Interdisciplinary Studies

Interdisciplinary Studies (20 to 28 credits depending on division) are characterized by distinct curricular pathways that span several traditional disciplines. These are broad but defined areas of study that encourage integrative and multidisciplinary habits of inquiry and knowledge acquisition. They also offer greater flexibility in staffing and represent distinctive offerings in China. The interdisciplinary component of a major serves as a primary definition of the student’s academic community. It requires 5 to 7 courses and can be problem-focused, comparative and cross-cultural, or innovative fusions within or across divisions.  In the social sciences and the arts and humanities communities, students in their 3rd and/or 4th years undertake advanced seminars that enable them to integrate their studies from more specialized areas.  See Figure 2 below.

Sample Interdisciplinary Studies

Sample Natural and Applied Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies

Materials Science: Many of tomorrow’s innovations in fields such fast computing, renewable energy generation, batteries, transportation and many more will rely on the unique and novel properties of materials, in particular at the micro and nanometer scale. The development of such materials requires integration of knowledge from physics, chemistry, and sometimes biology, with advanced mathematics and computation. This community prepares graduates for careers in broad fields of nanotechnology, electronics, biomedical sciences, automotive and aerospace industries as they relate to materials. The community encompasses the phases of matter, introducing students to atomic structure, macroscopic elastic and thermodynamic properties, electric and magnetic properties, fabrication methods and applications.

Sample Interdisciplinary Studies combining Natural Sciences with Social Sciences

Global Health: This community combines elements of natural science and social science relevant to an understanding of global health issues.  From the natural sciences, studies will include the physical components of global health, such as what are the biological bases of disease and what are the underlying factors in the physical world that incubate and spread disease. Students will combine that with a curriculum in the social sciences that provides an understanding of the social, political, economic and cultural elements, such as the study of cultural practices about sickness and healing, and the political factors that may influence international response to epidemics.

Environmental Science: This community combines elements of the natural and social sciences relevant to understanding the biosphere and its interaction with human society. In order to more deeply appreciate and explore how humans interact with – and have an impact on – their environment, students take courses that lay the scientific foundations for the physical world. They will combine that education with coursework about the social, political, legal and economic factors that both encourage and hinder environmental cooperation and competition around the world.

Sample Social Science Interdisciplinary Studies

Political Economy: This community examines the reciprocal relationships between politics, markets, and societies both within and among countries, using a variety of analytical tools. Political economy emphasizes rigorous methods, including formal modeling, econometrics, and comparative case studies. Substantively, political economy analyzes how international and domestic political factors interact with macro and micro economic factors to determine outcomes in a wide variety of areas including globalization, international trade and finance, regulation, development, taxes, institutional design, the environment and income distribution. The scope of inquiry ranges from developed countries to developing economies, as well as to nations making transitions to market oriented systems. This community will prepare students for engagement with global and regional questions and provides a useful background for a wide variety of positions in the public and private sector.

Institutions and Governance: This community allows students to study the formal and informal rules that societies use to govern themselves at the local, national, and global levels. By paying attention to institutions, students can better understand why some societies are wealthy and others poor; why some are innovative and others stagnant; or why some are politically stable and others in perpetual turmoil.  Students will study political science, economic, sociological, historical and anthropological explorations of institutional designs in a variety of constructs, including governments, interest groups and social movements, media, and religion.  By their senior year, students will be able to speak authoritatively on comparative theories of institutions, the history of institutional and policy development, the drivers of institutional change, and distributional effects of institutional choices.  Particular attention will be paid to the challenges of governance, such as the processes and structures that societies adopt to manage their collective affairs, with an emphasis on the implementation and evaluation of government programs.  This community will prepare students for a variety of jobs requiring expertise in public administration, international development, political risk analysis, multinational investment and work in the non-profit sector at both the domestic and international levels.

Sample Interdisciplinary Studies combining Social Sciences with Humanities and Arts

Ethics and Leadership: Leaders need not only expertise to guide their decisions, but also the ability to see, contemplate and speak about the ethical issues. They need to integrate expertise and ethical thinking. Citizens need thoughtful and informed conceptions of good leadership, so that they may choose wisely or lead themselves. This community draws from fields such as philosophy, political theory, history, literature, economics and the social and natural sciences. It focuses on pressing issues such as global health and the environment and broad areas such as the regulation of corporations and markets. It encompasses different traditions of thought about how to make ethical decisions, about the virtues of leaders, the virtues of those they lead and the right relationship between the two. Students identify and form views about various cultural traditions of thought about ethics and leadership, as well as values that shape concepts of justice and the good life.

Global China Studies: This community prepares students to engage, work with, and understand China in the twenty-first century. It provides students with opportunities to gain deep historical knowledge of China in the pre-modern, modern, socialist and post-socialist periods, while attending to the place of China in today’s interconnected global economy.  Students will be exposed to current debates about China’s philosophical traditions and their force in shaping China’s future trajectories; the political dynamics of development, decision-making, and grassroots protest; the importance of religion, entrepreneurialism, innovation, and social networks in China and beyond its borders; and the role of digital media, visual culture, and the Internet in everyday social, economic and political life.  This community recognizes above all that China is now a global presence, affecting people, cultures, ecologies, and economies in nearly all parts of the world. Students will have opportunities to examine the complexities of China’s development strategies in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, the Middle East, and throughout Southeast and South Asia, and the historic and contemporary interconnections between these regions, all of which are undergoing dramatic transformations.  This community will query the contested meanings of “China,” the national, the regional, and the “global,” and provide students with a new set of analytical and critical thinking skills in order to purposefully navigate the changing landscape of academics, business, government, policy, and the arts.  

Sample Humanities and Arts Interdisciplinary Studies

Media and Arts: A broad and critically informed understanding of audiovisual culture and media technology is a crucial component of a liberal arts education. Like reading and writing, audiovisual and media studies define a distinct realm of human cognitive, perceptual and volitional experience. This community invites students to become active participants at the forefront of current technological trends. Combining history, theory, and practice in its curriculum, it provides students with the opportunities, tools, and resources to develop a career within audiovisual and media industries, pursue graduate work in moving image studies, or continue development to become an audiovisual artist and/or teacher. But more importantly, in the context of a liberal arts education, this community provides students with highly desirable skills and a sophisticated understanding of all aspects of audiovisual culture and media to enrich careers in business, law, policy, humanities, and the sciences.

Global Cultural Studies: This community investigates the forms of life and culture produced in today’s interconnected world. Focusing on the practical and theoretical issues arising from cross-cultural encounters, it examines conventional cultural products (literature, film, visual art, music, social media, new technology, etc.), and also their broader political and social contexts (colonialism, modernity, capitalism, etc.).  The language of culture is increasingly heard in debates about nationalism, political conflicts, human rights, immigration, trade, the environment, media, literacy, and education. Increasing students’ capacity to understand the global flows of people, culture, and capital is paramount. The community helps develop competency in critical thinking, cultural analysis, foreign languages and communication for careers in education, creative industry, NGOs and international business and law.