A Student Perspective
Teresa Elias is a senior honors student at Westminster majoring in communication. Teresa was a very active student participant in several important stages of the strategic planning process. The following is her perspective on one aspect of the strategic Plan that she was passionate about: cross-disciplinary learning. To date, most of the cross-disciplinary courses offered at Westminster have been housed in the honors program; in the future, the strategic plan calls for additional cross-disciplinary courses.
As a senior at Westminster, I have been around higher education for a while. My experiences have led me to understand what works. For example, procrastination works only if you have great endurance and lots of highly caffeinated products available for rapid consumption at two in the morning. Group projects work as long as you choose the right group members, and PowerPoint presentations work because they are not hard to put together but look extremely time consuming and professional.
Honestly, I believe these are lessons I could have learned at any institution of higher education. I also think most college students, at one time or another, have realized the insights I relayed above. I believe, however, that certain lessons I have learned at Westminster could only have come from Westminster.
What works at Westminster is the teaching. The cross-disciplinary courses I have taken at Westminster have provided me with a well-rounded and balanced education. One course helped me realize that history can be seen differently through the eyes of those who lived it. Another class presented the connections between science and philosophical thought during different historical time periods. Still another taught me how psychology and anthropology can be related and interconnected. The list can go on. The main benefit of this type of teaching is the connections students are able to make to the subject. Rather than just taking in out-of-context bits of information and facts and dispensing them all in multiple-choice tests, I was asked to apply the knowledge I had learned.
Writing reflections and final papers, and completing group and individual projects are just some of the ways I have shown my professors how the information they presented has influenced and changed me as a person. I think that the cross-disciplinary environment Westminster provides allows for the greatest amount of information dissemination in the most effective way possible. Not only does this teaching style allow students to see connections they might have missed otherwise, but it reflects how the real world works.
Subjects that are related to each other are combined to create an integrated way of looking at problems, solutions, and situations. I had to learn for myself that there is no one right way to approach a subject. This is an important lesson to learn, especially coming from high school, where most answers are cut and dried. In high school, history was taught as a set number of facts, whereas at Westminster I learned that history is something that can be discussed, argued, and manipulated.
Cross-disciplinary teaching has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the world. Each class I take presents new ideas and concepts which continually expand my mind and help me become a more responsible, independent, and intelligent member of society. I believe the cross-disciplinary approach to teaching creates the most effective and efficient atmosphere for learning. Westminster practices cross-disciplinary teaching and it works. Trust me, I know.