Barbara Weber has been appointed chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP), replacing Hillel Goelman, who is retiring from UBC as of September 1, 2017. Barbara is an associate professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, and an associate of the UBC Philosophy Department.
Her background, which includes work as a performance artist, choreographer and dancer as well as academic research across philosophy, psychology and pedagogical theory, has given her deep insights into the importance—and challenges—of interdisciplinary research.
"From my own projects, I have learned that patience, humility, and the ability to communicate across differences are core when engaging in interdisciplinary research," she says. "Interdisciplinary scholars do not know only ‘half of a discipline’. Quite to the contrary, they need to engage with a topic so intensely that they are able to transfer the essential elements into another discipline: just as a good translator of poetry cannot simply translate word for word but must grasp the ‘gestalt’ and the deeper meaning of a text to skillfully carve a similar structure within another language."
Barbara has a clear vision of the power and potential of interdisciplinary research to create fruitful connections throughout the academe. "Some time ago it was still possible to be a universal scholar," she explains, however, "academics today seem to know more and more about less and less. We appear to be drifting apart on smaller and smaller islands. Thus, I see the interdisciplinary program at UBC as a unique, yet essential opportunity to build bridges across campus by cultivating dialogue and creating structures that work towards a bigger picture thinking."
Seeing the bigger picture is especially important because economic pressures often lead to competition between university departments, instead of collaboration. However, she argues, research has value beyond the economic: "Specifically, I posit that the creation of knowledge may also lead to the disclosure of richer ways of being in the world as well to raise the quality of human experience."
If researchers were more able to communicate across disciplines, Barbara believes that both the tangible and intangible value of research would be better recognized.
Barbara will begin her role as chair of ISGP on September 1, 2017.