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Editorial | Bridge Professorships is positive step, but more can be done

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:02

Tufts has made positive strides in its decision to create Bridge Professorships that will, according to the university, “enable the hiring of faculty whose scholarship bridges academic units across or within schools.” The inaugural program, set to begin next year with financial support from the Provost’s office, will give Tufts students the opportunity to connect with joint faculty members who will teach a subject offered in two Tufts schools. These new hires will transcend conventional academic structures by providing expertise in subjects which often see overlap between different schools. Additionally, the university announcement stated that “the proposals should identify a defined joint interdisciplinary area for the position, not a person; we are interested in building strong areas of interdisciplinary work rather than targeting individuals.” Valuing a candidate’s potential contributions to the campus environment over his or her personal reputation is a fantastic example of pushing the boundaries of what an interdisciplinary education means. By creating the Bridge Professorship position and subsequently finding the right person to fill this role, it prevents the university from limiting creative minds to just one school’s approach.

While the university is host to a plethora of impressive faculty, many undergraduates find themselves unable to easily enroll in classes and access professors who teach in schools which are not their own. For example, undergraduate students interested in international relations may walk past The Fletcher School every day, yet the process to enroll in open classes at Fletcher is often unwelcoming and arduous. If the university values the power of interdisciplinary learning, then part of that strategy should be making sure that students can enroll in other schools without hassle. Currently, Tufts undergraduates looking to register for classes at The Fletcher School are required to submit the same forms that they would use to cross-register for classes at Boston University, Boston College and Brandeis. If the university values academic integration across campuses, why is The Fletcher School treated like an outside institution?

Benefits of facilitating access to Tufts’ own graduate school communities for undergrads would be twofold: It would serve as an additional incentive for potential incoming applicants to choose Tufts and it would also motivate students who are already enrolled to challenge themselves in a graduate level environment. The first step to multidisciplinary education making sure that the university has professors who want to teach more than just one student body; the next step, is making sure that any qualified student can easily and efficiently enroll in classes across different schools.

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