IDS Review Essay- Take Home Exam

To be brutally honest, I didn’t think I was really going to LEARN anything in this class. I figured we’d talk a little bit about the interdisciplinary studies program, learn how to make our majors, have our hands held and deal with rules when designing out majors, then submit our majors, get approved, and be off for the summer. It is clear to see even just looking at my ePort that I was dead wrong. This was honestly the first class that has ever taught me anything about pedagogy, about taking control of my education, or about lifelong learning. Truthfully, I didn’t even REALLY know what interdisciplinarity was before this class. I figured it was just a term that could describe majors or subjects that didn’t quite fit into a singular, defined discipline. More accurately, I learned, it describes blends between 2 or more disciplines; each and every blend can be unique in its own way. It isn’t just a category of misfits, but unique hybrids. Interdisciplinarity is all around us in all walks of life, all you have to do is open your eyes to it.

(CC BY 2.0) by Eric Fischer

Throughout my time as an exercise science major, I felt like somewhat of an outcast. While I was interested in what I was learning, I knew it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted to produce, create, and share. I didn’t want to just focus on memorizing small details about the human body, I wanted to share knowledge with others and have a creative outlet. This is what lead me to interdisciplinary studies. Carly Ristuccia discusses her similar situation in her article titled “Standing Alone”. I identified with a lot of what she said. Interdisciplinary has broadened my horizons, which is necessary when trying to share scientific information with others without science backgrounds. She also said it has helped her to think abstractly. She wrote “if everyone just stuck to guidelines and tradition, the world would never grow and would never have the chance to become any better.Interdisciplinary studies in and of itself is thinking abstractly and creatively.” She also mentions how interdisciplinary studies has helped her become more aware of her learning. I can relate to this and it definitely applies to what I am studying. While I knew I was learning a lot in exercise science, I can actually feel the difference when my communication skills grow with my new major. This is extremely satisfying to me and has allowed me to fall back in love with learning.

(CC BY 2.0) by OIST


This leads right into Vartan Gregorian’s discussion of the unity of knowledge. While students are looking for self-discovery, development of passionate interests, and finding a meaningful career, higher education is focusing on just job-readiness. I’m still at a place in my life where I am figuring out who I am, what I want, and what I truly care about, so an education that will simply make an employee out of me just isn’t right. He writes “mass higher education is heading toward what I call the Home Depot approach to education, where there is no differentiation between consumption and digestion, or between information and learning, and no guidance — or even questioning — about what it means to be an educated and cultured person.” This drove me crazy before I came to interdisciplinary studies. Now I feel more like an individual, I’m trying what I want to try, learning what I want to learn, and more importantly figuring myself out. Instead of just memorizing notes, I’m discovering my talents and passions while developing skills that will lead to lifelong learning instead of simple career preparation.

Interdisciplinary studies are ALL around us. As discussed by some of my classmates and me, everything from non-profit organizations, to museums, to transportation, to personal training, and even scuba dive shops involve different disciplines. Unfortunately, too many universities have students focus on just one discipline when it would be in their best interest to focus on multiple. For example, communication studies can benefit any major one could think of. Communication is going to be involved in all of our lives just about every single day, so having an understanding of effective communication will be beneficial to literally any career. Additionally, when disciplines connect, great progress can be made. Technology, business, sustainability, just about anything could break new ground by combining and working with other disciplines. In today’s world, collaboration can elicit unprecedented growth, so interdisciplinarity could very well be key to our future.

Back to the honesty thing, I’m not really sure what I want in the future. However, I do know I want to continue to grow, explore, and experience everything this world has to offer. I might not know EXACTLY what I want to do for a career, and I might not know EXACTLY what I plan to get out of my college experience, but I’m certain that I will dive into any opportunity IDS, PSU, or life in general puts in front of me. I will stare into the abyss until the abyss stares back, fearless of what the future holds, trusting in the process and filling the glass that is my life to the very brim. I will learn everything I can to fill my brain, I will love and be loved without reserve or fear to fill my heart, and I will be kind to myself and others, doing what feels right and being unapologetically myself to fill my soul.

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coursework that ACTUALLY applies to my future- imagine that!

As an interdisciplinary student studying communication and media for wellness and exercise, my main concern is being able to take science, and relay important messages to people who might not understand the in-depth science behind certain aspects of health. I’ve always been interested in health and wellness, but growing up science was never my strong suit. In fact, in high school, I was placed in the physics class that my advisor jokingly called “physics for poets”. I was always a reader and writer. Social studies and language classes were where I thrived, and science/math classes were where I went to die. This didn’t deter me from wanting to learn about the science behind wellness and exercise. I have learned to succeed in my science classes and have done very well, quite simply because I busted my ass studying day and night. This was never easy, but I am forever grateful I worked as hard as I did. Now, I hope to take the knowledge I have worked so hard to understand and relay it to others to help them not only understand it, but to help them change their own lives for the better. This being said, two classes I am taking this semester are Applied Nutrition for Healthy Living, and Organizational Communications. One particular film from nutrition stands out that taught me some interesting approaches to a healthy diet, while in organizational communications, learning about persuasive messages seemed to stick with me.

(CC BY 2.0) by Jazzmoon

The first lesson I want to talk about actually came from a film we watched for homework in my nutrition class. Typically movies are boring to me; I fall asleep, zone out, or get distracted and absorb nothing. This film was different. Based off Michael Pollen’s book “In Defense of Food”, this film was extremely informing yet entertaining and attainable. It talked a lot about what is wrong with our food culture, and more importantly gave ways to improve how and what we eat. Personally, I’ve always struggled with eating healthy, but this film gave me a new outlook and made healthy eating simple, so it stuck with me. The takeaway lessons were to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. By “eat food” what Pollen means is to eat real food, not “edible food-like products” which is a lot of what we eat today. “Not too much” is quite obvious; in America, we eat way too much, it is as simple as that. Cut back on portions and don’t overeat. The last rule, “mostly plants”, is also quite obvious, which is the beauty of it. Plant-based foods are the most nutrient-dense foods out there; you are getting the most of each calorie. I think these lessons are simple let valuable for anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by Matt Harasymczuk

In organizational communications, a course dedicated to teaching professional writing and speaking with a purpose, we recently learned about persuasive messages. We learned about and practiced not only written persuasive messages, but also delivering oral persuasive messages. My professor, Dr. Denise Hutchins, explains in one of her powerpoint presentations that there are generally three purposes for a persuasive message; to “take action, make decisions, or change attitudes”. She also stresses the importance of “closing the gap between what your audience knows, believes, or feels right now and what you want them to know, believe, or feel as a result of your message”. More tips we learned were to “anticipate objections, present all sides of the story, rehearse, and reread your work”. I could continue with all the tips and tricks she taught us, but I think it is important to understand WHY this is important. Each day, to get what we want or need for success, we will need to persuade others. This is especially important for a career which is why I found it to be such a vital lesson. 

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by nist6dh

When discussing nutrition, especially in a class focusing on the application of it, a bit of persuasion is necessary. It’s safe to say most people don’t like dieting, so trying to sell it to them can be a challenge. This is where learned persuasion and communication skills come into play. Pollen, in his film and in his book, had to sell himself, his credibility, and all the ideas he was getting across. This is a great parallel to my major. Not only do I want to inform people about wellness and exercise, but I want to SELL them on a lifestyle. Doing this can be difficult, especially considering a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. Even just the film itself was a great example of using media to communicate with an audience about wellness. Overall, the connection between these two topics is exactly what I strive to learn about.

This learning is exactly what I wanted out of this major. The skill of selling a healthy lifestyle is exactly what I want to do with my life. I don’t want to trick or fool people, I simply want to help convince them to do something to better themselves, even though its hard. I’ll be the first to say it isn’t easy to eat right, exercise frequently, and lead a healthy life. However, knowing what I know about health and wellness, I have taken it upon myself to teach others about this, and more importantly, to influence them to make a change for the better.

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by lpk90901
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How can disciplines worlds apart come together to expand minds?

As an interdisciplinarian interested mainly in health and wellness, I like knowing how a variety of aspects of our lives affect health. When it comes to health, we typically think of exercise and nutrition. The reality, however, is that there is SO much more that. From cosmetics/personal products to stress, and even to your environment, just about anything in your life can affect your health and wellness. Think about how many different things affect you every single day. How many of these things could affect your health in ways you’ve never even considered?Due to my interest in these kinds of things, I found interest in an article by Melissa Chinchilla and Mariana C. Arcaya titled “Using Health Impact Assessment as an Interdisciplinary Teaching Tool”.

This article reviews how one school has used health impact assessment (HIA) as a tool to teach students in multiple disciplines. The MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning combined the disciplines of Public Health and Urban Planning to teach students how living conditions affect health. Additionally, they considered things like community impact, engagement, social justice, and ethics. I think it is clear to see right away how lessons like this involve different disciplines. Before I jump into why this is important, there are a few things I think are important to explain. First off, as mentioned in the article, HIA “uses scientific evidence, professional expertise, and stakeholder input to evaluate the different paths through which proposed policies, plans, and projects may affect health, and makes recommendations to maximize benefits and minimize risks.” While this isn’t used so much in specific health fields, it is used in fields like housing, transportation, and employment. Inarguable important aspects of our lives, but ones we don’t necessarily consider when it comes to health. I’ll admit I’m guilty of it too; rarely do I think of things like housing, transportation, and employment when it comes to my health. Although it is overlooked, when you really think about it, can’t you see how these things can affect health greatly? Taking students from different disciplines and putting them into one classroom, the blend of different knowledge gave students the ability to expand this knowledge further and in different directions. The article mentions some unexpected lessons from the class that may very well be a result of this blend of disciplines.

(CC BY-NC 2.0) by Stabler Department of Nursing

The benefits of hands-on learning and reflection were clear based on the results of this course. These things are important for things beyond academic success, they’re important when it comes to a career and engagement with people in different disciplines. Ethics and professionalism are also key. The article says “HIA courses that allow students to engage in hands-on work highlight the complexities of applying classroom instruction to real-world problems.” In real life, things typically aren’t as simple as a multiple choice test, and HIA courses teach students to consider aspects involved with disciplines other than their own. This course also taught the importance of community engagement and empathy. When working with people, being able to engage, understand, and find empathy are key to success in making change. When considering health and urban planning, the people you are affecting are most important.

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Lovely Planets.

This article and learning about HIA courses helped me understand interdisciplinarity both as a whole and in regards to my main discipline of interest. It further taught me how interdisciplinary studies are all around us, even if it isn’t clear to see right away. This article also gave me perspective on a few things (housing, transportation, etc.) that we don’t typically think of as important to health. As I continue to learn about interdisciplinary studies, each example that comes up opens my mind even further to all the different ways interdisciplinarity is everywhere; especially in the workforce. There are so many aspects of a job we don’t think about immersed in all different types of work. Who would have thought that public health professionals and urban planning experts have to focus on a lot of the same things, like engagement, ethics, and empathy? Overall this article was not only interesting to a health nerd like me, but also continued to expand my mind on interdisciplinarity.

Works Cited:

Chinchilla M, and Arcaya M.C. “Using Health Impact Assessment As an Interdisciplinary Teaching Tool.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 14, no. 7, 2017, doi:10.3390/ijerph14070744.

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