Lyndsey Wajert: The value of interdisciplinary studies

As I finalize my last semester of classes, I can’t help but remember the advice journalists and mentors passed on to me. They told me that, while pursuing a major in journalism is a good plan, students who know what type of journalism they want to pursue should study a subject that complements that goal.

There are many courses I wish I had taken outside of the School of Media and Public Affairs, so that I could write not only a solid news story, but also write about something besides journalism. Many jobs will require us to be experts on multiple issues, and quite frankly, keeping up on current events will only get students so far. That is where the value of an interdisciplinary curriculum could come in.

Interdisciplinarity is a somewhat newer educational model that allows students to focus on one subject but makes the focus even more specific by integrating other resources. GW is already working to implement the model in the sciences; after all, the new Science and Engineering Hall will house research labs and academic space used for interdisciplinary collaboration on research.

But interdisciplinarity does not have to simply be about research or grant funding, or for the sciences or policy. It can also be about students pursuing their interests in a way that is tailored to what they want to do after graduation.

GW should implement this approach throughout more of its schools, but particularly those with a skills-based focus. And in many ways, what our University needs is a more interdisciplinary approach – one that allows a student who wants to write about war to not only take war reporting, but also classes on international political conflicts through the Elliott School.

This requires two major steps: Students should seek out interests beyond their majors, particularly in skills-based fields and related departments. And those departments should encourage students to study their theories.

A business student who is interested in developing economies would surely benefit from an Elliott School course. A journalist who wants to write about science should be encouraged to dabble in a few courses in environmental science or physics.

But rather than having these courses come at a cost for students pursuing a major, they should be integrated into major requirements.

Minors entail taking core requirements and don’t allow for enough immersion in the subject. Double majors are extremely difficult in practice, especially if one wants to graduate in four years. But an integration of interdisciplinary studies with existing curricula would allow students to have a more holistic and informed education, in which they pursue their fields of interest from a range of angles.

Collaboration will ultimately benefit students. If GW truly wants to increase the focus on interdisciplinarity, it should not simply pilot interdisciplinary programs and instead implement this method across schools.

GW has stellar programs with leading professors in their fields, and more students should be able to benefit from the ability to take classes that are based in general skills with a focus on more specific knowledge.

We’ll all be better students, and graduates, for it.

Lyndsey Wajert, a senior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s senior columnist.

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