Looking back on Intro to Interdisciplinary Studies

Looking back from the very beginning, I didn’t have any idea what this class was going to be like. Yeah it’s an Introductory class, but to what? Intro to Psych is way different, because you learn a little about every major sub discipline of Psychology. How do you do that with an Intro to IDS class? Would I just show up and just be told, “Hey we are just gonna talk about the most popular programs in this class and learn about Anatomy & Physiology because Health is a hot subject in IDS.”

Well fortunately enough that was not the case. Over the course of the semester we not only learned what interdisciplinary studies was, but we also learned how to become better interdisciplinarians. Fun Fact: There is a difference between the words interdisciplinary, interdisciplinarity, and interdisciplinarian. It’s a subtle difference that would take too long to explain, but I used to think they were just fancier ways of saying interdisciplinary studies (I thought my professor was just making up the word interdisciplinarity for a little bit when she first said it).

Spending an entire semester learning about interdisciplinary studies has been a enjoyable experience. I would say the class has had a very relaxed feeling to it. Not to say the class is just a pushover or anything, but this class does not in any way remind me of my neuroscience class! I used to think I had a pretty good understanding of what interdisciplinary studies was, but now it’s vastly changed.

At first, I thought an interdisciplinary studies program/field had to be this completely and radically unique thing that no one dare to study, due the sheer amount of amazingness and rambunctiousness. However, it doesn’t need to be (but is encouraged!). For instance, Video Game Design is an interdisciplinary field if you think about it. It combines Computer Programming along with Visual Art programs, with the result being knowing how to make a video game! Environmental Science is another example in a different sense. Environmental Science draws on a multitude of scientific disciplines. Although the fields themselves might still constitute science, you get this entirely new field of science from combining them together!

Transformers Comic Book Cover, famous toy line that serves as inspiration for video games.

Interdisciplinary Studies is such a huge concept, so huge that it is pretty much limitless. To help with the limitlessness of this field and to be better interdisciplinarians (my professor says it’s a real word), there are some basic guiding concepts of interdisciplinary studies. It sounds boring at first, but it’s interesting at how general and simple to the point they are. Let’s look at some concepts through the perspective of Interdisciplinary Programs in Musical Aesthetics & Music Cognition. They seem like the same thing at first glance, but are in fact two very different fields.

Musical Aesthetics, as you may know if you read my blog on occasion, is the study of the Aesthetics of Music and greater philosophical concepts at play. Why is some music considered beautiful and other types not? That question is what Musical Aesthetics is concerned about, and is considered to be Critical Interdisciplinarity; Interdisciplinarity which seeks to explore new types of knowledge and understand structures and meaning. 

Ludwig van Beethoven, famous composer from the Romantic Era.

Music Cognition on the other hand, albeit somewhat related, is vastly different. In reality, Music Cognition is more related to Music Therapy than it is to Musical Aesthetics. Music Cognition is Instrumental Interdisciplinarity, it aims to find in what ways Music can be used to alleviate Psychological Illnesses and how to better understand the influence of Music on the brain. Instrumental Interdisciplinarity is a field that aims to solve problems. As you can see, even  though Music Cognition is heavily Instrumental, it is both Instrumental and Critical Interdisciplinarity. The same also goes for Musical Aesthetics, that it is both parts Instrumental and Critical.

Sagittal Cross-Section of the Brain, showing the Brain as if cut down the center.

Thus, from both interdisciplinary fields you can get creative breakthroughs. Something totally rad and unexpected can come from research, but with an interdisciplinary education you can try to follow that phenomenon to see if it leads to a huge revelation. Even though they both are applied differently in the real world, they can still produce amazing ideas and answers to wicked problems.

As stated previously, interdisciplinary studies is such a robust field with endless opportunities, that it can give rise to doubts and concerns about what might call its ‘legitimacy’. Interdisciplinary Studies to me is this thing that sounds too good to be true, so you wonder if it actually is too good to be true. One problem that arises from interdisciplinary studies are issues and concerns of funding. Where should funding go for research for interdisciplinary studies? Should it go to Interdisciplinary Studies or to the departments most chosen for an interdisciplinary program?

My hope is that not only PSU would maintain and expand upon interdisciplinary studies, but that other higher education institutions would see the need for interdisciplinary studies in an increasingly complicated world. Interdisciplinary Studies is essential to universities because it is going to allow them maximum freedom while maintaining a general hierarchy of organization. Interdisciplinary Studies is also important for the greater world as well, with a great example being the growth of Environmental Science.

If you have not already seen pictures of the United States of America before the Environmental Protection Agency, I would heavily implore you to google some pictures yourself (for the lazy). I don’t think I need to say much more if you clicked that link as to why Environmental Science is important stuff. Some could argue that it is because of the growth of Environmental Science as an academic field, that there is now regression of pollution occurring. Plymouth State University can be a part of this process, of revolutionizing education and to help save the world! Although the saving the world may be a bit much, the fact that there are initiatives aimed towards environmental consciousness does say a little bit about the university.

Johann Sebastian Bach, famous composer from the Baroque Era. He composed hundreds of pieces for the Lutheran Church.

This has been a kind of a long post so I try to wrap it up quickly, due in part that I may or may not be getting assigned a grade for this post, but that’s beside the point. I have some plans, and they are pretty rad plans (at least for me, others would hate doing what I want to do). During the remainder of my time at PSU, I want to try to do some research in both my major (Musical Aesthetics) and in my minors (Psychology & Neuroscience). After my time here at PSU, I most definitely want to go to Grad School. Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I have tossed around many fields of interest for grad school. However, I am currently most passionate about pursuing Theology after my undergraduate studies, and following that track straight to a Ph.D.

My hopes and dreams among the stars is to one day teach at the college level as a full blown rad-tacular old man. I’ve always wanted to teach, but I found that I gravitated towards wanting to teach groups of students that are not in the age range of before 17 to 18. I hope you enjoyed this extremely lengthy post, and you should take a break from looking at your device and have some ice cream or something!


2 thoughts on “Looking back on Intro to Interdisciplinary Studies”

  1. Alexis Bowers

    I really like how you start off with explaining what you thought the course would be like and it was not what you expected at all. I also like the passion you talk about when explaining your program and what your goals are. I hope you meet your goals of teaching to groups of teenagers. Good luck with IDS and the rest of your years at Plymouth!

  2. Saving the world is not a bit much! It is exactly the point! 🙂 I can’t tell you how often I think back on that post where you talked about using music to replace drugs in curing certain psychological disorders, and just thinking about the research areas you will be embarking on makes me very excited for the ways that paradigms could shift and people’s lives could be vastly improved. This post, as usual, reflects your own original take on the themes and concepts that we covered, and I always come away with a richer sense of what this course could do. Thank you!

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