Can Interdisciplinary Studies Create Specialization?

It may seem counterintuitive. How can studying multiple things at once produce a holistic approach to specialization and not a general understanding of the studies? Which is more important, the ability to see the problem as a whole or the efforts to create change in small spaces that affect larger systems?

I graduated college in the past couple of years and only until recently has my degree in "Sustainable Food Systems" been received in conversations without a great pause or puzzled expression. I remember starting as a freshman at The University of Alabama and having a variety of interests--quite a lot in fact. When I spoke with my counselor of the A&S college she slid a card across her desk for the dean of New College and told me I should probably head there.

The About Us page for New College reads, "

New College students have flexibility in creating individualized courses of study — called “depth studies” — consistent with their interests, goals, aptitudes, temperaments, and skills.

Each student, with the assistance of a New College faculty mentor, builds a depth study that includes New College seminars and coursework from across the University. In addition to traditional coursework, students can pursue research activities, community-based learning, and self-directed study.

Our emphasis on student choice and responsibility promotes the creativity, flexibility, and adaptability necessary for effective participation in the emergent communities of the future."

New College is not the first to create a system of learning like this, but I find it vitally important. With my years in college I learned more about choosing for myself, building research around problems I cared about, and producing creative solutions to showcase my work. 

Now, as I develop my career even further in the space of travel/tourism partnerships and sustainability I can see my past efforts come into play. Ethnology, anthropology, cultural history, stewardship, and environmental accountability is easier to spot and connect with than simply following a well-ground path in tourism.

With such a competitive and massive industry there has to be niches and deliverables that no one else can see or produce. Even if someone shares similar interests I know that my hobbies, passions, reading, and experience differentiates my outlook and outcome of situations.