New Emory Curriculum Explores ‘CLICK’ Between Courses in Different Disciplines | Emory University


A new effort from the Emory College of Arts and Sciences capitalizes on the diversity of perspectives and knowledge from different fields to help undergraduates develop innovative ideas to tackle a variety of real-world problems.

The Liberal Arts Institute (ILA) created the Learning through Inclusive Collaboration (LINC) initiative with additional funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. It showcases Emory’s deep commitment to interdisciplinary learning by pairing professors from different departments who work together to build bridges between their independent courses.

The goal underscores Emory’s emphasis on excellence in the liberal arts. Instead of simply disseminating knowledge in a world flooded with information, LINC courses help students spot and evaluate connections in information.

The program started with four courses this semester, or two LINCs, with six courses (three LINCs) in the spring schedule. Paired courses include differential mathematics with dance, neuroscience and human health, and atmospheric chemistry with German studies.

“We see interdisciplinary study as the heart of everything we want to accomplish in undergraduate education,” says Robyn Fivush, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of psychology and director of the ILA. “It provides a much fuller, and sometimes more complicated, understanding of the world and what we need to do to find solutions to the world’s problems. “

Building inclusiveness through interdisciplinary thinking

The ILA developed LINC last year with David Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler professor of chemistry and biology, who was drawn to ILA’s rich history of encouraging intellectual activities that cut through traditional academic departments.

Lynn had seen such efforts succeed firsthand. Almost two decades ago, he used funds as the first professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to create freshman seminars where Emory’s top graduate students presented broad scientific concepts by sharing insights. overlaps with religion, biology, history, physics, women’s studies and business. .

“With the way the social justice and environmental justice movements have evolved, this notion of having a broader perspective of our world has become even more important,” says Lynn, who used the money from an HHMI grant. to create the LINC framework.

PTSD and trauma issues, for example, are at the center of HLTH 385 and PSY 385 this fall. Keynote Speaker Chris Eagle’s Human Health Course covers cultural and clinical insights into trauma from World War I to the present day, using fiction, poetry, testimony, theory essays, and case studies clinics to explore different facets of the traumatic experience.

Keynote speaker Andrew Kazama’s psychology seminar, meanwhile, covers various neurobiological aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder, using peer-reviewed articles drawn from a wide variety of biomedical fields such as genetics, hormones. , cerebral structures and current therapeutic approaches.

Broaden perspectives

Students focus on their own lessons but meet to discuss shared readings three times this semester. The first joint session followed their reading of a 1917 article by medical psychologist Charles S. Myers, claiming that “shell shock” in World War I soldiers was the result of physical damage to delicate brain tissue.

The two classes met for Eagle’s 15-minute preview of the history of combat trauma before discussing the evolution of how to view and deal with psychological trauma caused by physical injury.

Classes had a similar discussion about the human impact of traumatic injuries following a shared reading of a suicide note from an Iraq war veteran. During this discussion, Kazama briefly talked about possible neurological explanations for what the letter describes, using a brain sample to illustrate his points.

In their first lessons after joint sessions, the two professors noticed a change in the interest of the students. Eagle says his students wanted to talk more about the role neural pathways play in how people respond to specific traumas, while Kazama’s students have expressed their curiosity about the significance of the trauma.

“The main takeaway from these LINC sessions is that what goes on in our brains affects how we experience trauma as much as our cultural ideas about what trauma is,” Eagle said.

As a neuroscience and behavioral biology student, second-year student Kayla Huynh found Kazama’s course helpful both in completing her major and in achieving her goal of attending medical school.

The first joint session, however, made Huynh reflect on the cultural reasons her parents, who were childhood Vietnamese refugees after the war, did not view their experience as traumatic.

She is now interested in learning more about historical and cultural definitions of trauma and is seeking undergraduate research opportunities on childhood trauma, in particular.

“Studying this way has opened up a lot to me,” Huynh says. “It’s something Emory does extraordinarily well, finding these connections between disciplines so that we can learn to appreciate different perspectives. It’s so valuable to see what you can learn when people can pull information from their own backgrounds and their respective specialties.

Create more CLICK

Fivush, along with Lynn and Kim Loudermilk, ILA keynote speaker, plan to apply for more HHMI funding to expand the program.

The trio and a LINC committee made up of faculty from across Emory College also plan to continue with additional paired classes next year. The ILA plans workshops for faculty to consider creative ways to link their work with other departments.

Kazama, who sits on the LINC committee, says the essential work helps faculty and students think about a topic that will resonate differently in other fields.

“The way I explain it to my class is that we learn to distinguish between revealed truths and observable truths,” he says. “Science is made up of observable truths, while revealed truths come from religion, philosophy and the humanities.

“Neither is truer than the other, for both are incomplete truths of our universe,” Kazama adds. “I can talk all day about how everything you do is the result of your neurons turning on or off, but that’s not the whole truth. You need both.


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