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Interdisciplinary Dialog: Graduate Student Conversations Across the Arts & Sciences

Interdisciplinary Dialog: Graduate Student Conversations Across the Arts & Sciences

How does your discipline define the human person? This past fall semester, graduate students from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and formal sciences met for a series of informal presentations and facilitated conversations to answer that question. This Fall Conversation Series, organized by the School of Arts & Sciences’ Graduate Advisory Council at The Catholic University of America, aimed to establish cross-departmental dialog, interdisciplinary relationships, and strengthen the School’s intellectual community.

Each of the Conversations in this Series featured three graduate student speakers who gave brief presentations exploring how their respective disciplines defines the human person:

  1. (Re)Imaging the Human Person: Featuring speakers from the English and Library & Information Science Departments.
  2. Dimensions of the Human Person: Featuring speakers from the Physics, Political Science, and Semitic and Egyptian Languages Departments.
  3. The Search for Knowledge and the Human Person: Featuring speakers from the Chemistry, Library & Information Science, and Politics Departments.

I had the pleasure of presenting a brief paper at the third Conversation -  my first presentation to a general audience outside of my own discipline, library and information science. My discipline conceptualizes “the human person” quite differently from my fellow presenter’s disciplines (chemistry education and legal studies, respectively). Yet even with our differing perspectives, epistemologies, and vocabularies, our presentations shared a few common themes: Community, engagement, and hope.

The School of Arts & Sciences is the largest within our institution, but there are still barriers to cross-disciplinary dialog. While the boundaries between our respective disciplines are porous, we each have our own vocabularies, methodologies, preferences, biases, and assumptions that limit our ability to fully engage in interdisciplinary dialog. Compounding these barriers is the traditional nature of our institution, which sometimes disincentives efforts to look beyond our scholarly silos and collaborate on educational and scholarly initiatives.

As an interdisciplinary field, library and information science has a uniquely symbiotic relationship with other fields of knowledge represented in the School. I’ve found inspiration in this interdisciplinary richness, blending elements of library and information science, education, and sociology into a uniquely tailored master’s degree program. For me, participating in the School’s Conversation Series became an unintended culminating experience, one that facilitated deep reflection my own discipline, and illustrated its connections to other, unexplored disciplines.

How do students in your institution play an active role in promoting interdisciplinary dialog?

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