Interdisciplinary Programs

Interdisciplinarity has long been a signature component of the Washington and Lee education. Our first formal interdisciplinary program, Neuroscience, was created in the late 1980s. Currently the university has 12 interdisciplinary programs, and it's important to note that "interdisciplinarity" is happening all the time and in many curricular areas of the university. Indeed it is difficult to think of an academic discipline today that is not in conversation with other disciplines and modes of inquiry. A liberal arts education by its very nature encourages interdisciplinarity.

"Strengthen interdisciplinary education" stands among the six featured initiatives for the curriculum in the W&L Strategic Plan. Furthermore, the Plan articulates the unique interdisciplinary opportunities W&L is able to offer, due to our three-part academic structure of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, and the School of Law: "W&L has been distinguished since the 19th century by its integration of explicitly pre-professional subjects with the liberal arts." The blending of the pre-professional with a rich liberal arts curriculum is reflected in many of our interdisciplinary programs.

An interdisciplinary program (in contrast to a departmental minor) draws upon multiple departments and programs to constitute its area of study and its curriculum (whereas a typical minor lives within a single department). Most interdisciplinary programs offer only a minor, but a few offer a major. Each interdisciplinary program has a program head and both core and affiliate faculty from multiple disciplines who teach and advise in that program. "Core" faculty have a regular teaching commitment to the program; they produce scholarly work within the program areas; they advise students within the program; and they perform regular service roles for the program. "Affiliate" faculty are those who have an interest in the program and contribute occasionally to its teaching, service, or scholarly production, but do not make the same level of commitment as core faculty.

Because interdisciplinary programs include resource commitments (course release for the program head, operating budgets), any new IP requires the approval of the Provost in addition to approval by C&D.

In 2019, the faculty approved new policy and language for the appointment and evaluation of faculty who are hired into or hold core appointments in Interdisciplinary Programs.

The linked principles and grid outline the appointment, review, and evaluation timeline and process for faculty who hold core appointments in our Interdisciplinary Programs.