Originally published April 13, 2014

This weekend, Grand Valley State University hosted the Grand Dialogue to open discussion about the relationship between science and religion. While creating an interesting discussion and debate, this event also allowed advocates for both sides to intersect their fields of study with another — whether a scientist delved into religion or a theologian considered science. Both sets of academics had the opportunity to expand their understanding of the world by investigating a new perspective and perhaps incorporating it into their own. Furthermore, they were given the chance construct a comprehensive concept of the world rather than — as often practiced in their academic disciplines — to deconstruct it.

In our interdisciplinary-focused learning today, events like this are extremely important for the university community. In courses now, we often focus on breaking down — rather than building up — the world around us. We form our understandings based on these fragmented views. But what are we supposed to do with them?

Events like Grand Dialogue allow us to consider these fragments in conjunction with the fragments of another discipline to perhaps build something new; we supplement our fragments with others to give them new context for new meaning.

Similar civil discussions should be replicated by all of GVSU’s academic departments. Different departments that may not seem to mesh should facilitate discussions between professors or staff members.

What if faculty in the environmental studies program held an event with the hospitality and tourism management program to discuss ways in which the tourism or hotel industries could become more environmentally sustainable? What if the computer information systems department talked with the journalism department to figure out a way to help the print media industry or to talk about the future of news? While one department may have a problem they just don’t know how to fix, another department might have the solution they need.

There are many possibilities for the collaboration — or just open dialogue — between disciplines. Many students don’t realize the vast amount of knowledge that is available literally at their fingertips at GVSU — faculty with high level degrees, library resources from other scholarly writers and publications, fellow classmates, etc. Many of these resources are underutilized because students stay rooted in their disciplines. Think of all the opinions and ideas that go unheard or are left unformed. If developed, these ideas could become discoveries and then solutions.

In short, it is important to focus on building up the future to look better and brighter rather than breaking down the past and being unwilling to engage foreign concepts.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2014/04/opening-discussion