New department will foster interdisciplinary study, research

 

By Hana Al-Henaid

An Interdisciplinary Studies Program will be created as a new department to support independent research and interdisciplinary study, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.

“[The department will] be the clearinghouse for the development and awarding of all on- and off-campus academic research opportunities and summer internships for students,” Huybrechts said.

Interdisciplinary courses will be offered to promote “study in the areas of intersection between disciplines, giving students opportunities to integrate and elaborate knowledge from varied fields,” Huybrechts said.

The program, which will begin during the next few years, is specifically intended to dedicate an entire department to independent study and to continue the tradition of offering independent and directed study.

Suggestions for interdisciplinary studies have included American Studies, which would incorporate History and English, Bioethics, which would incorporate Biology and Philosophy, and a course on Leadership, which would include History, Literature, Philosophy and Psychology.

Huybrechts cites Lawrenceville School and Riverdale Country School in New Jersey as “two excellent schools that have especially interesting interdisciplinary studies programs.”

However, she added, Harvard-Westlake’s program will be uniquely its own.

The next step is the appointment of a department chair, who Huybrechts hopes to announce by the end of this school year. Huybrechts has asked current department chairs to nominate candidates. Specifically, Huybrechts is looking for “teachers who might be interested in leading and managing a new department with this kind of focus and mission.” The chair would visit programs at other schools next year and shepherd the development of a curriculum.

Although the school is currently seeking funding to initiate the program and endow its future, the administration expects it to be supported financially through a combination of tuition, endowment and Annual Giving.

Responses to the program have ranged from enthusiastic endorsement to healthy skepticism, Huybrechts said.

“Which is all good,” she said.

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