Liberal Studies Capstone
During the first term of the senior year, the Liberal Studies student will be enrolled in IDST 4930 "Liberal Studies Capstone." This course serves as an essential experience in the student's interdisciplinary training by allowing the student an opportunity to integrate the four areas of study into an interdisciplinary project, portfolio, and service learning experience.
Conducted as a peer-based discussion seminar with substantive reading assignments, the capstone course challenges students to engage advanced materials in interdisciplinary knowledge, which are then applied to contemporary issues and problems. There are four primary student outcomes associated with the capstone class:
Advanced Interdisciplinary Methods. Students read and discuss interdisciplinary texts, such as Julie Thompson Klein's Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, & Practice, Allen F. Repko's Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory, and Joe Moran's Interdisciplinarity, as well as applications of interdisciplinary methods in both contemporary and historic settings. The method of conceptual interdisciplinarity employed in the Liberal Studies program at GC requires students to engage complex issues, problems, or concepts in an effort to integrate various disciplinary perspectives into an organized perspective that offers original insight into the more difficult questions our society faces. As such, our students actually rely on disciplinary experts to create an interdisciplinary approach. This method requires advanced training, which takes place in the IDST 4930: Liberal Studies Capstone course taken in the next-to-last semester before graduation.
Service Learning. Each Liberal Studies student is encouraged to participate in learning outside of the classroom by joining a community organization or other worthwhile cause to apply the skills of interdisciplinarity and gain an appreciate for the role of scholars in society.
Senior Project. Our students are required to complete a senior project that applies interdisciplinary research methods to a complex issue or phenomenon. The topic for the Senior Project will be of the student's choosing, with the assistance of the program coordinator and other instructors. Often, the project reflects the professional or career interests of the student, and the project offers an opportunity to develop an advanced, specialized interest in a complex field of interdisciplinary inquiry. During the Capstone class, the project will begin to take formal shape, including a project proposal and bibliography. Using peer-review, students will develop the research methods and integration strategies that will inform the project. By the end of the course, the student will have identified the faculty readers for the project and successfully completed necessary permissions, including applications for review of the Institutional Review Board.
Senior Portfolio. An important characteristic of Liberal Studies students is that they are competent to examine their own work and present it as interdisciplinary. A senior portfolio gathers and displays the wide variety of accomplishments of our students, allowing them to promote their achievements and exhibit their skills.
Following the successful completion of the the Liberal Studies Capstone course, the student will begin research on the Senior Project, which will apply the concepts of interdisciplinary research to a complex issue, problem, or question used to fulfill the major degree requirements.
"Interdisciplinarity occurs when accepted knowledge and modes of thinking from established disciplines are integrated in such a way that new understandings are reached that could not have emerged from a single disciplinary perspectives. The resulting integration is a means to reach a purpose rather than an end in itself and disciplinary standards are upheld as leverage is gained from combining disciplinary lenses. Work should (1) be well grounded in the disciplines; (2) advance student understanding through the integration of more than one disciplinary lens; (3) show critical awareness of the purpose, means and limitations of the integration."
(V. Boix-Mansilla and L. Dawes. "Toward a Framework for Assessing Students' Interdisciplinary Work." Interdisciplinary Studies Project, Project Zero, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Unpublished manuscript, 2004.)
According to Repko (2006), the interdisciplinary research process requires ten carefully coordinated steps:
1. Define the problem or state the focus question
2. Justify using an interdisciplinary approach
3. Identify relevant disciplines
4. Conduct a literature search
5. Develop a adequacy in each relevant discipline
6. Analyze the problem and evaluate each insight into it
7. Identify conflicts between insights and their sources
8. Create or discover common ground
9. Integrate insights
10. Produce an interdisciplinary understanding and test it
The challenge of advanced interdisciplinary methods is to acquire 'adequacy' in as many disciplines as are necessary for integration in the Senior Project. While the Program requires four different areas of study, the applied project might not rely on each discipline with equivalent weight. The number of disciplines that the student engages will depend on which are most relevant to the study.