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A Natural Outgrowth of Pitzer's Founding

Interdisciplinary StudiesUnlike many colleges and universities that have come to recognize the value of interdisciplinary and, more recently, transdisciplinary approaches to knowledge and are attempting to retrofit their curricula to accommodate them, Pitzer, more than 40 years ago, recognized the inherent value of these approaches and structured itself physically and organizationally to take full advantage of them.

The decision to organize academic programs into field groups without strong chairs and to fund the academic program as a whole rather than partitioning the budget by department, has had a profound effect on subsequent curricular development and indeed on the nature of education at the College. Similarly, the way in which physical space is allocated at the College serves these ends. Faculty offices are not organized by department, but rather are dispersed throughout the College, thereby encouraging conversations across disciplines.

Alan JonesThese two organizational features were implemented intentionally so as to encourage interdisciplinary conversations and to minimize the fiscal incentives that often lead traditional departments to constrain student enrollments within the discipline. The growth of interdisciplinary programs such as neuroscience and Organizational Studies at the interstices of traditional academic disciplines and transdisciplinary programs such as Creative Studies, International and Intercultural Studies, Black Studies, Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies and Women’s Studies, the scope of which may span a number of disciplines, has been a natural outgrowth of Pitzer’s founding organizational plan.

The intentional minimizing of formal disciplinary boundaries at the College has significantly facilitated the College’s work in developing nationally recognized programs utilizing community-based pedagogy and a stellar array of international programs.

Alan Jones
Pitzer College Dean of Faculty

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