November 2, 2015

Issues, Not Disciplines: A Conversation with Mark Giordano

Contemporary global challenges cannot be categorized according to academic disciplines. In fact, today’s most pressing problems can only be understood and solved by taking an interdisciplinary approach. As Georgetown’s Provost Robert Groves has pointed out, academia primarily rewards specialization in disciplines. Yet if research and teaching are to provide world leaders with the tools needed to tackle big issues facing humanity, we need to break our siloed thinking.

To this end, the Global Future(s) Curriculum Studio supports the project “Issues, not Disciplines” under the lead of Professor Mark Giordano, director of the Program in Science, Technology and International Affairs. This project develops an interdisciplinary course on biotechnology.

According to Giordano, new technologies and findings, such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR), will revolutionize biotechnology. However, the impacts of these developments touch on agriculture, economics, health, ethics, and security. Hence, research and teaching must look at this revolution through varied lenses.

It is difficult for instructors in traditional academic settings to assemble the wide-range of knowledge necessary for students to fully understand these far-reaching findings. Therefore, the Global Future(s) Curriculum Studio supports a new classroom model, which features the inclusion of different specialists in Georgetown courses and a multidisciplinary dialogue among instructors. No longer will student be taught by a sole professor; rather, they will be exposed to a range of content experts across disciplines.

“The project ‘Issues, not Disciplines’ is evolving very positively so far,” Giordano reported in October 2015. The next step will be to identify lessons learned and to study how they can be applied more broadly to curriculum development.

Given today’s challenges, issues—not disciplines—should be at the center of effective research and teaching. With the support of the Global Future(s) Curriculum Studio, Georgetown University aspires to bring interdisciplinary research and teaching to the next level.

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