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Interdisciplinary, International, and Independent

In a rapidly changing, rapidly diversifying world, there are several modes of learning that many consider essential to modern higher education. Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt says these modes include the "three I's": Interdisciplinary learning; international and global study; and independent, hands-on learning in small groups. These, along with participation in a diverse learning community, are the points that Folt focuses on as she looks at the future of learning at Dartmouth in her annual faculty address and in her "Spotlight on the Classroom" presentations this spring.  Here are some excerpts from Folt's recent address to the faculty:

 Interdisciplinary learning

Carol Folt
Carol Folt (Photo by Kawakahi Kaeo Amina ′09)

"Interdisciplinary work is invigorating and offers opportunities for originality at the boundaries between disciplines. ... Interdisciplinary thinking permeates our curriculum, and Dartmouth faculty members have been innovators in both interdisciplinary research and teaching.

"Even going back to the 1950s, President John Sloan Dickey sought to embed interdisciplinary thinking into Dartmouth's curriculum. ... Today, more than 100 of our faculty (nearly 25 percent) teach, serve on steering committees, or advise student theses in our 10 official interdisciplinary academic programs and our other interdisciplinary degrees.

"The creative energy going into adding faculty and developing curriculum in cross-cutting areas (the digital humanities, computational arts, computational science, ethics, security studies, policy studies, sustainability science, architecture, urban studies and design, and international studies) is extraordinary.

"Our history of innovation and success in interdisciplinary teaching and research places Dartmouth at the leading edge of this mode of teaching and learning. Yet, we have not yet fully tapped our capacity, and the advantages our size, scale, history, and commitment give us in developing innovative opportunities. This is a challenge we relish in the coming months.

International and global study

"Dartmouth has a distinguished history of international and global thinking. ... Faculty from across the College share a sharp focus on international study, research, and deepening global understanding.

"Nowhere is our leadership in this area more obvious than in our off-campus programs. Fifty years ago, Dartmouth became the first Ivy League school to have its own foreign study program. ... In 2007, there were 730 enrollments of students from various class years, including 628 in our own 48 off-campus programs, and [approximately] another 100 participated in exchanges and transfer terms with other educational institutions. In 2007, Dartmouth ranked top of the Ivies ... for our global academic programs.

"For today's Dartmouth to become a truly ‘global Dartmouth' will require strategic thinking, not only about the cultural skills and competencies students of the new century require, but also other types of knowledge and experiences they will need to prepare them for success and leadership in a global world.

 Independent, hands-on learning

"The most effective way to teach this is to place students with scholars who are, themselves, creating new knowledge, art, literature, and working on complex and demanding problems.

"Our challenge now is to find new ways to incorporate learning by doing, practice with critical theory, independent study, and the tools of research across the curriculum. This strength can become an extraordinary aspect of the experience of every student at Dartmouth, and I believe is essential to our success as an educational leader over the next 10 years.

"I believe that Dartmouth is in a very strong position to take advantage of our unique strengths in interdisciplinarity, internationalism, and independent studies and to develop the leading programs for the future."

Read Carol Folt's entire speech to the faculty

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Last Updated: 6/23/08