A New American University: The New Gold Standard Next



Institute for Studies in the Arts Expansion

Arizona State University School of Life Sciences


Knowledge knows no boundaries. The core disciplines are but one element of our intellectual identity. The traditional disciplinary organization of universities may not be the optimal way to organize knowledge, or to organize the institution itself, or to teach students, or to solve the social, economic, and technological challenges confronting institutions in the regions in which they are located. Accordingly, I encourage teaching and research that is interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, and transdisciplinary. I encourage the convergence of disciplines, where appropriate, a practice that might more accurately be described as intellectual fusion.

Programs that involve multiple departments and schools, that bring together scholars from different disciplines, have unique strengths. In order to overcome the limitations inherent in traditional scholarship, I would like to see ASU undertake strategic recombinations of complementary academic units to create programs that both maximize core strengths and facilitate the creation of new knowledge. ASU already has a number of such programs and schools, and has built a tremendous base of convergence, particularly in the sciences and the arts. These programs represent intellectual fusion at its best.

The motivation in creating interdisciplinary programs is not to eliminate disciplines as we know them, or to transform core fields, but rather to advance knowledge in the face of its rapidly changing nature, the explosion of new knowledge that characterizes the academy in recent decades. It is no longer adequate to neatly equate disciplines with departments. Rather we must think in terms of programs comprised of disciplines construed across departments and schools.

I recently heard a member of our political science faculty lament that no other department of political science can “out-Michigan Michigan.” In response I would suggest that we would rather wish to “out-ASU ASU,” and to build a department with its own unique strengths, and its own connections with other disciplines at ASU, focused on problems of regional importance. By encouraging intellectual fusion, both core departments and interdisciplinary programs at ASU will become greater than the sum of their parts.

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