Devra Charney

The Silhouette

From Jan. 26-27, delegates from McMaster University’s Arts & Science and Integrated Science programs participated in the fourth annual Combining Two Cultures Conference, or C2C.

Established by Mac ArtSci students in 2010, C2C brings together interdisciplinary students from universities around Canada to discuss and develop interdisciplinary education through collaboration. While it originally focused primarily on interdisciplinary post-secondary education, it has grown to encompass the value of interdisciplinary studies in all aspects of problem solving in today’s world.

Leanna Katz, a recent ArtSci graduate, was part of the original steering committee that established the C2C conference. She recollected the initial enthusiasm for starting the conference and her astonishment that an interdisciplinary student-centred conference didn’t already exist.

“I loved so many aspects of the conference: the food was cooked from scratch by volunteers using ingredients from local farms, the working groups were developed and run by students from interdisciplinary programs across the country… All this gave the first C2C conference a distinctly McMaster ArtSci feel.”

Although Katz was part of the team who initiated C2C at Mac, she was also glad to see the conference through to its new hosts at the University of Waterloo.

“In the three years I was involved in planning C2C I was happy to see the conference move to another host university (the University of Waterloo, hosted by the Knowledge Integration Program) so that other interdisciplinary programs could take ownership of the conference for a period of time and give C2C their own flavour.”

This year, participants came from as far as McGill and University of British Columbia, as well as McMaster, Guelph and Windsor.

ArtSci and iSci students both engage in inquiry and problem-based learning that emphasizes cross-disciplinary exploration and coursework. Students at the conference spent their time thinking critically about why they chose to extend their focus across more than one area of study as well as the importance of interdisciplinary thinking in society.

Keynote speaker Payam Shalchian and panelists Tom Galloway, Vanessa Humphries, Jessica McEachren and Kathleen Beattie talked about their career paths in both arts and science disciplines, emphasizing that society has a demand for interdisciplinary perspectives. These individuals blurred the lines between seemingly distinct areas and made incredible innovations by combining their passions.

Working in the context of an overall theme of “boundaries,” discussion and problem-based learning facilitated insight into world issues, language, society and education. Discussion groups combined academics with inquiry in order to provide a constructive context for sharing and exploring diverse ideas. Skill sessions, new this year courtesy of Waterloo, provided an opportunity for hands-on learning.

Stephen Clare, a second-year Arts & Science student, felt that the conference presented a valuable opportunity to engage with highly ambitious students from across Canada.

“I attended the Creative Thinking skill session and we learnt practical ways of breaking through ‘mental boundaries”’ you may encounter working in teams or groups. It was very useful and a good way to break up the day.”

A panel for high school students was also added to the conference this year in order to investigate overcoming the difficulties of spanning across the disciplines while exploring the distinct opportunities it can bring to post-secondary education.

The C2C Conference will continue to run next year, being held at the University of Guelph. C2C 2013 provided a chance for students to engage creatively and discuss interdisciplinary studies in-depth in order to understand the benefits of breaking boundaries in both education and in the world.

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