Double Majors and Interdisciplinarity

Double Majors/Interdisciplinarity  

Curricular suggesions

  • Don’t allow double majors, or all the majors should double major.
  • Consider previous course work, including 401, as opportunity to engage/practice interdisciplinary study
  • Add a special category for interdisciplinary IS on senior research symposium day
  • 1/2 credit for co-taught course:  would it make a difference if it were full credit?
  • Use of FYS:  show as example, use outside speakers, combine a class for one session/unit
  • Integrative course requirement (like “Q” or “W”)
  • Create policies regarding which disciplines could truly be considered interdisciplinary so as to guide students regarding what they can actually do when considering an I.S. in a double major.
  • Encourage faculty partnerships by putting resources together that zero in on the interdisciplinary nature of Wooster’s curriculum. The fact that some departments have no flexibility speaks to that.
  • Faculty that have had very good interdisciplinary partnerships with other colleagues from other departments should share their experiences at a special forum for that purpose.Potential Curricular Changes
  • Though the I.S. is a fundamental part of the Wooster Academic experience, it needs to feed off the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum. In other words, the interdisciplinary nature of the curriculum should be the bedrock of the IS. For now the curriculum seems interdisciplinary enough.
  • Departments should provide interdisciplinary courses to create that environment within the department and for the students to pick up that culture.

How to think Interdisciplinarily:

  • For the Faculty member:
    • Approaches to interdisciplinarity develop not only around particular projects, but also over the years, as faculty collaborate in various combinations, strengthen relationships, and build on past successful joint projects. These processes need to be nurtured both by departments and by the administration.
    • Interdisciplinary IS projects can be incredibly rewarding for faculty, who have to opportunity to encounter new analytical tools, methods, and subject areas. We should talk more about how exciting this is. Sometimes faculty can dwell on the problems that joint IS projects can present. How can we better emphasize the positives. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, like one is one new terrain, can freshen our perspectives and help us to better understand what our students are experiencing.
    • Think beyond your own confined thinking and let go of expectations in your own discipline
    • Trust the other Faculty member and be familiar with the other department
    • Stretch your Boundaries
    • Accept students conception of interdisciplinarity
    • Don’t be afraid of your own gaps
  • For the Student
    • Can you find real world examples of two ideas colliding?
    • Set the context—how does each discipline view the topic? 

Suggestions for Managing the Process

  • Joint IS projects do not mean fifty-fifty. It’s important to put the individual student and his or her particular interests at the very center of conversations about the IS project how it should be constructed. Flexible and strategic interdisciplinarity should be the goal, rather than forced interdisciplinarity that can leave students feeling sandwiched between competing departmental apparatuses and expectations.
  • Syllabus, faculty agree on goals and criteria for grading
  • Summaries for individual meetings
  • Projects that are truly interdisciplinary
  • Get faculty to share interdisciplinary experiences so students know what we mean
  • Flexibility within each major
  • Don’t force an interdisciplinary thesis; if two separate projects, then do 2 separate mini-theses (Equivalent to one single disciplinary thesis).
  • Design the Methodology together
  • The 2 advisors should meet first together to talk through the process, and then meet with the student.  Must protect the student from friction between the advisers.
  • Consider different formats for weekly meetings
    • Joint (all 3)
    • Every (other) week between advisors
    • Stretch of time separately with each adviser depending on progress
    • There was concern in our group about joint projects where the student meets separately with each advisor. This is sometimes presented as a way to save time or facilitate scheduling. In reality, it may create extra complications, as students shuttle back and forth and have to catch each professor up on what happened in the other meeting. This puts a burden on the student to be the link between the two professors, who might seem very distant from one another.
    • Have difficulties with Personal dynamics?  Figure it out!

Examples of Failure

  • The student couldn’t see the connections between the two disciplines
  • Students who see a discipline narrowoly
  • “It’s too big a stretch”—e.g. Theater and music—many started, none finished.  “need to complete this work, but I need a job in x months.”  “This is not going to get me a job.”  “I will miss out on a skill set.”
  • Preferably don’t assign double-majors to first year faculty
  • Projects that are not truly interdisciplinary
  • Students meet individually with faculty members, or meeting every other week
  • Some majors just don’t “fit”

Managing Interpersonal Dynamics:

  • Student needs to manage both fields in our current structure
    • Likened to “parents fights”
    • Double major form discussion in sophomore year should involve active participation with both advisors
    • Co-meetings can be intimidating for students
    • Faculty interpersonal dynamics are not an issue—perhaps the double major I.S. form has reduced tension in disciplinary differences?
  • This is the student’s responsibility

Co-Mentoring as Faculty Development

  • Very helpful with strong mentors and co-meetings
    • Helpful when faculty understand their role as a co-mentor
    • Develops organically to be successful. Nothing is set up for every double major to be successful
    • Be intentional about faculty co-mentoring roles

Obstacles to Double Majoring

 What happens when there is no interface between two majors—no natural overlap?

    • Departments try to be very lenient with I.S. requirements. But: When is it too lenient? When should students pick one major?
    • Get an I.S. with two parts so that neither faculty need to evaluate the whole
  • Process Obstacles
    • Projects end up using methods or writing sections that don’t make sense in one field or another
    • Advisors meet separately with student
    • Majors who allow students to choose any project topic versus majors who prefer projects related to faculty research
  • Structure
    • Can students get double major without doing two I.S.’s?
    • Some majors have requirements that make it more difficult to do a double major
    • Students don’t know what interdisciplinary means when they declare a double major