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The Western Program at Miami University

School of Thought: Interdisciplinary

The Western Program Introduces the Faculty

A full text transcript of the video is available below.


Text Transcript

(This video shows Western faculty talking about interdisciplinary studies and working with students.)

Professor Katie Johnson:
"I think interdisciplinary study and research right now is really at the cutting edge of a lot of disciplines. I think it's really exciting. It's an opportunity for students to read very thickly and research very broadly, bringing together different kinds of contexts and different kinds of materials and disciplines. And it's really where a lot of fields are going."

Professor Kevin Armitage:
"One way to think about interdisciplinarity is that the real world is interdisciplined — that is, that if you're actually problem solving, if you become an environmental consultant or a business person or a scientist and you're involved in some kind of project in the real world, you have all sorts of people around the table that you have to deal with: the scientists who are telling you things, the developers who have goals, the entrepreneurs, you know, people who are worried about water quality and civic space, and everything you can possibly imagine. And so one of the vital needs for our world and for people who have careers is to be able to talk to all those different interests. Right? Be able to understand all these different languages — like economics and business and entrepreneurship, environmentalism and science — and be able to bring them all together to come up with solutions for our common problems."

Professor Hays Cummins:
"I've been teaching from an interdisciplinary perspective for the last 22 years. And what it means is ... For me personally, it's all new for me. Each year is new. It means I learn from the students. It means that I'm not bored from just giving straight lecture classes. It means facilitating student learning from a variety of perspectives, taking a problem and looking at it in many different ways and encouraging student voice."

Professor Nicholas P. Money:
"I'm particularly excited about the opportunity to interact with senior students through their theses projects. I've mentored master's and doctoral students in the Botany department at Miami now for a number of years, but being involved in the senior thesis program through Western is going to be really interesting. It's going to really stretch me a lot as a faculty member and I'm really looking forward to working with students who are actually studying subjects and questions that really fall a little bit outside my direct area of expertise. But I think through co-mentoring students, again, with faculty from different disciplines, I think we've got a really rich opportunity here to really impact the educational growth of those students and really enhance their projects."

Professor Mary G. McDonald:
"I think what Western has to offer, perhaps more than any place at Miami, is the faculty-student interaction. Just because we're focusing on individualized study and we're also talking about interdisciplinarity, the subject and the goals of what we're doing are a little different, so you have to have that individualized interaction between faculty and students. So, I think it's also a relationship that where the faculty, in some cases, may be mentored. The students are bringing ideas from other places on the campus back to Western, so it's almost creating a learning environment for both faculty and students."

Professor Katie Johnson:
"I think another strength of Western is the fact that it is so focused on the student-faculty interaction and, moreover, the richness of the student interaction that takes place, even outside of the seminar. I keep hearing again and again how students are connecting outside of the classroom: conversations that are very intimate within the seminars but that continue in the living-learning community, outside in the hallways, in the dorm rooms."

Professor Hays Cummins:
"The new Western is going to have a Western inquiry center, which is going to facilitate inquiry, service. What we want to do is facilitate global programs. One current idea floating around is to have a thematic sequence where we have a pre-field experience course where we look at global issues and problems, and the students develop an action plan. Regardless of where they're going in the world, they do a self-directed inquiry project, an action project, while they're in the field. And then the third course of the sequence we bring every student that we can together and they share their experiences and they share their action plans. And that will be facilitated by the new Western inquiry center."

Professor Kevin Armitage:
"You'll get to work with faculty closely. At the very least you're going to do a big senior project where you're intensely advised by a faculty member. What's so wonderful about that is ... Well, it's enriching for the faculty because we really get to know you outside of the classroom as well as in the classroom and it's in that close, collaborative process that really deepens your intellectual understanding of what you're doing and that really allows us, gives us a great way to sell you for your next step in life."


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