Crossroads event highlights interdisciplinary projects and possibilities

By Josh Kuntzman, Crossroads Program Coordinator
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:18 AM

UCSB is launching version 2.0 of its Crossroads program! Crossroads is an interdisciplinary research and teaching program that brings together faculty and graduate students from across campus to implement projects that feature ​innovative research and undergraduate pedagogy opportunities. The program is currently seeking proposals from faculty for interdisciplinary research collaborations that incorporate graduate fellows and lead to undergraduate ​and/or professional masters course creation or development of existing departmental courses. (Click here for more information on the call for proposals.)

On March 4, UCSB Crossroads held an on-campus event to re-introduce the campus to the program, highlight past Crossroads projects and participants, and share ideas about ways to improve the program moving forward. Graduate Dean Carol Genetti introduced the program, followed by an overview of past funded projects and outcomes by Associate Deans Mary Hegarty and Bruce Kendall. Writing Professor Linda Adler-Kassner then discussed the idea of disciplinary “threshold concepts,” ​and Crossroads Project Coordinator Josh Kuntzman facilitated a group conversation activity ​where this concept was illustrated in practice.

Graduate students and faculty engage in discussion at the March 4 Crossroads eventPerhaps the highlight of the event was a panel discussion among participating faculty and graduate fellows from past Crossroads-funded projects. This panel brought to light many of the core benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research, including:

  • The productive value, for both graduate students and faculty, of developing social and academic ties with a cohort that spans disciplines
  • The challenge of maintaining that productive “interdisciplinary spirit” when moving into the classroom within one's own discipline
  • The boost that the Crossroads program can give to pre-existing interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly in the area of translating research experiences into coherent curricula for undergraduates

The event concluded with a conversational address by Ben Halpern, Professor of Environmental Science and Management, about the experience of being an interdisciplinary researcher. Prof. Halpern stressed both the importance of interdisciplinary approaches for knowledge-building within disciplines and the challenges in terms of disciplinary “identity” for researchers as individuals.

The event provided a wealth of insights and experiences regarding the realities of interdisciplinary research and teaching, ​and we hope that the productive conversations started at this event will lead to future Crossroads project proposals.