As a liberal arts and business-focused premed student, I’m constantly trying to learn about where ideas intersect. However, with two majors, a certificate and no overlapping degree requirements, I’m left with only a small amount of space in my four years to explore these intersections. Sadly, unless I want to add a new certificate to my to-do list, internally apply to other colleges or travel back in time to try for honors programs I can’t get into now, interdisciplinary exploration may not be possible.
For all students to have the opportunity to learn at educational intersections, UT must increase the number of broad-spectrum interdisciplinary courses offered, especially ones that target new, underrepresented intersections.
For Ana Ross, a neuroscience and sustainability studies senior who believes in the importance of an interdisciplinary education, it has been difficult to find ways to take such classes.
“Interdisciplinary classes are such an important part of a well-rounded education, but it can be hard exploring intersections at UT,” Ross said. “There are certain opportunities that UT provides, such as the Bridging Disciplines Program, but that has a 19 credit hour commitment before you add on other possible research and internships involved, so that’s not super accessible to most students.”
While UT offers programs for students to foster this type of education, they often come with a large academic commitment that may not be feasible for many students on top of their other coursework.
Cecille Lopez, a psychology and Mexican-American Latino studies senior who is in the Bridging Disciplines Program, explained the limitations of both the program and the coursework students are taking.
“I wanted to actually do (another Bridging Disciplines Program) certificate as well, but (the program) told me that if I was to choose two certificates, I would have to do double the internships,” Lopez said. “I think it’s really crazy how UT’s motto is: ‘What starts here changes the world,’ but how are they going to say that when a lot of students aren’t exposed to other (classes, besides those in their major)?”
While some interdisciplinary coursework is available to students, especially in departments like business, government, and society and public health, those classes are typically concerned with the intersections between medicine, politics and business. As such, for any student not already within a major in those colleges, trying to learn about many of the intersections offered at UT becomes increasingly difficult.
When we fail to offer coursework that aligns with the passions of our students, we push them further away from their future goals. We must go beyond these three common intersections and provide innovative spaces for students to obtain new perspectives and expand their opportunities. For instance, UT could offer courses on the power of engineering in architectural design or even communication and leadership in advertising initiatives.
Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said increasing interdisciplinary classes really only requires departmental approval.
“There’s no additional approval needed at the University-level, beyond the consent of each department for the faculty member to be assigned to an interdisciplinary course instead of a regular departmental offering,” Harrison said in an email.
If the process of adding new courses is as simple as gaining consent from departments, the University should strive to implement these changes and foster students’ varied interests.
By contacting professors who have unique backgrounds and ensuring that interdisciplinary classes can help fulfill requirements in students’ degree plans, UT can better set students up to change the world around them.
Krautkramer is a Plan II honors and undeclared business sophomore from Grapevine, Texas.