What Interdisciplinary Learning Means to Me

Looking back on my education I start to realize that I have been taking an interdisciplinary approach almost my entire academic career.  I have always been fascinated by science, but also by its social implications.  I have always found myself interested in psychology and sociology but wanted to know more about actual people and how different cultures and societies function.  With all these interests, sits my main focus, physical health and wellness.  My

NAMI NH’s Walk to End Stigma and Promote and Advocate for Mental Health ’17
photo by Madisen Giordano

post high school education has included seven different majors, finally bringing me to the interdisciplinary studies program here at Plymouth State.  What better way to combine all the disciplines I had previously studied than trying to mix them all up and get something else from it.  Interdisciplinarity helps me remember that the field of study I want to focus in won’t always show me how to solve problems, I will have to draw on information from other disciplines to help bridge the gap.

Interdisciplinarity in my studies will of course help me in my future education and future career.  With the thought of graduate school looming, my ever growing knowledge of the human body and its capabilities continues to grow, but from different facets of the academic world.  Not only do I know what forces cause injuries, how muscles function, and how cellular respiration and metabolic pathways contribute to exercise, but I also am now learning how drug affect all the tissues in the body, the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders and the importance of exercise testing in healthy individuals.  Bringing together all the aspects of the different disciplines I’ve studied and continue to study will help to make me the best athletic trainer around, and I will have earned it.

Gregorian said it best when he said, “Today’s students fulfill general-education requirements, take specialized courses in their majors, and fill out their schedule with some electives, but while college catalogs euphemistically describe this as a “curriculum,” it is rarely more than a collection of courses, devoid of planning, context, and coherence.”  The fear of a rigid ‘curriculum’ pointed me directly at the IDS program.  After years of bouncing around from major to major, discipline to discipline, I wanted to take charge of my education and formulate something meaningful that would add success to future academic endeavors.  I strongly agree with Gregorian when he states, “the fundamental problems of disjointed curricula is fragmentation of knowledge itself.”  While drilling down ideas and solving them in smaller portions, sometimes it is beneficial to see the problem as a whole, or setting the problem in context, and not fragmenting the knowledge, but using different disciplinary approaches to solving the problem as a whole.

Promoting Drug Free Lifestyles with my PMS Field Hockey team during Red Ribbon Week ’16
photo by Madisen Giordano

Gaining knowledge across disciplines has been a focal point of my academic career since I can remember, much before college.  As previously stated, I have always been interested in all the constructs of knowledge, the epistemology of just about everything, with the exception of math.  Nissani put it into the best words possible for me to explain my academic career, “…jack of all trades, master of none.”  While I do hope to be an excellent athletic trainer someday, I also hope to have a wealth of knowledge that isn’t directly related to athletic training content, but supports the methods of the profession.

As a very passionate student, I have always questioned the specialization of scholars.  While obviously it is important to have those who specialize in say, cardiology or oncology or pediatrics, it is also vitally important for those scholars to be informed of issues across healthcare as a whole.  I have always wondered what the path of their specialization entails, how much knowledge they are able to gather outside of their specific specialization.  “…those who stop at the disciplinary edge run the risk of tunnel vision” (Nissani).  This quote tells me all I need to know about specialization, and while it has its benefits it also has its drawbacks, as everything in the world does.

I would have to say that I would not have wanted to finish my undergraduate education in any other way than in the Interdisciplinary Studies program here at PSU.  Nassani makes an incredible point when he says “Interdisciplinarians, by contrast, are forever treating themselves to the intellectual equivalent of exploring exotic lands.”  By keeping my mind geared towards interdisciplinary approaches to education and research, I feel as though my knowledge on topics I am passionate about will continue to grow and flourish forever.

References:

Gregorian, Vartan. ‘Colleges Should Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge.

Colleges Should Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge

Nissani, Moti. ‘Ten Cheers for Interdisciplinarity.’

Ten Cheers for Interdisciplinarity

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One Reply to “What Interdisciplinary Learning Means to Me”

  1. You cover so many aspect of interdisciplinarity that inspire me: the transdisciplinary connections between the academy and the applied fields and practice; the mix between specialization and breadth that we strive to balance as we learn; the self-directed way we let our subjects and inquiries and passions guide our curricular paths. Wonderful post that reminds me why I find our program to be such a special place inside the university!

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