Tuesday Jan 30, 2018 IDS Lecture


Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Seminar

Jan 30 Day One Of Innovation

If you haven’t already read a little bit about the teacher who’s going to be cheering you on as you develop your Research Article, grow your Personal Learning Network, and activate your Applied Project this semester, I invite you to do so. Everything I write stems from a story. And those stories require research and engagement; and it’s really exciting when ideas transfer into action.

How many of you have ever had an idea that you wanted to try out in real time working with real people in a real setting?

It’s exactly what we’re  going to do in this course. Put our ideas into Applied action.

So here’s the quicker version of me before I get going:

I was born Bonnie Jean McPherson to David and Beverly, dad a stone mason and mom a homemaker, and grew up in a middle class neighborhood with two younger sisters, and a younger brother and lots of pick up games. I took dance lessons, sang in chorus, and wanted to be famous! I also loved school. I met the love of my life in high school. He also happened to be the son of my favorite third grade teacher, Mrs. Toomey. Yep. Against reasonable people’s advice, we got married halfway through my college career. I graduated with degrees in education, dance, and literacy and a minor in art, opened a ballet school, and raised four kids: Natalie, Steven Jr., Jillian, and Sean, who gave me Collin, Robert, Steven, and Scarlet! Everybody started their own lives and I started a second career as a writer for regional newspapers and magazines, got a couple poems published and now I have weekly deadlines for a column called Parent Forward. (You might end up in them so be careful what you say! Don’t worry I always ask permission.)

I love hiking in the mountains and boating and making lasagna with my grandkids. I still dance around the kitchen. But right now my kitchen is plywood, posts, and beams and a bit of open air ‘cuz I’m in the middle of building a house with my husband Steve. Yep, the same Steve whose mom taught me how to multiply and divide.

Building is a great metaphor for what we do in Interdisciplinary Studies. We learn, we gather materials, and we build and finally we use those structures to get things done, like write this lecture, for instance.

All throughout life we are learning across the disciplines. You’re here because you realize the validity of that concept. You’ve mixed your own flavors of disciplines to create a major which works not only for you, but a lot of other interested parties as well.

We all grow up along a continuum of learning. Newborns are able to identify mom’s voice quickly because they have been listening to it for nine months. The sounds of voice and heartbeat are familiar because Baby has been studying them so closely, like Plato inside his cave ruminating.  So it’s not so surprising that that tiny being in the first weeks as a dependent infant must learn to recognize the scent of skin, the taste of milk, a gentle rock, a warm touch. All of these things are integrated into one major thing: Mom. Here, Mom means safety and survival and even love. Talk about across the disciplines!  And as we all know, this experiential knowledge will become integrated with more specific kinds of learning to forge the building of paths and bridges to all matter of lifelong learning filled with all kinds of experiences. None of this happens in a bubble, right? But it kinda started that way…

In the old days, and I mean the real old days, this kind of study and learning was focused on survival — shelter, food, and water — and more babies — a deliverable, so to speak!– to keep the human species going. Early people studied finding good shelter, gathering and hunting for food, and how to capitalize on suitable water sources and — having babies. Then one day while our very own determined and somewhat disciplined ancestors were gnawing on supper around the cave fire one innovative tot discovered miraculously that soot leaves a mark, handprints are transferable, and wow, paintings on walls can really dress up a dreary dwelling. The rest is history, as they say, and we are miraculously a part of that long continuum.

We learn by observing, pondering, sharing ideas, and trying things out. We learn by trial and error. We make progress through process.

What do you see happening here?

Learning across disciplines of dance, music, and technology.


Let’s take a moment and visualize a particular instance when you were a child where you learned how to do something specific. Close your eyes and go there. Now observe. How did you feel? Why were you there? Who was present? What happened? Link that moment of curiosity to this moment in your Interdisciplinary Studies as you prepare to be curious once again. Write a post titled: “How my childhood curiosity lead me to this moment in time and how I plan to do something about it” — Well, it doesn’t have to be that exact title, but follow the premise. Get creative. Have fun with this. We’ll share them tonight and on our websites. You can save it as a draft and add media later.

(about 10 minutes)

Partner up and share each other’s websites with a promise to respond and share the work.


So it’s here that we will get our ideas, meaning our past experience, knowledge and actions, kicked into high gear as we come down the home stretch of finishing the crown jewel so to speak of your IDS degree. So exciting!

I’ve read some of your blogs and I’m impressed with your reflections and integrations. Some of you may have noticed that you have a new follower — not trolling or lurking — I am there because I want to be a little part of that development that you have forged, owned, and now wish to put into action. In here I want you to directly think how you will be taking action, in other words how will you be putting your PLN’s, your research, (I like to call it treasure hunting) and your knowledge into real-life application?


– Research Article (RA)

– Applied Project (AP)

= 👨‍🎓 👩‍🎓Right? Well, yeah!

But it’s not just about graduating [awesome, yes!] it’s about creating a viable bridge and series of paths between your academic career and your professional one. Now that can mean crossing over to a variety of things:

– Internship

– Job

– Graduate School

– Travel

– Volunteer Work

– Second Career


Create A Visual Diagram Representing Your Intention


Place yourself in the middle and create spokes of intention.

(about 1 minute)

More Cheering 

Yes, you may say something like, do YOU think (meaning me) I can actually put myself out there?! And I’ll say yes, you absolutely can! You are already on your way, look at your PLN, posts, and experience.

I get it. What I’m hearing from you and from the “word on the street” is that being an IS major is not always easy to explain to others and there’s been some bad press or programs over the years. But IDS is becoming more viable as a field of studies with majors like biotechnology and environmental science growing from certain needs in the market directed by the time in which we live. But don’t be fooled. IDS is not a brand new concept in higher ed. It’s been around for decades and even as far back as the 1950’s institutions were trying to grow their curriculums to meet the demands of an ever-changing society and the market in which they needed to depend. Example, my daughter, graduated 12 years ago after creating what was then an Independent Study at American University. She focused on three disciplines, journalism, women’s studies, and history and got an entry-level job in marketing with a small Boston company. Today Nat works for a biotech, Insulet, as a Global Marketing Manager doing good work for kids with diabetes. I guess what I am trying to say is that because she tailored her major all that was possible.

Check this out: PSU is no. 17 on the best IDS programs on a recent list of 37 universities. As you all know by now, IDS isn’t an easy ticket to a quick way out. You must

  •  gather and process. (RA) You research, think, and write — a lot.
  •  Connect digitally. You engage with your PLN community.
  •  Apply ideas. (AP) You implement your plan in the real world.

You are going to put your theories into tangible action. Now, take a deep breath, I am not asking you to solve a world problem, but….maybe just tinker with how your idea can be part of a larger solution.

And all for good reason, the world is growing ever smaller and we know that curiosity — our natural human virtue — is something that we cannot resist, nor do we want to, because it means something for the greater good, and the greater good is where it’s at. It, meaning, as we progress, there is bound to be innovation and we want to be part of redoratingbthe cave so to speak!  In fact, in one way you have invested in that idea because you have begun by innovatively creating your own path. Part of that is out of necessity, and part of that grows from being inventive.

Let’s get inventive! Okay, let’s take a break, let’s get into some think tank action.

Compass Rose in Tannenbaum Cottage


Brainstorming to Find Direction

We will eventually collaborate in six groups of 5 thinkers. (3 groups will have 6)

Before we group, take a couple minutes to make a brief list for yourself. As you consider the prompts below let your IDS spirit guide you. The goal is to disrupt the status quo. I want you to for a minute imagine that you have unlimited resources to answer these puzzles. Be brave,here we go!

– Note 3 things you want to change/don’t think are working in the real world as you see it related to your integrated field of study

– List 3 things you think are working in the real world in your field of interest but would like to improve upon in a specific way

(about 10 minutes)

Share ideas in a group setting. Lots of talking. Offer thoughts.

(About 10 minutes)

The very reason we title it “studies” — who knows maybe your specific creation will grow into a full-blown euphemism for the discipline for which you innovated in the first place.

Example of a Comment

To Orianna:
Your team teaching point reminds me of the power of brainstorming together across the disciplines which is really just sharing ideas (something we humans are really good at!) and to hear our own ideas out loud in a team setting can be tremendously informative to both our own Process and that of the group.


You present the goal, you ask the questions and you put the findings into practice. You’re on a quest.

Now make a list of specific things pertaining to this course that’s you want to accomplish tomorrow.


Once again, pair up, find out what you can and be prepared to introduce your IDS fellow.

Wrapping up

Go over the syllabus

Journaling and posting

Engaging as peers, support one another’s works in progress