Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

What Works: Building Robust Interdisciplinary Programs


  • have leadership involvement of wide range of faculty across campus respected by peers
  • develop a registry of faculty with relevant interests and expertise to engage, teach and research in the program
  • are well-informed advisors and mentors to current and prospective majors
  • work closely with professionals off-campus to integrate real-world problems into on-campus program
  • offers opportunities for joint appointments


  • is based on clearly-defined goals for student learning established by faculty from involved disciplines, for all degree tracks that signal core competencies to be acquired by students
  • includes general education courses that introduce students to interdisciplinary ways of knowing/doing science (environmental issues)
  • reflects an understanding of essential basic preparation in various disciplines, with a well-crafted sequence of courses for majors
  • has an array of breadth in electives in defined areas, as well as opportunities for upper-level research, providing depth to avoid superficiality
  • is truly interdisciplinary, integrating social sciences (and humanities)
  • connects to current and emerging career opportunities for graduates (particularly those with B.S. degrees)
  • reflects well-articulated set of learning goals that is consistent with institutional mission/general education learning goals
  • incorporates problem-based modules, and uses regional environmental concerns as field-based opportunities for experiential learning.


  • promotes environmental research and education (interdisciplinary studies) to students– from the point of recruitment, admissions, and through policies for registration, graduation requirements, etc.
  • promotes campus-wide discussions about the relevance and value of interdisciplinary studies, encouraging pilot "inter-campus" teaching exchanges
  • establishes policies for the review and evaluation of faculty that support interdisciplinary curricular collaborations and reward such at the time of tenure and promotion
  • recognizes the synergy of an interdisciplinary program housed in a "neutral" home which is larger than any single involved department
  • gathers, analyzes and uses data on alumni, career opportunities, etc.


  • are living laboratories in which to explore issues relating to environmental concerns
  • enable interdisciplinary collaborations in learning and research.