SummerMagazine_2014_final - page 30-31

28 summer 2014 | St. Lawrence University Magazine
By Ryan Deuel
W
hile students face
an increasingly
interconnected world,
academic disciplines
often remain separated and somewhat
isolated. With the help of a generous
grant, St. Lawrence University is
attempting to bridge those disciplinary
divides and support interdisciplinary
collaboration and learning.
In April 2012, the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation awarded St. Lawrence a
grant for $700,000 to support a five-year
project it called “Crossing Boundaries:
Re-envisioning the Humanities for
the 21st Century.” Since then, 14
projects have been funded and resources
distributed to more than 30 faculty
and administrators on topics that
range from documenting street art
to teaching in prisons to creating a
First-Year Program course that will be
co-taught between Canton and London
using teleconferencing technology.
As the title suggests, Crossing Boundaries
projects are focused on two main goals:
reasserting the humanities’ centrality
to the liberal arts curriculum, and
bridging the divide that often exists
between academic disciplines.
“Our goal is to connect courses and
to create something together by
breaking down silos,” says Richard
Jenseth, associate professor of film
studies in the Department of Film and
Representation Studies, who spearheaded
St. Lawrence’s Crossing Boundaries
application. “It’s not only about the
students and the faculty, but rather about
collaborating on separate courses and
making connections between them.”
One way to break down those silos is
through the use of technology to create
new learning environments both inside
and outside the traditional classroom.
“Digital tools have completely reshaped
the way people learn,” says Matthew
Lavin ’02, associate program coordinator
for Crossing Boundaries. “Innovation
is a crucial aspect of our grant. In order
for institutions like ours to continue to
thrive in the 21st century, we need to
cultivate an atmosphere where trying
new things in the classroom is not just
encouraged but also recognized as a core
principle of liberal arts education.”
One Mellon Crossing Boundaries grant went to several faculty members for their project“Paths to
Buddha: Studying ‘Buddhism’from an Interdisciplinary Perspective.”Professor of Religious Studies Mark
MacWilliams says,“Here, students have installed a five-storied esoteric Buddhist pagoda. The statue
was endowed with the presence of the Buddha by performing an ‘eye opening ceremony’at the North
Country Japanese garden on campus. Students studied the different types of religious material culture
associated with Buddhist pilgrimage, such as spiritual amulets, temple stamp books, and statuary.”
Collaborative project re-envisions
the future of the humanities
‘Breaking Down Silos’
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