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The Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies is comprised of seminars in the following areas:

  • Interdisciplinary Foundational Themes (12 credit hours, 4 seminars)
  • Core knowledge in a Primary area of concentration (6 credit hours, 2 seminars)
  • Advanced knowledge in a Primary area of concentration (12 credit hours, 4 seminars)
  • Research Methodology (6 credit hours, 2 seminars)
  • Academic Critical Writing and Thinking Skills ( 9 credit hours, 3 seminars)
  • Electives (9 credit hours, 3 seminars)
  • Individualized Studies (6 credit hours, 2 seminars)

Foundational Themes of the cohort Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies

Study related to the three areas of concentration is undertaken within the context of and pursued with deliberate, sustained attention to the three themes that are central to the University's and Doctor of Philosophy program's intellectual and social commitments. These themes are:

Attentiveness to Social Justice

Social justice is a matter of trying to ensure that each person and group receives their proper due from the storehouse of primary and secondary goods that are available, at any given time, within the context of social and political life. Primary goals of the doctoral program are: (1) to explore alternative theories’ conceptions of the proper distribution of a society’s resources; (2) to examine the implications of alternative systems of social exchange (market systems, moral systems, organizational systems) for realizing the alternative ideals associated with social justice; and (3) to examine the importance of attending to social justice within the framework of present and future historical circumstances. A concern for the goal of social justice is incorporated into the program of study for each of the doctoral program’s three areas of concentration.

Creative Inquiry

“. . . inquiry as a creative process that can take us increasingly deeply into the relationship between knowledge, self, and world” ~Alfonso Montuori

Closely related to both interdisciplinary and critical inquiry is creative inquiry and an attention to creative process.

Although we recognize that it is neither necessary nor possible to articulate just one definition of the creative process, but instead hold space for and support multiple (sometimes contrasting) notions, as a program, we shape our thinking around several main strands of thought:

  1. The creative process—as a process—is a way of knowing. As such, engagement in the creative process prompts, deepens, and supports our thinking in ways not accessible through other avenues. It allows sometimes complementary, sometimes parallel, sometimes profoundly different ways of knowing that strengthen and engage other ways of knowing. Thus, the creative process is a means of exploration, a vehicle of discovery; it opens up new lenses through which to understand the world, thus pushing our creative work and thinking in new directions. What is uncovered through an engagement in the creative process can thus be fundamentally different from what is uncovered through other avenues of inquiry.
  2. The creative process is a form of inquiry. It is deeply curious, and attuned to explorations of ambiguity and complexity. It may include an attention to glimpses and possible insights in conjunction with/rather than/as complement to logical arguments and systematically gathered empirical evidence. It may develop as a means of responding to injustice, social/cultural disruption, and/or disorientation, and/or in the liminal space of chaos. It may allow us to see new symbols and patterns, and to respond in a way that brings about new metaphors, creates new narratives, and thus moves us forward as a culture and a species. Engaging in the creative process can thus help us to fashion new solutions to our most pressing public policy and leadership dilemmas, social/cultural injustices, disorientation, etc.
  3. Engaging in the creative process is important for artists, and is an integral part of scientific discovery, business, politics, law, psychology, philosophy, design, etc. The creative process thus involves engagement with and connection to the external world—of practice, of politics, of activists, of peer scholars, of previous generations of creative thinkers. It involves a continuous feedback loop with others.
  4. Each framing of the creative process allows certain ways of thinking and knowing—and may thus occlude other ways of thinking and knowing. The creative process thus highlights an awareness of multiple possibilities and flexibility, the need for reconsideration and re-examination, the need for openness and a willingness to let go of preconceived notions, a willingness to begin again.

As Robert Grudin writes, “Creativity is dangerous. We cannot open ourselves to new insight without endangering the security of our prior assumptions. We cannot propose new ideas without risking disapproval and rejection. Creative achievement is the boldest initiative of mind, an adventure that takes its hero simultaneously to the rim of knowledge and the limits of propriety. Its pleasure is not the comfort of the safe harbor, but the thrill of the reaching sail.”

Engagement of Difference

Related to the concern for social justice, an additional goal of the doctoral program is for students to acquire advanced understanding of the complex issues (historical, sociological, psychological, political, philosophical and ethical) related to the presence of difference among individuals and a complex array of alternative identities and social groups. Grounded in studies within the humanities and social sciences, a related and equally important goal associated with the study of difference is to explore the various possibilities for engaging and addressing difference. The issues and possibilities explored include assimilation, mutual understanding, dissent and resistance, tolerance and accommodation, mutual respect, separatism, opposition, cooperation, discursive communication, negotiation and compromise, conflict, matters of translation and possible reconcilability or irreconcilability, synthesis and transformation.


Students are encouraged to consciously transgress some of the disciplinary boundaries that, for better or worse, structure both  our thinking and actions.  Students take up this challenge by immersing themselves in the current debates surrounding interdisciplinary - its theories and practices, its promises and potential shortcomings-so  as to arrive at a working definition of interdisciplinary research as it pertains to their own specific scholarly interests and projects.

Specific Curriculum for each Area of Concentration

For details regarding the curriculum for each Area of Concentration, please see the Program Overview.