Building Connection through Interdisciplinarity

About | Research goal | Learning goalSocial justice goal | Professionalization goal | Glossary

About this priority for change

The Faculty of Arts at Waterloo embraces many diverse disciplines, presenting a richness of talent and perspective that has provided over the years numerous opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary academic programming and scholarship. Beyond the content-focused character of such programs, Arts has also long engaged in the distinctively Waterloo overarching emphasis on employment-oriented education, offering programs such as Arts and Business (formerly Applied Studies) that enable students who wish to pursue their passion in a given field – whether it be French literature or art history or criminology or developmental psychology – in combination with a suite of professionally-oriented courses. The School of Accounting and Finance has collaborated with other Faculties such as Math and Science for decades; most recently, the School has joined forces with the Faculty of Environment to create a new Bachelor’s degree. The Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts and the Master of Digital Experience Innovation, both offered through the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, are examples of fully integrated interdisciplinary programs. Programs offered by Arts partners at the affiliated and federated institutions, such as Peace and Conflict Studies (Grebel) and Social Development Studies (Renison), likewise embrace the principles of both collaboration and interdisciplinarity.

The Faculty of Arts is home to over 20 research institutes, centres, and groups that are interdisciplinary in nature. Arts scholars also have significant involvement in research collectives across the University, such as the Water Institute and the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute. The Arts Research Office increasingly supports applications for interdisciplinary projects involving Arts researchers working with scholars in other Arts disciplines, other faculties at the University of Waterloo, and other universities. Research projects connecting our researchers with government, industry, and external community organizations are also rising. To give but two examples of Waterloo Arts-led collaborative interdisciplinary endeavours over the past several years: the Games Institute brings together humanists, social scientists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers to understand, design, enhance, and solve problems through games, game-driven technologies, interactive immersive technologies and experiences, while the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, a multi-million-dollar multi-year enterprise embracing over 30 countries, has successfully brought about policy change affecting the global sales and marketing of a deadly substance.

The Faculty of Arts will be the focal point at the University of Waterloo for research and learning aimed at understanding, interpreting, and shaping thought and action in a culturally diverse and technologically driven world in great need of humanizing perspectives and solutions. We aim to build on this solid base of interdisciplinary experience and outlook by expanding even further the fields of endeavour and collaboration in the areas of scholarship, teaching, and community engagement. As this plan is being drawn up we have seen the new Bachelor of Sustainability and Financial Management coming into existence, the inauguration of the Trust in Science and Technology Research Network, the Longhouse Labs project extending its outreach to Indigenous artists and communities, the Global Engagement Seminar involving students from across campus in the search for solutions to pressing global problems, and the creation of new interdisciplinary programming in Black and Anti-Racism Studies. We foresee other research and curricular possibilities, especially through collaboration with colleagues in other faculties. Connection and collaboration equally imply the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusivity, and Arts will continue to be a leading player in the University’s commitment to improving social justice.

Interdisciplinarity goal 1: Research

We will build on existing research partnerships within and beyond the Faculty and will pursue further opportunities for interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarship.


  1. Supporting clusters of interdisciplinary research in emerging areas and continuing to integrate Arts research(ers) into broader campus initiatives
  2. In alignment with the University Strategic Plan and the visioning exercise Waterloo @ 100, participating and leading in research around health and technology
  3. Making visible Arts collaboration, contribution, and leadership in University-wide research though informal colloquia across campus, such as the highly successful interdisciplinary “mashup”
  4. Encouraging and supporting interdisciplinary post-doctoral opportunities
  5. Reviewing hiring, performance evaluation, and tenure and promotion expectations for implicit barriers to collaborative and interdisciplinary research
  6. Creating opportunities for Arts researchers to work with graduate students in other faculties

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Interdisciplinarity goal 2: Learning

We will build on existing strengths to enhance and facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative undergraduate and graduate opportunities.


  1. Identifying and removing organizational and systemic barriers to interdisciplinarity and creating processes conducive to the organic development of interdisciplinary thinking and collaborative effort
  2. Making interdisciplinary opportunities visible and accessible to all students, including those in discipline-based programmes
  3. Reviewing our graduate admissions and offerings to explore the potential for growth in interdisciplinary and collaborative programming at the graduate level
  4. Providing guidelines, training in best practices, and theoretical models to assist with collaborative development of interdisciplinary programming
  5. Employing the program review process strategically to identify interdisciplinary opportunities
  6. Providing opportunities for students to showcase publicly collaborative and interdisciplinary projects
  7. Continuing to liaise and collaborate with the Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo (St. Jerome’s, United, Conrad Grebel, Renison) to build and enhance interdisciplinary programming
  8. Continuing to provide learning opportunities in the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts to other faculties

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Interdisciplinarity goal 3: Social justice

We will employ an interdisciplinary lens to strengthen and expand current programming and scholarship on all dimensions of social inequity and their intersections.


  1. Supporting the development of social justice and equity-oriented programming with a view to decolonization of the curriculum and pursuing education about Indigenous ways of knowing
  2. Identifying opportunities to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
  3. Supporting research that is focused on social justice
  4. Emphasizing recruitment of a diverse student body and providing supports for students of racialized and marginalized backgrounds
  5. Establishing Faculty leadership on equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, and Indigeneity to provide guidance for all members of the Faculty in understanding and addressing relevant issues
  6. Continuing the focus on faculty/staff recruitment and hiring diversity

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Interdisciplinarity goal 4: Professionalization

We will maintain and consolidate the unconventional and uniquely interdisciplinary approach to “business” at Waterloo.


  1. Strengthening our collaboration with various partners, within and outside the Faculty and the University (private and public sector employers, industry partners, alumni)
  2. Participating in and providing leadership for the University-wide revisioning of its business programming
  3. Reviewing the current academic, administrative, and staffing model under which the Arts and Business program operates
  4. Expanding the traditional focus on “business” to embrace professionalism and employment-readiness more broadly (private sector, public sector, health organizations, not-for-profit, etc)
  5. Creating lifelong learning opportunities for our external partners

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NEXT: Effecting Social Impact