Goals and Objectives

V. Promoting an Interdisciplinary Culture

Strong disciplinary research and teaching, rooted in academic departments, is fundamental to the success of any university. But so too is interdisciplinary interchange, the free and dynamic flow of ideas across the traditional boundaries of disciplinary methodology and knowledge.

Interdisciplinary Study

More than 40 percent of Dedman College students are double or triple majors. Interdisciplinary study includes innovative programs including:

  • Markets and Culture academic major
  • Embrey Human Rights Program
  • John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies
  • International Studies
  • Biochemistry
  • Women's and Gender Studies

Key Metric

Programs of the new interdisciplinary studies institute will touch all Dedman College faculty, graduate students and undergraduates.

Other Metrics

  • Number of undergraduates majoring and minoring in interdisciplinary programs.
  • Number of undergraduates with majors and minors in more than one discipline.
  • Number of "Ways of Knowing" interdisciplinary courses in the new University Curriculum offered by Dedman College faculty.

Scholars and students increasingly recognize that the major challenges we face as a society, from disease to environmental issues to the impact of global migration, can be addressed effectively only through interdisciplinary collaborations.

Dedman College has a wealth of interdisciplinary programs, some of which have flourished while many others have languished with little faculty investment, scant student interest and minimal institutional support. For the College to be vibrant intellectually, with timely and innovative research and teaching programs, its culture of interdisciplinarity must be fostered and energized. Toward this end, existing interdisciplinary initiatives should be assessed, and strong programs that actively serve faculty, students and the community should be promoted. Promising new interdisciplinary ventures, from degree programs to research projects, should be encouraged. Perhaps most importantly, the establishment of a new institute dedicated to stimulating interdisciplinary interchange across the humanities and sciences should be an immediate priority. By providing a forum for dialogue and serving as an incubator for new collaborations, this institute would provide the institutional impetus to a more vigorous and creative interdisciplinary culture in Dedman College.


  • Create a new, high-profile institute that will promote interdisciplinary studies across the College. This new unit is inspired by the humanities centers found at most of SMU's peer universities but would encompass all liberal arts disciplines and embrace teaching as well as research. The institute would encourage interdisciplinarity and nourish the intellectual life of the College by sponsoring faculty reading groups and thematic seminars, providing seed funding for interdisciplinary projects, pursuing external grant opportunities and developing new initiatives to serve scholars, students and the community. Endowed funding will be essential to create a new interdisciplinary hub that can energize the College and gain national prominence.

  • Review the viability of current interdisciplinary programs and encourage the development of new and reorganized interdisciplinary units. Successful existing programs that engage faculty broadly and attract strong student interest should be supported. Additional signature programs for the College should be developed, based on faculty expertise and student demand.

  • Evaluate programs in international and area studies and develop a coordinated strategy for best meeting the needs of students, faculty and the community. Ensuring the global literacy of students and supporting faculty with international research and teaching interests should be prioritized. More effective institutional structures and curricular options should be explored and implemented.

  • Promote existing interdisciplinary centers and institutes and encourage them to take larger roles in promoting research and gaining external funding. Dedman College is fortunate in having a number of established units that support interdisciplinary research: the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies and the Clements Center for Southwest Studies have national and international profiles, the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man is a long-term contributor to research in the sciences and the new Center for Scientific Computational Science has great potential. These centers and institutes can and should provide leadership in stimulating interdisciplinary dialogue on campus and facilitating external grant funding for interdisciplinary projects.

  • Support partnerships in research, teaching and outreach across the SMU campus. Building stronger relationships between Dedman College and the other schools and major administrative units at SMU will be mutually beneficial.