The Importance Of Interdisciplinary Studies In A Complex World

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

For my Experiential Education requirement course, I had to take a course revolving around studying career paths, specifically from the Roadtrip Nation website and their book. The people behind it took a road-trip interviewing as many people as possible about their career paths, how they got to where they were, and what advice they have. What captivated me was the interview with film director Valerie Weiss, who produced films such as “The Light Beneath Their Feet” and “Losing Control.”

She is actually a scientist with a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology. How she was able to apply her STEM experience to her film career was by applying the Scientific Method to every scene she cast. They were all considered part of hypotheses and if they failed to produce her desired results, they were revised.

Ever since I graduated with a B.A. in English, I wanted to challenge myself to explore an academic field that is not liberal arts related. Since I am a graduate student, I am given more independence beyond just a single course. More specifically I was just as interested in astronomy or biology alongside my liberal arts interests. I was hoping that by juxtaposing those fields into a unique educational path, I would brace for a job market where there is a lot of competition. I did not want to be superior in any way, rather I wanted to establish my own niche in an ever-changing world.

This would involve learning about two to three academic fields in order to provide a variety of answers to a single problem. What happens in interdisciplinary studies is that the student leads the faculty, despite it usually being the case that it is the other way around. What interdisciplinary studies show is that the student genuinely cares about the material being taught and is willing to shape his/her educational experience around his/her own academic interests. It is for this reason that Debra Humphreys, the vice president of policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, knows that employers look for self-direction as one of their most desirable skills.

To summarize interdisciplinary studies, Anne Feldman, who wrote the article “Why We Need To Put The Arts Into STEM Education,” concludes that:

“STEAM is people-centric, not subject-centric.”

If such an unusual academic field requires the self-direction of its students, then it would most definitely be the case that people-centric education may be an undervalued component, especially since the person pursuing this field would be driven to inquire further about his/her own field until it leads to other fields.

Graduated students with Interdisciplinary Studies degrees are also important in the workforce since they understand multiple perspectives. This results in more flexibly minded innovation, which would, therefore, result in productivity. Creativity is itself a state of mind that enables flexibility. It can focus on creating overlooked career paths, such as medical illustrators for science magazines. The mixture of Indigenous Studies and Programming would result in an app created by a Canadian programmer to detail the lands in the Americas and Australia as divisions of the tribes before colonization. This could lead the way to actually address any legal issues that may arise between an indigenous reservation and the local government. This complex view of the world was also used by famous brilliant people such as Leonardo da Vinci, who studied mathematics, engineering, and art.

It also creates an overlapping path that can incorporate both liberal arts and STEM, which can prevent entrenched controversies that can occur simply because the information, as well as the way it is presented, can be misunderstood by the other party. In the case of Dr. Myra Strober, a Stanford University professor, she personally witnessed a religious studies professor and an economist argue until the latter left the room. Allen Repko, the author of “Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory,” argued that interdisciplinary studies would also help the student confront his/her own biases and opinions. Interdisciplinary Studies is important in this way since it can unite people of different academic fields with the same objectives.

As such, this would enable unique problem-solving skills. In the case of Shama Rahman, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience of Musical Creativity, she put the concept of memory under question by engaging in an experiment which enabled the test subject to obtain false memories by listening to music in their sleep. This is what, as she concluded, was what makes the connection between dreams and memories as opposed to memories being a strictly chronological log. This is what enabled her to use this work to research dementia. Indeed, this is what would uncover broad breakthroughs in any field of study.

Exploring interdisciplinary fields is what would help all the decline in STEM job placements. They would make subjects such as math and science no longer appear boring and would actually provide meaning for students to explore their creative interests through the STEM field. There are schools in Pennsylvania that understand this, which is why 12 school districts will spend $530,000 on STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Arts-Math) programs. That budget will pay for a robotics lab, a motivation station, an outdoor discovery zone, and a virtual immersion lab. This is definitely what makes interdisciplinary studies a “smorgasbord of academic interests.”

It would definitely be worth it to be “not constrained by disciplinary borders” and having an “entrepreneurial spirit.” This field of study is one that is severely underestimated and one that employers are looking for. It can bring people together and solve complex problems. Rahman concluded her TED talk by asking anyone interested in pursuing interdisciplinary studies:

“What worlds do you connect and how?”

This is definitely a question I, as well as many other people, hope to answer.

Endangered Languages Are Adaptable To Popular Media

DISCLAIMER: This was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In order to dispel the stereotype that endangered languages are primitive and no longer have relevance, talented speakers (as well as non-speakers) have taken advantage of popular media in order to raise awareness that it is not the case. Media, such as music, film, and video games, have been used to show that endangered languages are adaptable to modern technology. While communication in these types of languages is important, media can help promulgate them.

Music is especially important when appealing to the younger generation. It would become relevant to young Irish people to hear Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Bastille’s “Pompeii” covered in their language, especially when the English language permeates their everyday lives. This medium reaches to the younger generations’ enjoyment as well as deep within their hearts.

Margaret Noodin, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a native Ojibwe speaker, wrote about collaborating with fellow Ojibwe-speakers–Howard Kimewon and Alphonse Pitawankwat–in translating lyrics from Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” What started as a request from local high school students became a confrontation with problems of the Native American community, such as suicide, especially with lyrics such as “Welcome to where time stands still” and “I fear living on” (Bringing 128).

The emotional connection is what keeps the younger generation engaged. This generation also has interactive connection through video games. There is an independently released PC game that involves the speakers of Iñupiaq, a language indigenous to Alaska, being the voice actors. When the game was released, its very title provided an advertisement both to any young Iñupiaqs who want to connect with their identity as well as the broader consumers whose curiosity of Alaska Native culture might become inspired by the game. It was marketed as “Never Alone” along with the Iñupiaq translation “Kisima Ingitchuna.” There was also an attempt by the Luiseño tribe to revitalize their language via Nintendo DSi, by producing 150 copies of cartridges containing songs, vocabulary, and quizzes to the students.

While music and games appeal to the younger generation, film helps bring a language to a wide audience. It is also a medium which famous actors and directors will use as a language revitalization project. It would involve using the language within the dialogue in order to provide both verisimilitude and broadcasting. In an effort to make “The New World” more realistic, Director Terrence Malick hired linguist Blair Rudes to reconstruct the extinct language spoken by Pocahontas and her tribe, using as sources the original word-lists recorded by John Smith himself and from words from related Algonquin languages. After the film was released, Rudes handed the fruits of his research to the descendants of Pocahontas and worked with Helen Rountree, an expert in Virginia Algonquian tribes, in developing a Virginia Algonquian dictionary.

If popular media can propagate dominant languages, such as English and Spanish; then they would also be impactful if the endangered languages were to be used in the same media. What they offer is direct defiance towards years, if not centuries, of stigmatization and imperialism (both nationalistic and capitalistic.) While documentation of these languages is important, they are not meant to be confined into archives as dictionaries, field-notes, photographs, and sound recordings. Popular media is like the language-speaking workshops that Daryl Baldwin hosted to introduce new speakers of the Myaamia language, which he described them as “…not just about language, but about recovering pieces of your identity.”

To learn more, read “Bringing Out Languages Home: Language Revitalization for Families.”

 

Attribution: YouTube