Specialization’s Folly

We’d be in trouble without specialists. We’d have less faith in medicine, less complexity in music, and the Cronut probably never would have been invented. (Scary, I know!!) Yet, specialization runs the risk of being too, er, special. This discipline often fails to “consider other perspective,” (Repko 79). Repko gives the example of psychologists studying terrorism. He argues, “when cognitive psychology studies a complex behavior such as terrorism, it studies only the mental life of individual terrorists,” (79). How can any conclusions be made for the terrorists’ motives if only their brain is studied? Isn’t it
possible that there were religious pressures, or other external factors? This way of thinking doesn’t take into account those other possibilities.
IMG_6076In the field of Outdoor Environmental Education towards which I’m moving, it’s important not to develop tunnel vision. It’s easy to develop a bias about environmental issues and only focus on the political or financial implications that accompany these issues. However, I can’t import this bias into the lesson. They need to be able to see all sides of the issue and formulate their own opinion. It’s important that I consider all pieces of the puzzle before conveying this information to anyone.
Inter disciplinarians make up the frame and foundations of buildings, while specialists are he windows and doors. There’s opportunity for the windows and doors to be opened once in a while, but not all the time. The content between the disciplines is arguably what holds it all together.


This is a photo of a goat I took in Torcello, Italy. I’m feeding him grass here, but if grass is all he’s fed, grass is all he knows. Likewise, if one discipline is all you learn, it’s all you know.

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Works Cited:

Repko, Allen. 2014. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Sage Publications, L.A. Print.


Success at the Crossroads of Climate Change and Campaigning

The Climate Reality Project was founded by Al Gore in 2006 shortly after the premiere of the film “An Inconvenient Truth” stirred minds a plenty (Climate Reality). It’s a nonprofit organization working towards catalyzing a “global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society,” (Climate Reality). Essentially, by spreading the word about the severity of climate change and its looming effects, we can make a difference in policy by persuading leaders to take action.

I’m an intern for the organization, and I’ve noticed that I’ve had to perform many tasks that fall under a variety of disciplines, all of which “transcend by means of integration,” (Repko 32). Behind my small amount of work lies my boss, Vasiliy, whose “love of learning,” (an important trait as suggested by Repko), fuels his motivation for this cause. He, like all members of this organization, is a “cultural leader, marketer, organizer, scientist, [and] storyteller,” (Climate Reality). And he wears all these hats at ones. His work isn’t multidisciplinary, but inter, and he blends these roles cleanly. He lobbies, phonebanks, updates me on news in science, organizes events, and presents the impending doom of climate change in a way that’s creative and appealing.

This organization has experienced monumental success at the last UN Climate Summit in Paris, as well as at hundreds of college campuses around the nation. People are finally starting to listen, since their campaign appeals in so many ways to so many people.

You can learn more about this company’s mission here.

My goal with interdisciplinary studies is to be an Outdoor Environmental Educator. This requires knowing a great deal about Earth and its Ecology, and also being able to persuade kids through their appreciation of the land to take action to protect it. Learning from Vasiliy at the Climate Reality Project has been so helpful with this. Every time he shares news, he uses dramatic and engaging techniques that aren’t preach-y, and they make me want to take a stand on my own. Knowing how to storytell, market issues and stay factual scientifically surely demands the use of interdisciplinary knowledge, and I’m happy to have learned from one of the best success stories out there!

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Here’s Al Gore and a bunch of Climate Reality Staff smiling about their contributions to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions!

Source: Climaterealityproject.org


Works Cited:

Repko, Allen. 2014. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Sage Publications, L.A. Print.


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Do What You Love, Love What You Do

If a song you hate comes on the radio, are you going to sing it loud and proud? Odds are, you won’t. Unless you’re trying to annoy the driver; in which case, come on man.

A trait that probably comes naturally to most inter-disciplinarians is a natural love of learning. These are people who aren’t satisfied with one field; they crave more knowledge. They are “intensely interested in the world,” (Repko 55). They are not “prisoners of bias,” seeking depth and even ideas that counter their own. Without this fervor, people couldn’t blend disciplines with as much ease. The natural interest people contain fuels the passion and amalgamation of fields. Outdoor educators couldn’t do their students any justice if they just kind of liked ecology and sort of liked experiential education. They need to be able to demonstrate their enthusiasm sans effort!

I may not be entirely sure about what I want to do with my career, but I do know that I’m very passionate about the disciplines I’m combining. I love learning about teaching, and I love nature, and being able to combine the two would be a real treasure.


Here’s a photo I took of Arethusa Falls. The water spilling over the rocks demonstrates the blending of water into one stream that falls passionately over the jagged rocks. This seamless blending of natural elements is symbolic of the love and enthusiasm people have when blending disciplines.

Works Cited:

Repko, Allen. 2014. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Sage Publications, L.A. Print.

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Laura Tilghman: Professor, Mother, and Interdisciplinary Extraordinaire

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Here’s a portrait of Laura that her friends in Madagascar so graciously created for her.

Meet Laura

 Laura Tilghman is a new mother. She’s also a world traveler, an educator, and an anthropologist with a sense of curiosity that’s a mile wide. Nowadays, you can find this talented woman extending her wisdom at Plymouth State University by teaching two courses: Cultural Anthropology and the Anthropology of Migration.

What sets Dr. Tilghman apart from the typical academic is her immersive research and dedication to her field. She spent two years doing anthropological research in Madagascar, and five or so more years writing about her observations of the local people. This research was part of her University of Georgia doctorate program, one of few in the country that strongly integrated environmental issues into the anthropological curriculum.

 Her Connections Outside Her Field

 Given Dr. Tilghman’s impressive experience studying, communicating with, and working alongside many different types of people, it’s no wonder that working with scholars outside of her field comes easily. (At least that’s what I observed; she’s too humble to admit that herself). She mentioned that her main research interests include working with the Veterans Administration in the Health Sector. To do this research, she associates with sociologists and systems engineers, two occupations that aren’t exactly tangent to her own. Dr. Tilghman admits that it can be difficult to work with people who aren’t used to anthropology, especially because many of these scientists value quantitative data over her more qualitative results. Hence, the work becomes very interdisciplinary as Dr. Tilghman and her colleagues are forced to recognize the importance of both types of data and the individual values of each.

I also asked what it was like working with non academics in her professional life. “Oh jeez,” she laughed, and went on to tell me that she this wasn’t her forte. However, she supersedes any object of uncertainty by taking time to make sure her communication with non academics is very clear. She explained that sometimes she has to write reports for the government, who are typically unfamiliar with the detail and depth of her studies, so she has to write it in a way that’s simultaneously sophisticated and simple.

Her Role as an Educator

 We commiserated over the lack of excitement in those types of tasks and I moved on to something that she finds a lot more fascinating: her teaching. I took her Cultural Anthropology class in the Fall, and the lessons ranged from Gender and Race studies, to the Environment, to Linguistics and Language. There’s an incredible amount of crossover from other disciplines into anthropology, and she laced them together seamlessly. Understanding culture completely requires a foundation of knowledge that crests beyond simply understanding people. We learned about the wilderness and witchcraft, gift exchange and economics. Her understanding of a range of topics spreads far and wide.

In addition to the interdisciplinary topics she teaches about in Cultural Anthropology, she also mentioned that there’s an interesting mix of students in her Migration class. She has Anthropology Majors, Business Majors, Tourism Majors, you name it. Dr. Tilghman mentioned that in teaching, you often have to translate your discipline for other majors, and with a mix like that, she sure keeps busy in the classroom!

Interdisciplinary Advice

 Lastly, I asked her about what courses students who major in Anthropology should take from outside that department. Dr. Tilghman answered that it depends on interests: those interested in environmental issues (like herself), should take some environmental classes. Those interested in Archaeology should take lots of history and philosophy courses. Those looking to pursue Physical Biological Anthropology should take lots of anatomy and health classes. She did stress, however, the importance for all students to take other social science classes like sociology and psychology.

Lately, Dr. Tilghman’s been most interested in the topic of international migration from Madagascar. She wants to know about the immigrant communities and where they are choosing to move to. Traditionally, these people move to France since Madagascar used to be a French colony, but now they’re thinking about China, Canada or even the U.S. She’s fascinated by how they adapt to these new places, their challenges, and how they maintain connections back home. Unsurprisingly, this research prompts her to draw upon knowledge of social patterns, economics, and even health: an interdisciplinary mix in the least.

I ended the interview by snapping a picture of the portrait she had hanging on her wall – one that her friends in Madagascar made of her. The resemblance is quite uncanny. I left, not only impressed by the depth of her research and interests, but by the breadth of knowledge she’s been able to acquire that stretches across so many disciplines. She truly is a model for us in this field.

The Metaphor of Boundary Crossing

Would you walk into a neighbor’s house without knocking? Would you cross the border to Mexico without a basic understanding of Mexican culture?

I hope, for your sake and safety that your answers to both those questions were “no.”

The reason why, is because crossing boundaries can get you into trouble. For example, the “issue of human cloning” requires “crossing the boundaries between biology, religion, ethics and law,” (Repko, 41). This gets tricky, especially when several of those disciplines are particularly controversial.

In my field, however, I’m not too concerned. I want my students to cross boundaries full speed ahead. If we’re outdoors, and we notice some cool rock features, you better believe I’ll be encouraging them to inquire about geology and geomorphology. If we cross a river, I want them to think about the chemistry of the nutrients in the water. A lot of the disciplines that I’ll encounter in my field aren’t controversial, and therefore I encourage border crossing.

That being said, it’s important to cross correctly, educating my students with a sound knowledge each time they dive over to a new discipline. The “‘traveler must learn the language of the ‘country,'” (Repko, 42). The students must at least leave with a foundational understanding of what they’re inquiring about.IMG_5577

Here’s a photo I took on top of mount Carrigan. Students who see this might be tempted to cross the boundaries into areas such as zoology (investigating the dog’s behavior), hydrology (to learn what’s going on with the water the dog is drinking), sociology (why did I take the picture?), and even geology (what can we learn about the formation of mountains in the background).


Works Cited:

Repko, Allen. 2014. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Sage Publications, L.A. Print.

Successful Intelligence and What it Means in the Backcountry

You’re way smarter than you think you are.

You don’t only possess one intelligence, but many. In fact, every human (including you) possesses multiple intelligences, and can activate and utilize them on demand. Neat, huh?   Robert J. Sternberg, a renown leader in intelligence research, assuages that there are three types of intelligence that, when used together, create a “successful intelligence,” (Repko 16). A creative intelligence calls on our ability to make connections and ideas. An analytical  intelligence isolates different sections of a problem, evaluating “the quality of ideas,” (16). And a practical  intelligence, applies an idea in “an effective way,” (16).

Individually, these intelligences are useful. Together, they are dynamite. I think this concept is especially important in the field I’m going into. I’m pursuing an interdisciplinary degree that combines Adventure Education and Environmental Science, and if I’m to spend my career outdoors, I need my brain to be active in a multitude of fashions. I need to think creatively, not only to engage students, but sometimes to get out of jams (like a giant, unpredictable thunderstorm). I need to think analytically, breaking down problems into smaller pieces, so that if a student comes across a challenge and fails, we can isolate different aspects of their struggles to work on. Lastly, I need to think practically. I need to teach lessons in the outdoors that are transferrable for students. They need to be able to take what they learned in the backcountry and apply it into their own life, whether it’s learning the value of nature and starting a compost bin at their home, or even developing better interpersonal skills to practice with their siblings.

These three types of intelligences will be incredibly useful for the career I’m pursuing. Combining the three will activate my brain and deliver meaningful messages to my students, leaving them with the ability to think in ways that are valuable and threefold.

Works Cited

Repko, Allen. 2014. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Sage Publications, L.A. Print. 12651043_1227707683910593_72243215449360396_n

Here’s a photo I took on Mount Willey of the Webster Cliffs in Crawford Notch. Working in an outdoor setting as gnarly (and beautiful) as this one, I need to be able to think creatively, analytically, and practically in order to provide students with the best learning experience possible!