Different Perspectives Create Interesting Lessons

Charles Beers, Staff Writer

Can crushing an egg with a hammer be considered a form of art? Does mathematical theory belong in politics? What is the central importance of communities? These are only a few of the many questions that sophomores and juniors are made to ponder when taking an Integrated Perspectives (IP) class. While few universities have adopted this method of approaching a topic from a variety of viewpoints, the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University has not only embraced the concept, but promoted it by requiring students to take an IP course during their sophomore or junior year as part of the College Core Curriculum.

The Class of 2018 is the first class given the opportunity to take part in an IP course, a distinctive approach to learning in which two faculty members from different disciplines co-teach as a team, covering real-world issues from their own perspectives.

The motivation for creating this course was to “provide students with a broad exposure to the kinds of thorny, real-world problems and issues that don’t fit nicely within the disciplinary boundaries, before they start to specialize within their major disciplines,” Professor of Physics Ned Ladd said.

Students can not only focus their attention on an issue through the lens of their intended major, but can also gain an appreciation of the same situation from a different perspective.

Professor of Sociology Carl Milofsky and Associate Professor of Management Jamie Hendry co-taught the IP course “Poverty in Rural Communities,” which they said “presents and discusses different aspects of life in rural communities while also asking the students to work in teams of about four to study a specific rural community or a specific project, organization, or issue in rural communities.”

The class focuses on the importance of organizations to the communities and often sends students on field research where they conduct interviews. Students are challenged to consider “questions of sustainability (related to education, poverty, fracking for natural gas, development of social capital, etc.) as they looked at local towns in an effective and helpful way that incorporated both of our disciplinary areas,” Milofsky and Hendry said.

The professors are pleased with their results, noting that the students enjoy escaping the “Bucknell Bubble” and experiencing differences in local class and culture.

“Math and Politics” is another IP course offered at the University. Elizabeth Aucamp ’18 said that she has been focusing her studies on how mathematical methods and procedures can be implemented in politics. She and the rest of the class analyze data on voting methods and strategies and how variables can affect voters’ decisions. Additionally, they study how government systems work, as well as the nature of the Electoral College and important U.S. amendments.

Aucamp said that the course “has been successful in presenting students with interesting ideas. Before, I wouldn’t have thought about politics being so math based.” She said that the class moved at a “fast pace” and was “definitely the most time-consuming course of the semester.”

Aucamp also said that in the future, the University should feature more extensive course descriptions before registration so students are completely aware of the intricacies of the curriculum when signing up for a course.

“The new IP courses are a great example of how we want all Bucknell students to approach their studies and the contemporary world: broadly, using multiple disciplinary approaches, with agile thinking that allows them to see a wide range of perspectives on any issue. The faculty teams leading these classes model the open-minded, curious, well-informed intellectual exchange that is a hallmark of Bucknell teaching,” Provost Barbara Altmann said. 

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