Sectarianism begins at home

The headlines over the last few years have not been promising. Ferguson. Syria. Charlotte. Election. Walls. Red states. Blue states.

We know that the divisions represented by those headlines are anything but new, but if you’re like me, perhaps you’ve noticed a trend in recent years toward more entrenched mindsets and language geared toward zero-sum games, this or that media options, all lives or black lives or blue lives. You name it, and there’s a division.

Social science tells us that division is a natural human expression, one that enables identities to emerge.

“I want to be a nurse when I grow up” versus “I want to be a dictator when I grow up” = good division.

Division allows for expertise to emerge. For (good) orthodoxies to emerge, such as the orthodoxy of not injuring someone further during surgery, or the orthodoxy of picking up one’s litter.

And the Academy has, at least since the Victorian invention of bureaucracy, adopted what it sees as the kinds of healthy divisions into colleges and schools and departments and programs. FSU, as a state agency, finds in its culture an even more pronounced approach to bureaucracy because of its UNC system obligations and state functions and policies.

The brilliance of bureaucracy, of course, is that it encourages division of labor, allows folks with talent in areas of individual expertise to become really good, and to bring the gifts of that goodness to the larger organization and community. And it beats, I think, what happened before bureaucracy was invented, which was a system that tied together birthright (taking over the family shop) and social status (being born well enough to go to university, as an example).

But here we are in late 2017 and I can’t help but wonder if there’s some correlation, if not causation, between the culture we’ve allowed to overtake our way of doing things in the Academy and the students who have grown up to be bad cops, divisive media figures, rascal politicians, extremists, and sectarian thinkers. What are we doing in higher education that is producing those folks — regardless of the politics? Or, if we’d prefer our culprit to be someone else, why are those someone elses (social media, religious groups, whatever) not being transformed by the experience of higher education?

I’m being mean on purpose. And broad, probably to the point of being unhelpful.

But here’s the core of the argument: the Academy is modeling for generations of students the divisions we want them to overcome in the “real” world.

You can be a nurse, but not an actor (can you imagine nurses with bedside manners that have been steeped in the empathetic work of the theatre?)

You can be a social worker, but not an accountant (can you imagine? Social justice accounting? Sounds like something we need.)

You can be an artist, but not a businessperson (can you imagine? Artists who don’t think of starving first?)

You can be a biologist, but you don’t have to learn how to talk to people without using jargon (can you imagine the power of a scientist who can convey truth in an accessible way?)

I’m being facetious, too, as you know. FSU’s core curriculum begins to address these issues — and I don’t want to shortchange the good it does strive to do.

But our departments do it far less, and our colleges — even less than that.

Part of the factionalism in the institution is created by (necessary?) evils, like the SCH model, which creates gold mines in places like nursing schools, and has a tendency to incentivize other departments to circle the wagons and keep all the SCHs to themselves. I know in my own area of theatre, we could really benefit students by sending them to music for voice lessons and comm for acting reel production and psychology for research into human behavior and business for self-marketing and chemistry for how to make certain makeup applications work even better. The SCH model can prevent us from designing programs that do just that. When any chunk of our institution is under threat at a given moment — low-producing programs on one end and under-resourced programs bursting at the seams on the other — the incentives to work together cannot be as strong as the incentives to circle the wagons and store grain in the disciplinary silos that exist today. Nevermind the hybridization and vibrancy we could bring to the ecosystem if we made efforts, deep in our programs, to work together.

I’m not saying we’ll solve the world’s problems, but we will be modeling, for our students, ourselves, communities, and our peer institutions, a kind of harmonic synergy necessary to change the tone from vitriol, rancor, and protectionism to a different way of thinking. And ecosystems can start with event the tiniest of seeds.

Interdisciplinary Initiatives and Ideas


Dr. John Brooks and I are working on interdisciplinary initiatives — both assessing current interdisciplinary offerings at FSU and looking around the bend at potential new endeavors. I began with a relatively informal needs assessment of current offerings and offerings around the UNC system.

Based on initial responses from key faculty and administrators in interdisciplinary areas, FSU interdisciplinarity would benefit from:


-A centralized and organized administrative entity who can:

-Communicate key interdisciplinary contacts and opportunities and

-Recruit students and faculty to interdisciplinary opportunities.

-Emphases/endorsements – perhaps 3 courses at most – that can be included across disciplines

-Specific benefit to Professional Studies

-Specific benefit to students’ marketability

-Value-added to degrees by organizing electives and pairing specialties with degree programs (say International Business + Public Speaking)

-More ambitious program/major/minor additions based on a fuller UNC system analysis



  • Current cross-listed courses don’t seem to be interdisciplinary in nature, just labeled differently depending on the major of study
  • ETCE 101-103, 200. Sherree Davis.
  • GLBL 200-400.  There is no current GLBL coordinator. We’re working with Dr. Hogan from University College to sort this out.
  • HIPO.  Hsiaofen Hemstock.
  • HUMN 211-212. We’re working with Dr. Hogan from UC to sort this out.



  • Study Abroad
  • Communication to faculty and students is a challenge
  • Interdisciplinary trips can work well, but coordinating faculty with otherwise small numbers of interested students to work together can be difficult
  • Health and Physical Education, Non-Teaching Community Health concentration. Chandrika Johnson.
  • Awaiting response
  • Health and Physical Education, Non-Teaching Sports Management concentration. Portia Kershaw.
  • Awaiting response
  • Professional Studies. Greg DeLone.
  • Challenges in determining course offerings, as DeLone is only overseeing the capstone
  • Lack of exposure and funding (specifically funding that would attract attention)
  • Suggestion to offer named/listed concentrations that appear on the transcript/diploma.
  • Part-time or seasonal Academic Advisor for Professional Studies
  •          Certificates

Global Studies Certificate. Alison Van Nyhuis.

Pre-Law Certificate. English Dept.

  •          Minors

Africana Studies


Sustainability. Juan Ma.



Interdisciplinary Studies Degrees across UNC System Schools seem to be related to our Professional Studies program, but there are some key differences, one of which is the degree we offer (BSPS v. BIS v. BA). Sister schools do offer some ways of thinking about our approach that may be useful. FSU’s approach tends to see the BSPS as a way of capturing adult learners with a disparate set of credits or students who can’t decide on a major. Some other programs do this too, while others seem to market the interdisciplinary programs on the front end of the student experience, rather than the middle-or-back end. Several UNC system schools offer a range of interdisciplinary majors and minors based on courses we offer.


WCU (self-designed)

App State (self-designed)



ECSU (fully online)

NCCU (self-designed)

NCSU (self-designed, plus a variety of interdisciplinary majors and minors)*

UNCA (self-designed, plus a handful of interdisciplinary majors and minors)*

WSSU (self-designed)

UNCG (SDIP – geared to higher performing students)*

UNCP (loads of tracks in professional areas)*

UNCW (Interdisciplinary MA and post-Master’s Certificate)*

*these appear to be most useful to our context.



Team-teaching. The only example I know of is when Michael DeValve and I co-taught a CRJC and a THEA special topics course together in 2015. Credit is the issue – SCH distribution. Possible solutions:

-Co-teaching grants

-Co-teaching in Interdisciplinary courses. For example, HUMN could be co-taught by faculty of

three different disciplines if enrollment caps for the course increased accordingly.

-Incentivize co-teaching on the CIR


HUMN/PFAR 215. Interdisciplinary Arts-based course in the Core Curriculum – students attend arts events and complete the course online or hybrid.

Endorsements/emphases across the curriculum – micro-minors of 2-3 courses. Possibilities:


Arts + Entrepreneurship

Communication + Management

Nursing + Social Work

Teaching + Public Performance


New minors to possibly include:


Interdisciplinary studies


Cognitive Science

Conflict Studies

Film Studies


International Studies


Creative Writing

Digital Humanities

Latin American Studies

Digital Studio Performance

Urban Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies

Non-profit Leadership

Race, Gender, and Class


Honors College


Elevate and expand the Honors College, perhaps by actively seeking new Honors-designated courses, and examining UNCG’s Student-Designed Interdisciplinary Program.


General Education as Second Major


William Jewell College offers a model of general education called “ACT-in,” which, with the addition of three experiential components (one similar to service learning or internship, one that’s study-abroad or citizenship-based, and one that’s discipline-research based) amounts to getting a second major for taking what’s already in the core curriculum.



Admin Fellowship | Who am I?

My name’s Jeremy Fiebig and I’m an Associate Professor of Theatre in the Department of Performing & Fine Arts at Fayetteville State University. I’m an Admin Fellow in 2017-2018, focusing on interdisciplinary initiatives under the direction of Dr. John Brooks, Dean of University College. This blog is where I’ll be starting a conversation about interdisciplinary issues at FSU and where I’ll be tracking some of the ongoing efforts of the fellowship and other faculty members focused on interdisciplinary work throughout the year.