to take photos with a digital camera and to post the images to a blog.
The assumption that most topics or real-life problems have to be addressed with a set of diverse tools is the basis for the Integrated Studies Program, where we teach methods of interdisciplinary research in our topics classes and where each student produces an interdisciplinary thesis.
For instance, here's a list of our courses for this year:
- Death and Dying
- American Modernism
- Evolutionary Ecology
- Language, most dangerous of possessions
- India: Hindu Philosophy and Art
The Spring class on the American West will similarly draw on various disciplines to think about a region that is as mythical as physical: literature, geology, history, cultural studies, and art (see the Maynard Dixon painting above -- Dixon was married to the photographer Dorothea Lang, had a house in southern Utah, and obviously witnessed skies like the one I saw this morning).
Our majors take two of these courses as a required part of the major; but the topics are so engaging that we draw a lot of students who are not majors as well. For instance, the ongoing course on Death and Dying, taught by certified Thanatologist Nancy Rushforth and Professor Reba Keele, appeals to a wide range of human beings, all of whom must respond to these issues.
So, take a look at the Spring offerings and join us for one of our cross-border trips.