The School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences was born in 1990 as Liberal Studies. In the intervening three decades, there has been a lot of talk about the value of the liberal arts, with much of that talk lamenting a supposed gap between a broad liberal arts education and the technical proficiencies that ensure a positive return on educational investment today.
This lament may or may not ring true elsewhere. But I know that is it false to IAS since we have always done the liberal arts differently. From the start, we have advanced an interdisciplinary approach to liberal arts education that emphasizes critical and experiential engagement with the world around us. This approach merges liberal arts and professional education, rather than pitting them against each other.
In this edition of Intersections, you will find three stories that instance the power of this type of interdisciplinary and engaged liberal arts education. The faculty feature follows the career of Martha Groom, a faculty member who joined IAS in 1998 with a background in biology, zoology, and public policy. For her, the importance of interdisciplinary liberal arts education lies in its ability to approach on-the-ground environmental challenges through methods that draw on the natural and social sciences, along with the arts and humanities.
Our student feature spotlights Saafa Darwish, a Mathematical Thinking & Visualization major who chose that degree in order, in her words, to draw on her “technological background to translate and promote human rights” and to “use technology, data visualization, or statistics in promoting artist-activists.” For Saafa, the interdisciplinary liberal arts provides a space where she can keep up with developments in technology without being limited by a narrowly technical degree.
Our alumni feature highlights Amy Janas, an alum who graduated in 1998 with a degree in Liberal Studies, and is now a member of the IAS Advisory Board. She talks about how interdisciplinary learning has influenced her life and career and why she’s so compelled to give back. She also encourages other early graduates of IAS (née Liberal Studies) to reconnect with the campus through our Early Grads outreach campaign.
As always, you can learn more about what students, faculty, and alumni are doing on the IAS News Blog. To keep up to date on IAS events open to the campus and the public, you can also subscribe to a weekly digest of upcoming events. If you are an IAS alum, discover ways to connect and get involved by visiting our alumni page online.
Past issues of Intersections are accessible from the right sidebar here.
Feel free to send comments on these stories or ideas for others to IASinfo@uw.edu.
Dean, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences