I aim to provide course content, facilitate experiences, and inspire insights that will encourage students to build a life they love and do good in the world we share.

I seek to accomplish this with an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) pedagogical framework. More than merely combining disciplines, interdisciplinarity requires practitioners to traverse spaces beyond and between disciplines, often utilizing disciplinary tools to render insights from these spaces intelligible and practical. Interdisciplinarity is essentially a creative endeavor that developed in response to the novel demands of our increasingly complex world. Complex problems are dynamic and unpredictable, thus interdisciplinarians must develop a skillset that includes adaptability, agility, and courage.  I seek to cultivate the cognitive toolkit necessary to effectively address real-world complex problems. This toolkit includes such things as: empathy, open-mindedness, tolerance of uncertainty, and intellectual courage.

There are three core competencies of IDS: perspective taking, critical thinking, and integration. I translate these roughly into how one sees, how one thinks, and how one does.

Perspective taking is rooted in empathy, and I seek to develop this element through activities and assignments that require deep dialogue and collaboration. For example, in groups, students have to create a podcast episode that covers a complex problem. Students must discuss the topic at length to determine what to present in their episode, and this draws students beyond traditional discussion platforms. Unpacking assignments walk students through a range of hidden and apparent variables that impact and are impacted by a complex issue. I actively seek out community partners for service-learning opportunities for my students as engagement with a diversity of perspectives builds this competency.

Critical thinking requires open-mindedness, which requires a move away from dualistic frameworks towards a critical pluralist position. One way I approach this is through a series of collaborative improvisational exercises. For example, I team up students to create and perform short skits utilizing concepts from the textbook. To succeed, students must set aside differences and open to each other’s ideas, strengths, and weaknesses. The atmosphere of openness is a first step to opening to new ideas which are necessary for constructing a rich critical analysis.

Integration involves the creation of something new such as an insight, idea, essay, or video. Integration assembles different perspectives on a brokered common ground. I prioritize digital literacy in my classes as an important aspect of contemporary interdisciplinary practices. I assign multiple short video presentations, podcast discussions, and I ask students to produce a video essay instead of a traditional research paper. This encourages students to develop the intellectual courage necessary to attempt new things and convey new and different points of view.

I believe that the tools necessary for doing good interdisciplinary academic work are the same tools necessary for doing good in the world.  I suggest that the heart of interdisciplinarity is the art of human connection, and I challenge my students to seek significance in their work beyond their final grade.  I encourage them to live an interdisciplinary life.