In 2010, Wesleyan University began offering courses and holding events in its new College of the Environment, a new interdisciplinary school and associated think tank. Each school year, the College has a broad theme (the first three were stress and vulnerability, water, and environmental justice) and approaches that subject from a variety of viewpoints. In an article in the new issue of Academe, a group of professors at Wesleyan talk about the motivations behind the college and the successes they have had so far.
One of the college’s goals is to let students and faculty from different departments work together and learn from each other in a way no single discipline can offer. They point out that different disciplines don’t just study different topics; they use different methods. It’s helpful for teachers and researchers, of course, to be exposed to different methods (and see which ones should be tried in their own fields), but the authors point out that it’s especially important for students, who can learn about multiple fields and methods before deciding in which direction to pursue their studies (the College of the Environment offers a four-course concentration, it is not in itself a major).
Read “The World through an Interdisciplinary Lens” to learn more about the college’s goals and progress, and perhaps get ideas for your own institution.