Liberal Arts Launches Interdisciplinary Institute

The School of Liberal Arts has launched a new Interdisciplinary Institute with a focus on bias, perfectly timed to study the current political and cultural climate in the United States.

The institute is designed to foster collaboration between students and faculty across traditional academic departments to solve problems and address major public questions. It will combine the skills and perspectives of history; philosophy; visual and performing arts; psychology; sociology; economics; women’s and gender studies; biology; and other disciplines.

“The Interdisciplinary Institute embraces the potential for new knowledge, new ways of understanding and new insights on complex questions that can come from integrating the theoretical and methodological approaches of more than one field of study,” Provost Allan Weatherwax said. “By creating opportunities for students to engage with these complex issues, the institute also reaffirms Merrimack’s mission to enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower lives.”

The institute’s inaugural theme is “The Complex Nature of Bias: Is It Inevitable?”

“Given recent events in our country, our focus on bias seems particularly relevant and powerfully important,” said Monica Cowart, vice provost and founding director of the institute. “This creation of the institute further underscores the college’s historical commitment to fostering social justice and to embracing diversity. Merrimack is taking a leadership role in these areas at a time when this leadership is greatly needed.”

Interim Dean Sean Condon added that by becoming involved with the institute, faculty and students will have opportunities to become more effective problem-solvers.

“It will enable them to engage with others who have different perspectives and approaches, and in turn, both students and faculty will be motivated to take collaborative approaches to formulate and address complex and crucial questions.”

Janet Caputi, a Florida Atlantic University professor who holds joint appointments in the departments of women, gender and sexuality studies, and communication and multimedia, will serve as the institute’s inaugural visiting scholar. She will teach courses related to the theme, collaborate with students on research projects and hold public events addressing major questions around bias.

Merrimack faculty, aided by grants from the institute, have designed courses and events to complement the theme. The institute will also offer experiential-education opportunities in the community with classroom learning and robust on-campus programming, including symposia and workshops.


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