Leon Adkison, Ph.D. Taylor University

Leon Adkison, Ph.D. Professor of Systems, Emeritus Taylor University

On Interdisciplinary Education


A person rather suddenly has an idea that he or she thinks may be the first of its kind on a particular subject, such as a new product or service. However, upon sharing the idea with another person learns that that person has had a remarkably similar idea. But both ideas are slightly different since each person is unique. As they discuss it, both gain the benefit of the other person’s perspectives and the resulting potential product or service is quite often more refined and better. This is a simple example of the process of synergy that produces new or improved products or services.

These two persons decide to produce the product or service, and, let’s assume have the funds to form an organization to produce it. They’ll need to produce it, market it, keep financial records, comply with government, and much more. Clearly, they’ll need to hire other persons with a variety of skills, abilities, viewpoints, etc. Therefore, successful organizations are required to be interdisciplinary. And they certainly need to have personnel in positions throughout the organization, some of whom use primarily the left side of their brain and others the right side. Indeed, without a mix of the analytical and behavioral quite likely no organization can exist for long, much less succeed.

Every one of the previous brief comments can be applied to interdisciplinary programs. The benefits include:

1 Students gain knowledge and abilities that will enhance their lives

2 The same is true for the educators involved

3 Each of the fields of knowledge are advanced

4 Customers of the products or services produced by the graduates have
their lives enhanced

5 The same can be said of the companies, owners, investors, and others
involved in production and distribution of the product or service

There are some barriers – as we discussed by telephone – which include:

1 Educators, professors in particular, are generally rewarded insofar
as promotion and tenure are concerned by activities in their primary
academic fields. This is particularly true in those fields where the
production of refereed papers is essential.

2 Financial pressures keep the walls between schools, such as schools
of business, education art, etc. and departments rather high. No
matter how financially strong an institution is there is always a
limited amount of resource.

3 The financial pressures between schools and departments are even
higher during difficult financial times.

4 Working with additional subject matter, no matter how interesting,
nevertheless takes an educator’s or professor’s time. To most, this
is a very scarce commodity.

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