Published: April 30, 2018

Academic Futures Town Hall Notes

Interdisciplinary Teaching, Research & Creative Work

April 24, 2018


Jeff Cox and AF Committee Members:

Brief update on Academic Futures and its work on Interdisciplinary work.

Comments and Questions:

  • Better access to equipment and instrumentation is important to collaborative research and teaching – we need shared equipment and spaces (not hidden away in an individual’s lab).  This not only opens a door to interdisciplinary teaching and research, but also reduces research startup costs/time. 
  • Departmental funding models are a barrier for interdepartmental collaboration (space, equipment, etc.).
  • Our top scientists have been moved to the outskirts of campus, reducing the opportunities for students to access labs and scientists (e.g., between classes).
  • From an administrative view, we don’t have a home for strong interdisciplinary programs.  Many interdisciplinary ideas come from the institutes.  We need administrative structures to support interdisciplinary programs.
  • Undergraduate interdisciplinary efforts run into department power structures – many good ideas die running into outdated reward systems/structures.  We need to take a hard look at the cultural barriers and decide if it’s really something we want to do.
  • We have not exploited the interdisciplinary opportunities in the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences well enough – these could really take off.
  • Many interdisciplinary efforts get hung up on the idea that they have to be “self supporting”.
  • We need to look at how to give credit for non-curricular activity (e.g., certifications, badges, etc.) – there is a lot of training that is needed and is going on (technology, research, data analysis, etc.).  This training cuts across disciplines.  It would benefit students in getting jobs if they can show that they are “certified” in those skills and would motivate them to take those training sessions.  One solution could be micro-courses (1-2 credits) that all students need that can be focused at the department level.
  • We collect a lot of data across campus – it would be good to look at creating good data management practices and make data available across disciplines.
  • We typically have to fight for funding every semester for interdisciplinary work/ideas.  We need sustainable funding models.
  • The RAPs are already housed with interdisciplinary offices – we need to value and promote these.
  • A&S has not tapped into interdisciplinary funding resources as well as the STEM side of the university.
  • Employers and corporations have an appetite for well-rounded students and are can more easily get behind donating to a university that provides interdisciplinary teaching and research experience that students can bring to the table.
  • The AF committee is looking at creating a problem-driven group of experts from many disciplines to engage with the community to identify, create, and manage interdisciplinary programs.  Some examples are seen at Ohio State, Columbia, and Minnesota.  This type of engagement with the community could help CU remain relevant. 
  • Everything feels like “extra” burden – creating certificates, co-teaching, etc.  This “extra” always seems to fall on the faculty shoulders on top of the mandated work.
  • We may not need certifications, we just need more flexibility and funding, e.g., create interdisciplinary majors/minors.
  • Innovation requires job structure and process changes.  We need to assess those along with teaching load, credit, and student expectations.  We need to address cultural/empowerment issues at the unit level.
  • We need flexibility around pre-requisites for interdisciplinary programs. This is especially true for summer classes.
  • Alumni are waiting in the wings to help once we determine the best ways to use them as a resource.  They will be valuable in helping create networking opportunities.
  • Interdisciplinary programs and experiential education is critical for recruitment and retention.  This needs to be integrated into degree expectations.  All parents want their students to successfully “launch” and get good jobs. 
  • We need to be mindful of student debt for interdisciplinary work – currently, many students have to add an extra semester to get the extra interdisciplinary courses.
  • If interdisciplinary experiences are not part of the curriculum, students won’t attend them (e.g. the Conference on World Affairs).  We need to find ways that encourage students to participate.  Departmental cultures are different in supporting interdisciplinary experiences that are not course work.
  • How do we find, recruit, and meet the needs of incoming students who have already created success not just a student, but in life as well (already engaged in their communities)?