Interdisciplinary Peaks Conference tips the scales of traditional education

 
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BY HANNAH SANDERSON —

In a push to bring a variety of intellects together, the College of Arts and Letters held the Annual Peaks Interdisciplinary Conference. This year’s, the 13th annual conference, was held Feb. 22 and 23 in the University Union. A variety of panels were presented on both days to give insight on individual aspects of language, writing and how they can be applied in many circumstances.

Sarah Snyder, Vice President of the Peaks Interdisciplinary Conference and a graduate student in both the teaching English as a second language program and rhetoric and the teaching of writing, is a firm supporter of broadening education.

“Interdisciplinary studies have always been in my life because I’ve never been able to decide on one thing,” Snyder said. “There are many different ways to skin a cat basically, and more than one way works together.”

Professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda presents his seminar to audiences at the Peaks Interdisciplinary Conference on Feb. 23. (Photo by Napua Kalani)

Professor of English and Director of Second Language Writing at Arizona State University Dr. Paul Kei Matsuda presents his seminar to audiences at the Peaks Interdisciplinary Conference on Feb. 23. (Photo by Napua Kalani)

By applying one study to another, this creates new questions to be answered, allowing the study to thrive. If a certain study is running out of new ideas, introducing a second disciplinary field may just get them back on their feet.

Guest speaker Paul Kei Matsuda, professor of English and director of second language writing at Arizona State University, expounded on the positive effects of this kind of interdisciplinary studies.

“It’s like a knowledge surplus that’s created as a result of bringing all of these things together. We don’t know exactly where the knowledge is going to go…so there is an infinite possibility,” Matsuda said.

According to Matsuda, the nature of interdisciplinary studies is constantly shifting and individuals must be adept to change; they must be willing to redefine themselves in response to new ideas.

“[Interdisciplinary studies] is not a new phenomenon. It has been happening for many years; people just didn’t recognize it as such, and it’s surely and steadily coming to us. So we need to be prepared for that new shift,” Matsuda said.

By focusing on teaching English grammar to second language learners, second-year graduate student, Qiandi Liu is striving to help students improve their writing skills so they can better succeed in the professional world.

“[My students] can express their meaning pretty well in speaking, and their meaning is comprehensible in writing, but for academic writing, their accuracy is just too low, and sometimes it interferes with the meaning . . . Finding ways or activities to improve their grammatical accuracy is really, really important,” Liu said.

Panel speaker Adam Hoffman, an adjunct faculty member and a recent NAU graduate with a M.A. in English literature, also gained something from the event.

“Just making the interpersonal connections with people is really good. Generally speaking, people at conferences like this are very supportive of one another in their work and so you get some encouragement,” Hoffman said.

Karen McCoy, a librarian at the Cline Library and the college contact for the College of Arts and Letters, expresses her passion for not giving up on new ideas.

“Always follow your creative pursuits, because life has a tendency to try to beat that out of you and just don’t let it. Just hold onto that, always, no matter what anybody says,” McCoy said.

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