Learning Across Disciplines

The Yale College Multidisciplinary Program will encompass a series of course offerings in Yale College, including a number of thriving multidisciplinary academic programs, new course clusters and certificates, and the popular First-Year Seminar Program.

In the highly popular Global Health Studies Program, undergraduates take courses in epidemiology, statistics, and data science, as well as electives such as Global Health Ethics; Psychology of Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination; Pandemic Literature; and a writing seminar called Magic, Shamanism, and Medicine. Global Health Studies is one of four multidisciplinary academic programs, or MAPs, offered in Yale College. Students in these programs examine big issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives while engaging with peers and faculty from a multitude of academic departments.

Student working on a laptop in a library

Enhancing a liberal arts education

The college is poised to expand its multidisciplinary offerings thanks to a $7.5 million gift from a generous alumnus. The gift creates the Yale College Multidisciplinary Program, which will encompass a series of course offerings in Yale College, including a number of thriving MAPs, new course clusters and certificates, and the popular First-Year Seminar Program.

“This gift strengthens a signature part of a Yale College education,” says Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun. “For students, the opportunity to explore subjects beyond the boundaries of any one major or department is central to the liberal arts experience. Having dedicated funding for multidisciplinary programs enables us to build on the success of current offerings, and to develop new courses and certificates on timely topics.”

A new multidisciplinary program

The gift provides endowment funding to support existing MAPs in global health studies, education studies, and energy studies. These three programs, plus a fourth in human rights studies (which already had sufficient funding), allow students to build knowledge and gain intensive experience in areas of interest not covered by the core majors at Yale. Students from any major can apply to one of these tracks, and faculty from across Yale participate as instructors. Students take, on average, six courses in the chosen concentration, including an introductory course and, in some cases, a senior capstone project. After successful completion, students receive program-based certificates that are reflected on their transcripts. Each of the four MAPs also offers a broad introductory course open to all students in Yale College.

The new Yale College Multidisciplinary Program will also include skills-based certificate programs in areas such as advanced language study, data science, and computer programming. These certificates provide opportunities to deepen a skill or to bring disparate intellectual elements into focus, complementary to or apart from their majors. The certificate programs will foster curricular innovation at the interstices of disciplines where new knowledge is taking shape and where new interests emerge.

In addition, the new Multidisciplinary Program can stimulate new course clusters on topics of interest that will evolve over time. These curated sets of courses and seminars will prepare students to solve real-world problems—such as climate change, poverty, immigration, social injustice, or food insecurity—that can only be addressed by drawing on multiple disciplinary perspectives. Course clusters will also bring disciplines to bear on one another, as in the medical humanities. Serving as pilot programs, course clusters can evolve into certificate programs, or they can rotate out of the curriculum depending on contemporary relevance.

Expanding learning opportunities

“Yale attracts faculty who think across disciplinary boundaries who are eager to join with colleagues from across the intellectual landscape in their research and teaching,” says Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “The Multidisciplinary Program reinforces this distinctive strength, bringing together faculty and students to explore compelling problems within and beyond the classroom.”

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