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The Interdisciplinary Clusters

Courses used to fulfill the cluster requirements may also be used to fulfill core capacity requirements, a minor, or a second major. Cluster courses may not be used to fulfill requirements of a primary major.

Requirements

  • Students must successfully complete three courses, totaling no fewer than 9 credit hours, from three disciplines.
  • These courses may be structured as a part of a faculty-designed cluster or a student-designed learning experience that meets the guidelines of the University Curriculum Council.
  • Courses in the Interdisciplinary Cluster must be taken at Trinity University, with one exception: one course from a Trinity-approved Study Abroad program may be applied to a student’s Interdisciplinary Cluster with pre-approval by the Interdisciplinary Cluster Steering Committee. Only one course in the cluster may be used to fulfill the requirements of the student’s primary major.

Tools for Success


Choose a cluster that interests you:

The Spirit of Our Age: Nineteenth Century Science and Culture

The nineteenth century saw the rise of institutions, concepts, disciplines, and systems that shape our contemporary politics, economics, art, literature, and scientific research. One cannot understand globalization without understanding the British and French Empires; evolutionary science without Darwin; modern selfhood without Freud; political economy without Marx; marketing without the great World’s Fairs; modern art and artists without Romanticism; science fiction without Jules Verne; technological change without the effects of railroads, electric light, and modern plumbing – all inventions that changed everyday life more than personal computing. The goal of this cluster is to enable students to grasp these historical connections across multiple disciplines and to explore current scholarly and public perceptions of the importance of the nineteenth century.

Nature, Culture, Catastrophes

The “Nature, Culture, Catastrophes” interdisciplinary Cluster addresses instances where natural phenomena influence human culture and vice versa. Environmental catastrophes provide a key organizing principle. The cluster offers both historical and contemporary perspectives: providing the long-term scientific perspectives are courses in volcanology, paleontology, and human evolution; the cultural courses with a historical emphasis include classical archaeology, which looks at ancient catastrophes, a course on the disastrous environmental challenges of urban architecture in Mexico City, and Judeo-Christian narratives of apocalypse. Providing 20th- and 21st-century views are the courses on science fiction and the environment looking at climate change fiction and post-apocalyptic narratives; the world literature and the environment course describing alternative practices and the colonial impact on local ecosystems; a biology course on global ecology and human culture; and philosophy courses appraising ethical decisions in scientific and environmental practices, with an emphasis on the “value” of the non-human and defining “nature.” Students in the cluster engage in diverse disciplinary analyses of human-nature interactions and catastrophes and so gain an interdisciplinary framework for environmental debates.

The Medieval and Renaissance World

The courses in this Cluster approach the Middle Ages and Renaissance—a period that spans the sixth through the sixteenth centuries CE—from different disciplinary perspectives, to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the diverse, interrelated, evolving societies that comprised “The Medieval and Renaissance World.” Students who enroll in this Cluster will use textual and material evidence to investigate this era, using various methodologies to address a core question: how did individuals, communities, and societies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance forge distinctive identities and establish their place in the world? By engaging multiple scholarly and critical approaches, this Cluster will enable students to conduct multifaceted analyses of primary sources and secondary scholarship. This interdisciplinary, analytical approach will equip students to confront the stereotypes associated with this period and assess the validity of the chronological and geographical boundaries that traditionally define “The Medieval and Renaissance World.”

Life in the Ancient World

This Cluster of courses introduces students to the political, cultural and religious life of some of the major civilizations of the classical East and West. In their study of various cultures, students will become familiar with the major figures and movements that shaped the history of the ancient world, they will understand the major socio-cultural developments that gave each region its cultural character, and they will be able to articulate how ancient perspectives and values differ from those of the modern world. Perspectives from the disciplines of archeology, anthropology, philosophy, religion, art, literature and architecture, will be analyzed, as students learn how to gather and evaluate information from scholarly sources.

Perspectives in Law

Students in this Cluster will be exposed to different ways that scholars examine laws, courts, and the judiciary --- ranging from normative to empirical approaches, from legal decisions to treaties to statutory laws, and from the humanities to social sciences. While all of the classes cover the law, they vary in interpretitve and disciplinary methods. Philosophy of Law, for example, explores the question “what is a good law?”; in contrast, Judicial Process examines the empirical behavior of courts and judges. Economic Analysis of Law focuses on whether court decisions make logical economic sense, whereas Constitutional Law examines whether court decisions are jurisprudentally and constitutionally sound. All classes focus on synthesizing information, including applying concepts learned in class to novel situations.

Jewish Studies

This Cluster provides students with a comprehensive view of Jewish civilization by offering an overview of Jewish history and literature. "Creating Judaism" introduces students to "the cultural, religious, political, and social lives of Jews, covering the entirety of Jewish history" while "Jewish Literature" provides a comprehensive view of the "historical, cultural, and intellectual development of Jewish literature, beginning with its early roots in Hebrew Scripture." The “Jewish Graphic Novel” centers on such works written by and about Jews and the Jewish experience in order to better understand the developing history of the graphic novel and the effects of the visual as it directs the unfolding of narratives. Further, the Cluster offers in-depth study of a central and foundational element of Judaism via "The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible: Ancient Texts and Modern Debates."   "Yiddish Language, Culture, and Film" provides students with the fundamentals of the Yiddish language (the historical language of European Jews), readings in Yiddish culture and literature, and Yiddish films.  These courses together provide student a remarkably deep understanding of larger trajectory of Jewish history and culture. At the same time, this cluster provides an in-depth view of the central cataclysmic event for Jewish civilization, the Holocaust, with opportunities to explore its origins, execution, and legacy through history and literature.

Great Books, Modern Ideas, Western Perspectives

The term "modern," with its etymological ties to now-ness and connotative links to new-ness, is notoriously difficult to define.  When did modernity begin, and what distinguishes it from antiquity?  What are its central occupations, core movements, and emblematic systems?  How does the modernity of the so-called Renaissance compare to the modernity of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?  Is our own century "modern" or something else?  In this Cluster, students will explore these difficult but vital questions by confronting the canonical texts -- the "Great Books" of the Cluster's title -- of the Western tradition.  Those texts will represent an array of temporal moments, linguistic contexts, and academic disciplines, including accounting, economics, literature, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology.

Foundations of Behavior Change

The courses in this Cluster approach the topic of variability in behavior as phenomena governed by scientific principles and therefore characterized by regularities. Three major paradigms are represented within the cluster:  An evolutionary approach from Biology, experimental economics from Economics, and experimental psychology from Marketing and Psychology. The Biology approach emphasizes how decision-rules are influenced by fitness costs and benefits, as well as how behavior is influenced by genetics, environmental factors, and physiological mechanisms. Psychology courses in the Cluster emphasize basic conditioning principles or both conditioning and social-learning theory. Principles of Marketing examines marketplace behaviors from socio-cultural perspectives (culture, sub-culture, family, social class and reference group influences) as well as how organizations seek to strategically influence individual and group behavior through various pricing, product, promotion, and distribution decisions. The course in behavioral economics works to extend standard economics models that assume rational self interest by incorporating well-documented features of behavior. Students will learn the basic aspects of the relevant paradigms.

Film, Thought and Culture

Students will think through questions of representation, perception, subjectivity, politics, culture, identity and other ideas fundamental to film studies. Students will use methods drawn from Philosophy, Religion, Modern Languages and Communication to examine both film as a medium and the kinds of cultural or intellectual objects that film has been used to examine. In that sense, film provides both the question of the Cluster and its way of asking questions about other fields. Students will draw analytical and interpretive methods from the participating disciplines: for example, philosophical inquiry, dialectical reasoning, close reading, cultural analysis, filmmaking techniques, the relationship between film and other media, and examination of the ways film as a medium can represent persistent concerns with the sacred or quotidian.

Ethics and Justice

The courses in this Cluster will address the question “what makes an action right or just?” Ethics and justice will be considered in courses that apply the methods of humanities and social science disciplines. For example, from the humanities students might take a course in Religion or Philosophy where they will investigate how the assumptions of various religions or philosophical positions bear on issues of ethics and justice. In a social science course, students might use the tools of communications, political science, sociology or psychology to address these central ethical questions.

Ecological Civilization in Asia

The world’s largest populations face huge environmental, political and socioeconomic challenges as they develop in the 21st century. The concept of “ecological civilization," which originated in China in the last decades, is a new guiding principle for development harmonious with nature. Originating as a call for environmental protection, it has become a plea for ecological development with a unique cultural dimension. This cluster will consider the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students will select courses from the natural sciences (biology, geoscience), the social sciences (anthropology, political science), and the humanities (communication, history, literature, religion) to analyze various developmental challenges faced by Asia with its unique natural and cultural attributes. The goal of the cluster is to determine how such a worldview may lead to a harmonious relationship between peoples of Asia and their natural world

Death and Beyond

What is death and how do we respond to it -- as individuals, communities, societies? How do we deal with the process of illness, dying, and death? How do we investigate the cause of death? What does a person's death tell us about their life? The nature and significance of death will be considered in courses that apply the methods of humanities disciplines (history, art history, classical studies, philosophy, religion, and comparative literature), social science disciplines (sociology, anthropology, and archaeology) and a natural science (biology). Although death is the keyword in the title, the study of death is in great part a study of life. For example, in a social science course, students might consider how the tensions between life and death underscore our most fundamental ideas, values, metaphors, and fears. In a religion course they could examine how the encounter with death is deeply connected with religious values concerning what makes life worth living. In a biology class, they could learn how the study of the disease helps us understand the nature of living organisms.

Constructing and Deconstructing Language

This Cluster brings together courses focusing on how language is learned and used by speakers, and those which focus on the analysis of the structure of language. Students will be exposed to the study and use of language using methods in both the social sciences and humanities. Analytical methods students will be exposed to include anthropolical and sociological approaches to ethnography, methods of instruction for bilingual speakers, experimental methods used to study language acquisition, methods of analyzing and critiquing rhetoric, and methods for creating and critiquing persuasive arguments. As students take classes in the cluster, they will be able to compare methods of studying language across different disciplines.

The Child and Adolescent

How has being a child and adolescent changed across cultures and time? How does studying child and adolescent development help us understand ourselves and society?  How do we raise caring, smart, and resilient kids? The goal of an interdisciplinary study of “The Child and Adolescent” is to promote a unified approach to the study of children and youth across the disciplines in the arts, humanities, and behavioral and social sciences. It is an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach of study of children and adolescents. Its major focus is to understand this period of development as a field of study in which children and adolescents are viewed in their fullness as human beings with all of their artistic, social, psychological, and cultural dimensions. By bringing carefully chosen knowledge of children and adolescents from different disciplines, students will develop a more holistic understanding of young people.

Professionalism

The courses selected for this cluster each in their own way address the question of "what does it mean to be professional?". Professionalism is an umbrella term that captures our collective expectations of those who work in a profession. It is used to describe a person's skill, comportment, and judgement in a professional setting. By creating expectations of behavior (technical, social, and ethical), it engenders in the public a sense of trust and confidence in both the individual and in each professional discipline as a whole. Some of the courses in this Cluster offer a discipline-specific context: for example, a course taken in the Engineering Science department might familiarize students with the economic, ethical and safety considerations of an industrial workplace, while a student taking a course in Finance will learn about the ethical culture of the financial world and the professional consequences of failing to meet those standards. Students can explore how to communicate information of a technical nature within an organization, how to write for and interact with other professionals, how to comport and manage themselves in teams, and can learn how management is structured within an organization.

East Asia: Tradition and Transformation

"East Asia: Tradition and Transformation" is an area studies Cluster that combines approaches from Political Science, History, Religious Studies, Art History, Philosophy, and Literature and Film.  With a range of courses spanning many departments (e.g. Art History, Chinese, Business, History, Political Science, and Religion), students will be exposed to various disciplinary approaches to East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) and emerge with a meaningful understanding of a region of the world that has both historical and contemporary importance. Some of the courses are grounded in the humanities, others in the social sciences, with several incorporating both; some of the courses are primarily historical, while others focus on contemporary issues. The Cluster is ideal for students who do not major in East Asian Studies, but who want their transcript to reflect an initial immersion in the subject.

Technology and Society

Courses in this Cluster will highlight the interactive nature of scientific developments and social factors; technological developments influence society, yet social needs/morals/views also determine which technologies will gain traction. Along these lines, students will be asked to critically evaluate the role of technology in their own lives, as well as for larger society. What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? How might average citizens benefit from a basic understanding of programming? How can historical accounts of technology inform our current debates regarding technology? How does science fiction affect our views regarding the role of technology in our current and future society? These are just a handful of questions that overlap the content of various courses in this cluster. Students will draw connections from their selected courses to make more informed decisions regarding their own technology use, as well as their views regarding large-scale social policies regarding technology.

Gender, Sex and Society

This Cluster will ask students to examine constructions of gender and sexuality through a range of contexts including artistic expression, critical theory, sport, and public policy. This cluster effectively merges two important subtopics in the study of sex and gender: Gender and Expression and Sex and the Body. For example, Philosophy of Gender might ask what metaphysical and ethical issues affect human consideration of sex and sexuality while History of Dress and Style would consider how the social, political and cultural environments of various eras shaped how people dressed. Likewise, Sport in Society would analyze how sport both reflects and shapes aspects of a culture, including gender, while Human Evolution would consider how the scientific method applies to physical anthropology. Most courses in the cluster will consider both areas in their exploration of sex roles, gender determination and changing understandings of sexuality from antiquity to the present. Methods of close reading and writing, along with historical and statistical analysis, will develop a critical understanding of the ways that social, economic and political factors influence and change definitions and interpretations of gender and sexuality in the United States and globally.

Beyond Globalization

Beyond Globalization allows students to explore the multiple ways in which globalization affects our modern world. This Cluster is different from others in that at least one of the three courses has to be taken while the student is studying abroad in one of our growing number of Faculty-Led Study Abroad programs. The international nature of the cluster provides participating students opportunities to synthetize knowledge in more ways than one, bridging the cultural experiences gained while studying abroad with their broader on-campus educational goals. It shows students interesting possible educational paths that combine their traditional education with a guided study-abroad experience. These international experiences allow students to connect disciplinary expertise to a wider range of knowledge on how things work, giving them a more consilient, interdisciplinary approach for solving real-world problems. International Trinity experiences, in particular, allow students to develop their team-building abilities while interacting with a foreign culture, and provide intercultural capabilities that are essential in the increasingly globalized, virtual, and diverse workplace of the twenty first century.   

We the People: Stories and Histories of the United States

The important role the United States has played in both historical and contemporary global affairs is a multifaceted one, spanning many disciplines at Trinity. These are a select group of courses that approach the study of the United States from cultural, historical, economic, and political perspectives. Individual courses target specific aspects of American life, but students pursuing this Cluster will see how these separate scholarly disciplines intersect (for example, the relationship of culture and history, or culture and politics) to create a more nuanced and holistic understanding of the American republic. Students will be able to choose among courses from different disciplinary approaches including economics, English, history, music, political science, and religion.