Interdisciplinarity at UBC

UBC and other institutions of higher learning are increasingly recognizing the value of interdisciplinary thinking in both research and teaching. New students are encouraged to participate in interdisciplinary programs, and UBC highlights its commitment to interdisciplinarity as one of the reasons our university is in the world’s top forty!

Keep track of all the interdisciplinary events at UBC. Below is a (growing!) list of interdisciplinary units and sites for interdisciplinarity on campus.

Interdisciplinary Units

  • Arts One: Arts One is an innovative approach to first year education in the Faculty of Arts. This program offers two thematic courses each year, each led by a dynamic team of instructors from a variety of academic disciplines. Taking an integrated approach to the humanities, Arts One focuses on critical thinking, writing skills, and class participation. Instead of going from History class to English class to Philosophy class – with each class completely unconnected to the others – students study great works from a variety of perspectives.
  • Assembly of Interdisciplinary Students: AIS aims to promote interdisciplinary student interaction and involvement. Though UBC is split into different faculties, AIS believes these academic boundaries should not extend to social boundaries. AIS gathers UBC students from all faculties under one banner through the collective efforts towards the completion of a single large project.
  • The Bridge Program: The Bridge Program is a scholarship-funding and research training program linking the University of British Columbia’s faculties of medicine, engineering and interdisciplinary studies. Its mission is to develop creative evidence-based prevention measures for public, environmental, and occupational health problems. A multidisciplinary graduate fellowship program, its goal is to develop creative evidence-based strategies to solve public, environmental and occupational health problems. The focus is on prevention of disease and injury (rather than medical care), using approaches that link the public health, engineering and policy realms. The program provides funding to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars and professionals, and brings them together with faculty mentors in an interactive environment.
  • Centre for Cross-Faculty Inquiry in Education (CCFI): CCFI draws faculty and students together, in graduate programs, courses, lectures, workshops and other interactive venues, to address educational issues or topics of common concern from inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives. CCFI seeks to drive intellectual and social innovation through the nurturance of transdisciplinary scholarship in Education. CCFI thus serves as both an active academic unit that provides graduate programs and courses, and in so doing, contributes to the development of knowledge advances across multiple fields of inquiry in Education, as well as an incubator space for the development of cross-faculty initiatives and collaborative inquiry.
  • Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability: The CIRS mandate is to accelerate sustainability in the Vancouver region by bringing people, projects, and processes together in new ways. CIRS is a hub of excellence around green design and building operations practices. CIRS brings thought leaders from UBC and our region together to create and test solutions that work at home, and then shares experiences and knowledge with the public and professionals from across the province and around the world.
  • College of Health Disciplines: CoHD provides interprofessional courses on behalf of seven affiliated faculties and works with partners to generate course ideas that fill current health care needs and give students an opportunity to study with those in other health and human service disciplines. CoHD administers many courses covering a wide range of topics from the traditional role of plants in First Nations health, disability and justice, to planning for work in developing countries.
  • Community Learning Initiative: The Community Learning Initiative provides leadership in engaging students, faculty, staff, and community to build their capacity to collaborate toward the resolution of complex community-based challenges.
  • Coordinated Arts Program: CAP is designed for first-year students who have broad interests in the Humanities and Social Sciences. As a cohort program, CAP groups students into small learning communities who take a set of intentionally linked courses from different disciplines. Each learning community, or stream, focuses on a broad research topic, and courses are designed to engage this topic across the disciplines. Faculty focus on teaching critical thinking and foundational skills to engage students in a transformative learning process.
  • Coordinated Science Program: CSP is an alternative to standard first year science. All CSP students attend the same sections of specific core science courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math, and may participate in the Computer Science option if desired. The program provides a weekly workshop with hands-on activities that reinforce coursework or support development of general academic skills such as problem solving and communication.
  • Green College Interdisciplinary Lecture Series: During each academic year, Green College hosts a number of lecture series that are open without charge to College members, the UBC community, and the general public. These series are presented by the College in collaboration with faculty members from UBC departments and programs who act as convenors and coordinate themes and speakers.
  • Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice: This degree-granting academic unit exemplifies UBC’s commitment to ensuring critical advances in knowledge, democratic communities, and equity in scholarship, research, and teaching. Scholars in the Social Justice Institute are engaged in innovative theoretical and empirical work that advances and enriches current knowledge and critical dialogue about culture, politics and public policy, locally, nationally and transnationally.
  • Institute of Asian Research: IAR is committed to combining international analysis with understanding of local conditions. The Institute sponsors programs that focus on global forces that are shaping relations in the Asia Pacific Rim. The Institute also includes geographic research centres covering five great geographic and cultural regions of Asia: China, Japan, Korea, India and South Asia and Southeast Asia. Each Centre is concerned with interpreting and researching policy, politics and law, economy, and culture and history in these regions. Through this combination of attention to the global and the local, IAR carries out a mandate of teaching and research where policy relevance is informed by local knowledge.
  • Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability: The Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) is a problem-focused and curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research institute and graduate program, with interest and expertise in a wide range of topics under the realm of environment and sustainability. Its mission is to foster sustainable futures through integrated research and learning about the linkages among human and natural systems, and to support decision making from local to global scales. More often than not, this is achieved through through collaborations across students and faculty in a manner that recognizes our collective skills, intellectual histories and methodological approaches, and yet encourages our interdependencies as we consider real world problems.
  • Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program: The ISGP enables qualified graduate students to pursue advanced interdisciplinary research exceeding the provisions of existing departmental programs. The program was established at UBC in 1971, the first of its kind in Canada. It is one of the only Canadian programs to offer doctoral degrees in interdisciplinary studies, and is possibly one of the largest of its kind in North America. Few universities explicitly recognize the kind of unbounded interdisciplinarity that is offered by ISGP, whereby a student can bring together three seemingly unrelated fields from across disparate faculties.
  • Interdisciplinary Oncology Program: The IOP offers advanced study and research in a variety of fields relating to oncology. Those fields include: molecular and cellular biology, genetics, biophysics, bioinformatics, pharmaceutical sciences, radiological sciences, immunology, molecular pathology, sociobehavioural studies, epidemiology and health economics.
  • Interdisciplinary Studies BA Program: The Interdisciplinary Studies BA Program (IDST) offers the independent, capable student a multidisciplinary alternative to the traditional, department-based Major. IDST provides students with an opportunity to expand beyond the narrow focus on one or two academic disciplines that is the norm for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts. Instead, IDST students design a cross disciplinary course of study that focuses on two of four much more broad and inclusive categories – the Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Creative and Performing Arts.
  • Jump Start: Jump Start is designed to support new international and Aboriginal students. A two-week immersion program, Jump Start acclimatise students to a new country and/or culture and academic system. Carefully crafted to recognise the unique needs and challenges faced by these students and guide them through the academic differences, Jump Start connects them the broader UBC community and ultimately equips them to achieve success in all aspects of their lives at UBC.
  • Liu Institute: The Liu Institute conducts and facilitates research on global issues, mobilizing knowledge into solutions and policy. The Institute takes an interdisciplinary problem-solving approach to explore new ideas and ways of learning to catalyze innovative thinking and positive societal change. Its current focus is on advancing sustainability, security, and social justice: understood as moving toward economic, social, and environmental interactions that promote the well-being of people in ways that are just, equitable, and sustainable.
  • Mech 2: Mech 2 is a carefully designed engineering curriculum aimed at developing students’ analytical, practical, and design skills in Mechanical Engineering. The Mech 2 team believes that the traditional curriculum is not an optimal way to educate all students and that many students will benefit from Mech 2’s unified approach. The goal of Mech 2 is for students to be able to use their knowledge and skills to apply engineering science to practical engineering problems. The most obvious difference between Mech 2 and the traditional program is the integration of course material in Mech 2 and the focus on application of theory.
  • Magic (Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre): MAGIC was established in 1991 to foster research in media technology that will support economic development in the Province of British Columbia. These goals are achieved through training of highly qualified personnel and transfer of knowledge and technology for media, graphics, visualization, human-computer interaction and communication technologies to the community.
  • Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies: The mission of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies has been to create collaborative, interdisciplinary, basic research programs for scholars at all stages of their career. It is one of only 24 similar institutions worldwide devoted to the free pursuit of learning and research at the highest levels. The Institute’s achievements include the creation of a significant community of scholars at the University of British Columbia and an even wider global community of individuals and partner institutions.
  • RAGA (Centre for Race, Autobiography, Gender, and Age): The Centre for Race Autobiography Gender and Age studies fosters interdisciplinary critical race and feminist scholarship with a focus on auto/bio/graphy in its broadest interpretation. RAGA also works collaboratively with community organizations to promote social change based on principles of equity and social justice.
  • Science One: This 75-student, innovative first-year undergraduate course presents the traditional disciplines of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics in a unified, integrated format that fulfills second-year prerequisite requirements for all of these subjects. An interdisciplinary 25 credit course, Science One cultivates critical, independent thought as the basis of scientific inquiry.
  • SEEDS (Social Ecological Economic Development Studies): UBC’s SEEDS (Social Ecological Economic Development Studies) Program provides students with real-world sustainability experience, skills and knowledge while they earn course-based credit. Students work collaboratively with faculty and staff to develop and implement projects that apply the “Campus as a Living Lab” concept to address campus sustainability challenges, many of which have been implemented or influenced decision making.
  • Sustainable Buildings Science Program: The building industry is under pressure to find and implement innovative design solutions. However, associated academic programs have lagged behind the demand for livable spaces and ‘green’ buildings. The SBSP fills this gap by creating an environment for professional training and innovative research that is applied to the design, creation, operation and monitoring of buildings that promote health, occupant satisfaction, have a low ecological footprint, and that must exist in the larger context of the community. It helps to connect interdisciplinary groups of people involved in the building industry and to conduct research on real-world design challenges.
  • Sustainability Initiative: UBC Sustainability is a collaborative initiative that brings together education, research, operations and partnerships to advance sustainability on campus and beyond. The UBC Sustainability Initiative connects people with tools, information and motivation to commit, integrate, demonstrate and inspire.
  • TerreWEB (Terrestrial Research on Ecosystems & World-wide Education & Broadcast):  TerreWEB involves 11 UBC faculty members and 34 collaborators who expressed concern over scientific communication methods and wanted to embrace the communication revolution that has the potential to influence the effects of global change in our behaviour. TerreWEB’s overall goal is to develop collaborative, graduate educational programs that focus on global change, behavioural decision making and multimedia communications for informing stakeholders and the public using interactive assessment research and complex systems theory that contribute to the development of communication strategies for the dissemination of knowledge and to alter human behaviour. TerreWEB trains Master and PhD students from various backgrounds to become better communicators of their global change research, using TV, film, internet, mobile applications and more, in order to benefit the general public and contribute to a “greener future”.

Sites for Interdisciplinary Exchange

  • Beaty Museum: The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is Vancouver’s natural history museum, dedicated to creating a shared sense of community and wonder. The museum puts UBC’s natural history collections, with more than two million specimens, on public view for the first time. Among its treasures are a 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton suspended in the Djavad Mowafaghian Atrium, the third-largest fish collection in the nation, and myriad fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants from around British Columbia and the world. Through a combination of exhibits, hands-on activities, educators’ resources, public presentations, and community and cultural engagement, we are working to increase understanding of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth.
  • Botanical Garden: Visitors to UBC Botanical Garden can expect a learning experience rich with interesting plants and informative signs. The UBC Botanical Garden encourages instructor and student use of the Garden and its resources. The Garden provides academic services to the University of British Columbia and other university/college communities, including learning spaces, student projects, and guest speakers for UBC classes.
  • Communities of Practice: Communities of practice are groups whose members “share a passion for something they know how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better” (Wenger 2006). A CTLT community of practice allows people to share knowledge, expertise, scholarship, ideas, and suggestions, both face-to-face and electronically. Meet people from across campus in the Interdisciplinary Community of Practice and in other communities.
  • Green College: Green College is a graduate residential college that promotes advanced interdisciplinary inquiry through free public lectures, events and performances, and through relaxed discussions around the dinner table. The College is home to 100 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and visiting artists and academics at UBC.
  • Museum of Anthropology: MOA is world-renowned for its collections, research, teaching, public programs, and community connections. It is also acclaimed for its spectacular architecture and unique setting on the cliffs of Point Grey. To extend its role as public and research institution, MOA recently completed a major expansion and renewal project, creating amazing new opportunities for research, teaching, and public enjoyment.
  • St. John’s College: St. John’s College is a graduate residential college committed to enhancing the intellectual and cultural life of graduate students at UBC, and to deepening the understanding and practice of multicultural education and international understanding within the university and the larger community of which it is a part. The College is home to 150 graduate students in all faculties and departments across the University, as well to a dozen postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty, and visiting scholars.
  • UBC Experts: The UBC Experts Guide is an information source that gives journalists (and instructors!) quick and direct access to UBC’s expertise. It’s a great resource for guest speakers.

Finally, on our homepage, follow the link to the ICoP Delicious page, where articles and websites are bookmarked for your reference. Find an archive of interdisciplinary events at UBC by clicking the tag UBC Interdisciplinarity. Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows users to bookmark, tag, and share websites with their followers. Create your own Delicious feed to share websites, articles, and resources on the ICoP feed.

2 thoughts on “Interdisciplinarity at UBC

  1. You have listed the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) listed as Institute for Environment, Sustainability, and Resources (IESR). Please correct this since we are known around the world as IRES and most people (including me) will find IESR confusing.

    • Thanks Milind Kandlikar, we’ve made the change on the ‘Interdisciplinarity at UBC’. Let me know where else the changes might be made. All the best. Conor

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