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Clemson welcomes new interdisciplinary studies department

Clemson News // Courtesy
The global black studies B.A. program teaches the histories, cultures, literatures and traditions of Africans and how they impacted the various regions where they came to reside since the sixteenth century.

During the fall 2023 semester, Clemson welcomed the department of interdisciplinary studies to the College of Arts and Humanities.

The new department includes three undergraduate programs: women’s leadership, global Black studies and world cinema, as well as the rhetoric, communication and information design doctoral program.

The reasoning behind creating the department of interdisciplinary studies is twofold, according to Cameron Bushnell, the interim department chair.

“All of those programs were operating independently, not inside a department, and (Dean Nicholas Vazsonyi) felt there would be more visibility for those programs and more authority or status for those programs if they had a departmental frame,” Bushnell said. “The more visionary side was that inside the College of Arts and Humanities, there should be a place for collective and collaborative scholarship and teaching opportunities so that eventually, it will not only be those four programs but also include space for other collaborative work in the humanities.”

Bushnell believes that having the department separate from other fields in the College of Arts and Humanities will greatly aid students and faculty who are pursuing unique areas of study.

“I think one of the potential benefits is its incubator aspect,” Bushnell said. “When people have ideas for putting new programs together that may not fit exactly inside a single department, it’s a space on campus where people that are working outside of disciplines or across disciplines have a place to call home.”

Students within the undergraduate interdisciplinary programs agree that having a distinctive department will be advantageous. For senior global black studies student MiKayla Metz, the department will allow for more intentional relationships among students and faculty.

“The College of Arts and Humanities is such an all-encompassing College, especially at a STEM dominant institution,” Metz said. “I think it’s beneficial to have a Department of Interdisciplinary Studies to give students a more one-on-one experience with professors, advisors and other students.”

From a slightly different perspective, Will Hawkins, a senior world cinema student, pointed to the financial security the new department will provide, particularly for events and hands-on activities within the majors.

“For funding, we pull from a couple different places, and I know interdisciplinary studies will be one of the sources for funding, so that’s going to help us put on more shows than last semester,” Hawkins said. “If we do a 35-millimeter screening, we have to rent that (equipment) out, so funding for that kind of stuff will be useful.”

Now that interdisciplinary degree programs have an official home organization, promoting them has become much easier. Anna Dueholm, a senior women’s leadership student, appreciates this increased awareness for previously unsung majors like her own.

“I’ve already seen more emails and marketing about Interdisciplinary Studies, which I think is helpful because I feel like most people don’t know that Women’s Leadership or any of the other majors in the Interdisciplinary Study Department exist,” Dueholm said. “I think having an actual department lets students know it’s a space in the college that they can join and they’ll also have resources and opportunities.”

Although it has only existed for a few months, interdisciplinary studies has already achieved much recognition and success. Bushnell, however, has even higher hopes for Clemson’s newest department.

“I think a new B.A. in interdisciplinary studies would be one thing I’d really like to see happen,” Bushnell said. “It would be quite an interesting thing for students who maybe weren’t quite sure or knew their major right from the beginning, and so they could explore many aspects of their interests through an interdisciplinary degree that was already interdisciplinary right from the beginning.”

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