The Synergistic Classroom: Interdisciplinary Teaching in the Small College Setting (Edited Collection)

deadline for submissions: 
March 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Aaron Angello / Hood College
contact email: 


Aaron Angello, Hood College,

Corey Campion, Hood College,


Description of Project

Among the challenges confronting the liberal arts today is a fundamental disconnect between the curricula that many institutions offer and the training that many students need. In the early twenty first century, most colleges and universities still adhere to the model of disciplinary-specialization that developed in the nineteenth century when the pressures of industrialization and globalization led to the expansion of higher education and a need to justify the growing number of tenure lines within an institution. Though an important asset for students and faculty alike, discipline-specific models of teaching and learning underprepare students for the kinds of interdisciplinary collaboration that employers now expect. Aware of these expectations and the need for change, many colleges and universities have struggled to translate widespread rhetoric about interdisciplinarity into new programs and curricula that better serve today’s students.

Evidence of this struggle appears in the diversity of recent literature on the meaning and importance of interdisciplinarity within the humanities, in particular, and the academy, in general. Important studies such as Harvey J. Graff’s Undisciplining Knowledge: Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century (Johns Hopkins UP, 2015), John H. Aldrich’s Interdisciplinarity: Its Role in a Disciplined-Based Academy (Oxford UP, 2014), and Myra H. Strober’s Interdisciplinary Conversations: Challenging Habits of Thought (Stanford UP, 2001), have outlined and explored the variety of theoretical, methodological, and practical concerns that attend interdisciplinary research and teaching. No less important, Jerry A. Jacobs’s In Defense of Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity and Specialization in the Research University (Chicago UP, 2014) challenges the value of interdisciplinarity itself and defends specialization as a pillar of the university past, present, and future.

Together such works have done much to define and refine the pursuit of interdisciplinarity. However, they leave at least two issues underexamined. First, the vast majority of the literature speaks to the experiences of students, faculty and administrators at large research universities. Often neglected are the unique experiences of the hundreds of small colleges that dot the landscape of American higher education. With smaller budgets and unique student populations, these schools confront challenges different from those faced by larger universities. They, therefore, enjoy unique incentives and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, which deserve attention in the broader conversation about the future of the American academy. Second, the literature on interdisciplinarity favors discussions of theory over practice. More than specific efforts to guide students across disciplinary boundaries, attention is given to the broader theoretical and institutional considerations that inform the planning of such efforts. To enrich the conversation, attention should be given to the specific successes, and failures, of those engaged in incorporating interdisciplinarity into the academic experiences of twenty-first century students.

Responding to both of the above gaps in the literature, the proposed volume will explore the practice of interdisciplinarity in the classroom within the small college setting. The project will comprise an edited collection of essays written by faculty members at small institutions who are finding, or have found, novel ways to incorporate interdisciplinarity into classrooms in the humanities, STEM and/or professional fields.

The potential audience for this book is extensive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are currently 2,878 institutions of higher learning that have fewer than 2,500 students, and there are another 868 schools with between 2,500 and 5,000 students. Unlike any other book on the market, this book will directly address the particular concerns of thousands of faculty members at these schools. It will also be of interest to administrators, staff involved in curriculum development, and anyone who is interested in better understanding the challenges and benefits that come with working across disciplines at a small college.


Invitation for Case Study Chapters

With interest in the project from a major academic press, we welcome proposals for contributions related to one of the following themes:

  • Connecting the Humanities, STEM, and/or professional fields through innovative course design and/or team-teaching
  • Creating and Teaching in Dual-Degree Programs
  • Interdisciplinary Experiential Learning
  • Assessment of Student Learning Across Disciplinary Boundaries
  • Pursuing Interdisciplinary Innovation on a Small-College Budget



In a 300-500 word abstract, please introduce your proposed chapter by providing a title, the names and titles of the author(s), your institution’s size, and the innovative ways you have worked to bridge disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, STEM and/or professional fields.  In the final volume, full chapters will range between 10-15 pages.


Preliminary Timeline

Abstracts due to Aaron Angello ( by March 30.

Notification of intent to include abstract in sample TOC for publisher review by April 11.

Manuscript production timeline will be announced when available.