LISTEN NOW: The Limit Does Not Exist: College 2.0

If you had the chance to go back to college and do it all over again, would you? And what would you do differently? For our 50th episode of The Limit Does Not Exist we’re diving into a new approach to interdisciplinary education with Connecticut College president Katherine Bergeron. Listen and learn how you can adapt a framework of integration and connection to your own life, even if you’re long past your co-ed days.

Courtesy of Connecticut College

President Katherine Bergeron with Connecticut College students

Over the past 49 episodes we’ve interviewed dozens of Human Venn Diagrams (HVDs): learning about their career paths, how they discovered inspiration and opportunity at the intersections of their various interests, and how they’ve built lives for themselves in a world that often prefers they would just pick a lane and stick to it. So the question of HVD “origin stories” is one that continues to fascinate us – how did they first discover they could mash things up and where did they find the confidence to color outside the lines?

To that end we’ve discovered some communities that are ripe with HVDs; places like Brown University and Interlochen Arts Academy seem to foster the interdisciplinary education and collaboration that empowers HVDs to own their intersectional corner of the world. And this week we’ve stumbled onto another one: Connecticut College.

We first read about Connecticut College as an interdisciplinary haven when the Washington Times wrote about their recent overhaul of their curriculum. Dubbed Connections, the new curriculum throws out the traditional “check box” approach to general education requirements along with the silos that often occur once students declare a major, and replaces it with a curricular model that integrates majors within thematic “pathways.” The result is an undergraduate education that highlights the connections between fields as they relate to broader themes and gives students a grounding context for their major, internships, and career search.

Courtesy of Connecticut College

Connecticut College president Katherine Bergeron

President Bergeron spoke with us about the motivation for and design of this new model, which was rolled out in the Fall of 2016. She pointed out that while the full implementation is still quite new, it’s based on a model they’ve had in place for over twenty years through their five interdisciplinary centers. While roughly 20% of students were able to participate in certificate programs through centers like the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, demand was much higher. Formally expanding the experience to all students in the Class of 2020 and beyond wasn’t just a “nice to have” – “it’s a question of equity,” according to Bergeron. “We believe this is a more appropriate way for students to be getting their education in a connected twenty-first century.”

For those of us that are long-past our co-ed days, we asked Bergeron about the parts of the model that could be adapted for people at any stage of their career. “In the workplace, the way to continue to grow and develop after your education is to continue to put the things you don’t know in front of you.” We also discussed how their revamped approach to advising mimics the idea of a “personal board of advisors” that younger employees are counseled to develop. Plus, this model hinges on getting “folks in the same room who are doing different things, and they are talking to each other and learning from each other,” Bergeron points out.

We also tackle a listener question from John who asked for book recommendations for his daughter who just graduated from high school and is heading off to Bryn Mawr in the fall. He was debating between Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Admiral Grace Hopper (tough choice, we agree!) so we offered up these suggestions:

As always, Broke for Free and C-Doc (here and here) provided the tracks for our show.

Thanks for listening. If you have questions, feedback, or followup questions, tag us on Instagram or send us a tweet!