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The New Curriculum Part III: Toward An Interdisciplinary Campus

Inaugurating interdisciplinary teaching without a meaningful interdisciplinary academic context runs the risk of appearing superficial or insincere. Now that “interdisciplinary” has become a mantra among many faculty members, a larger challenge will be creating an interdisciplinary campus culture.

“Departments are starting to think about collaborations,” said Dr. Cwilich. “Faculty across departments are working together much more than before. The head of economics is sitting down with the English department. That never happened before.” The humanities and social sciences seminars are begging to break out of their departmental boundaries. President Joel insisted that the Straus Center for Torah and Western thought was “beginning to provoke scholarship and develop interdisciplinary exchanges.”

Dean Eichler maintained that one of the benefits of the new curriculum was a more united faculty, “the developments of these courses is that more and more faculty members are coming together and talking together in serious ways.” Under the new curriculum, faculty members are reaching out to colleagues in other departments for constructive criticism and even teaching partnerships. “That has rejuvenating faculty,” said Dean Eichler. “This is exciting, especially when teaching loads aren’t being reduced.” Dr. Jess Olson reflected those sentiments, “I am also pleased that teaching in the new curriculum has given me even more interaction with my colleagues across departments and disciplines in the college, something I value a great deal.”

However, while the interdisciplinary curriculum exposes students to the newest developments within academia, Yeshiva College has no formal space for the faculty to meet and engage with one-another on an ad hoc basis, and few opportunities for serious cross-discipline intellectual engagement. Generating the right environment for cross-departmental research and education, in the form of co-teaching, inter-departmental seminars and even interdepartmental visiting faculty members will engender further constructive cross-pollination. “It is certainly starting,” said Dr. Cwilich, yet most of those interviewed admitted that an interdisciplinary campus was still an ambitious and distant goal.

The New Curriculum Part IV: Students React to New Curriculum