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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: Seek interdisciplinary opportunities

Interdisciplinary+illustration
Interdisciplinary illustration

The benefits of a well-rounded education are worth pursuing.
Texas State is an institution dedicated to expanding the horizons of human understanding. But like all universities, Texas State eventually hits a wall in this pursuit: the walls between different academic fields.
Classification helps clarify and allows different fields to have appropriate and specialized standards. However, it also means that there are inherent limitations to each field. For that reason, students should attempt to pursue an interdisciplinary education.
Luckily, many programs already exist at Texas State that can help students incorporate Interdisciplinary into their undergraduate education.
First, students can consider choosing a minor. Although choosing a minor that closely complements their major is encouraged, choosing one that provides a greater breadth of experiences might be valuable. This will give students opportunities to expand their horizons and find exciting new ways to bring both fields together in and out of the classroom.
Second, students can join a club focused on topics they are interested in, even if it is not related to their studies. For example, the Texas State Film Club is open to all students passionate about film regardless of their major or minor. According to Texas State’s Student Organizations Council database, there are over 300 organizations on campus with interests ranging from Aquatic Biology to Wakeboarding.
Students can also look into applying for the Honors College. According to its website, The Honors College emphasizes interdisciplinary learning methods meaning students from all majors are encouraged to take classes that they find interesting, even if it doesn’t relate to their major or minor. Honors students can even minor in Honors Studies, which allows them to combine this flexibility with the opportunity to study abroad.
Peter Tschirhart, a senior lecturer in the Honors College, said honors courses are designed from the ground up with an interdisciplinary mindset.
“We find faculty from their home discipline and we ask them, ‘what would this problem look like from another point of view?'” Tschirhart said. “You’re not typically going to find a pure history course here. You’re going to find a course which includes public outreach or aesthetics.”
Students can get involved in the Common Experience during their first year. As the nation’s number one initiative of its kind, the Common Experience is a yearly collection of events that transcends the barriers between disciplines, all united by a single theme. While students may dismiss the Common Experience as irrelevant to their academic plans, it would be better to take advantage of the opportunity it represents to expand their horizons.
This year’s Common Experience is Systems Thinking, a discipline that examines the systems surrounding us. One of the systems in which college students are most embedded in academia. By its very nature, this system divides human knowledge into boxes to better categorize it. While it is a valuable system, it is still an artificial construct and has limitations.
Interdisciplinary education is not without its detractors, who typically point out that there is nothing in the job description of an engineer which indicates that they need to know anything about interpretive dance or gender studies; doing so is decried as impractical and unnecessary. However, this line of thought ignores the benefits of having diverse viewpoints.
Todd Salmi, a minister for United Campus Ministry at Texas State, said every academic discipline has strengths and weaknesses.
“Each field offers a gift in how it views the world, but it also has certain blinders and shortcomings that it doesn’t consider,” Salmi said. “You do need data, but it’s also important to hear people’s stories.”
Students benefit from recognizing the value of seeing our scholarship as part of a single, larger project we are all working toward. Interdisciplinary principles have facilitated some of the most incredible breakthroughs, innovations and discoveries. Leonardo Da Vinci, George Washington Carver, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein made significant advancements in multiple fields. Their knowledge of one area often gave them a unique insight into another, allowing them to see problems from a unique angle and craft novel solutions. This same spirit lives on today, as Popular Science reports, in projects like a new satellite design based on origami.
Don’t think the benefits only extend to academic research. Interdisciplinary education is well-suited for the modern workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will have about 12.4 jobs in their lifetime. Gone are the days when people could make a career out of a narrow set of skills. By broadening their horizons, students can equip themselves with the necessary skills.
Einstein wrote that the sciences and humanities are “branches of the same tree.” By stepping outside the box, students can enhance their college experience and benefit from the freedom and innovative potential of interdisciplinary education.
– Andrew Hodge is an English and communications senior
The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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