(April 24, 2014)

Broadening perspectives: students experience interdisciplinary learning

SHREVEPORT, LA — This semester, three Centenary College classes of different subjects came together to explore an issue from separate angles for a unique interdisciplinary experience. Dr. Kelly Weeks, Associate Professor of Business; Dr. Chris Ciocchetti, Associate Professor of Philosophy; and Dr. Rebecca Murphy, Assistant Professor of Biology, were all discussing genetically modified foods in their classes and decided to join efforts.

Fortunato Padua '14 describes genetic modifications

"I think this is exactly what is great about a liberal arts education—being able to think critically about issues from a variety of perspectives," said Weeks. "Here we have classes from each of our academic divisions joining together to share what they have learned."

Students in the courses Social Responsibility of Business, a philosophy special topics course Food and Drugs, and Molecular Genetics each played a specialized role in studying genetically modified foods and brought their findings to group presentations including all participating students.

Students enrolled in Molecular Genetics explained what genetic modification is and how it is done by conducting an experiment that required extracting DNA from various foods and eventually analyzing results with gel electrophoresis. Their determination of what genetically modified foods were set the stage for the dialogue that followed.

Social Responsibility of Business, a class that studies the social role and responsibility of business from the consumer, to the employee, to the management, provided insight from an economic point of view. Students Jamillia Stevenson '15 and Trey Lavespere '14 presented a debate about the pros and cons of labeling genetically modified foods and accepted questions from the student audience. Peers from varying disciplines posed stimulating questions bringing science and ethics into the business-driven discussion.

Cioccheti's Food and Drugs class elaborated on possible future consequences and ethical issues connected to genetically modified food.

"I think this cross-discipline experience was very useful both in the classroom and in the 'real world,'" said accounting major Lauren Beurlot '15. "It allowed for completely separate disciplines to come together and discuss a topic that all of us have been exposed to and examine it from each others' perspectives."

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) contends that projects such as these do more than just awaken viewpoints, and that holistic learning benefits students beyond the classroom, producing graduates who are among the best prepared for success.