The Ewha Voice visited Hong Kong from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 to gather news under the topic “interdisciplinary studies.” The special report will be published in a series of three articles.
Leonardo Da Vinci, the Italian genius known for the Mona Lisa is particularily famous for dissecting a corps of a horse to observe muscle movements and later applying his research to his own knowledge of sculpting.
In fact, he was a great polymath with as many as 11 professions.
Da Vinci was a figure of the mid-1400s, but today’s society is now demanding more and more “Da Vinci-like communicators.”
That is because, according to Professor Kim Hunmin, the Dean of the Ewha Scranton College, the knowledge-based society confronts us with rapid and dynamic changes on a daily basis.
“As a result, the times we live in demand a very particular type of professional - one who is capable of exercising flexible and integrated reasoning.”
To be interdisciplinary means to involve more than two different areas of knowledge in solving a particular problem. The term is now a universal trend, especially in university campuses, including Ewha.
Several prominent universities around the world have already established academic curriculums and programs that have fostered students with interdisciplinary skills since many years ago.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Program of Science Technology and Society (STS) was founded in 1976 to break the barriers between laboratories and industries.
“The purpose of the STS Program is to train people in the anthropological and historical analysis of the formation and role of the sciences and technologies in society,” professor Michael Fischer (MIT), a professor of the Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies said.
The Interdisciplinary Studies Field Major (ISF) at UC-Berkeley, established before 1999, also offers students a similar experience in developing individualized cross-disciplinary research majors utilizing courses from the social sciences and the humanities department.
Parallel examples can be found in countries around Europe and Asia, as well.
For the past 15 years, the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Colloquium for Women (IDK) of Heidelberg University, Germany encouraged interdisciplinary discussion among female students studying in the humanities and social sciences.
Interdisciplinary networking and research are central components of Heidelberg University, today.
In Hong Kong, top universities like Hong Kong University (HKU) and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have provided interdisciplinary projects and programs that integrate architecture with real estate or business with mechanical engineering since the turn of the 21st-century.
According to the book, the Grand Unification of Knowledge, the idea of interdisciplinary studies started to sprout in Korea in the year 1979 through the introduction of a book titled, the Tao of Physics.“The book was shocking to Korean intellectuals of the time who were enslaved to stereotypes that humanities and science were two different things,” Lee In-sik, the author of the Grand Unification of Knowledge said in his book.
Over the years, a great number of domestic universities, including Seoul National University, KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), Sungkyunkwan University, Yonsei University and many more consumed the idea of interdisciplinary studies.
With many universities acknowledging the importance of interdisciplinary education, Ewha is also reflecting the universal trend in its curriculums.
The Scranton College, founded in 2007, provides the Scranton Honors Program (SHP)
The government funded WCU (World Class University) Project initiated in 2009 which invites scholars from all around the world to teach and research at Ewha for five years is also part of promoting interdisciplinary studies within the campus.
“By breaking down the walls between disciplines we can avoid narrow perspectives that are bred by confining knowledge to a particular discipline,” said Kim, the Dean of the Scranton College. “We can attain a more comprehensive, holistic understanding of subject matters.”
With the world ahead, Ewha may look into precedents of well established interdisciplinary programs and understand what an ideal interaction between professions should look like.
“And the result is that the whole is greater than sum of its parts, and this is what we mean by synergy,” Kim said.