One Interdisciplinary Course = Two Disciplines & Professors

"Normally you're stuck in one class approaching one idea in the same way."
By UW-Washington County

Prof. Larry GomesUW-Washington County Economics Professor Larry Gomes is excited about teaching Business 101 this fall. He will be teaching the interdisciplinary (IS) 3-credit class that combines Economics with Business with Carl Gahala, Assistant Professor of Business. According to Gomes, “it’s all about connectivity - IS courses allow students to make connections between concepts, ideas and models transcending different disciplinary boundaries.”

The Business 101 class helps students understand the role of business in context with ethical concerns, legal forms of business ownership, marketing principles, as well as the stock market and entrepreneurial strategies that make U.S. businesses more competitive in a global market. “It’s a fun class to teach because it covers so much different content,” Gahala agreed. The IS class is also less structured than his accounting courses, which “allows activities that foster writing, communication and critical thinking skills, plus students gain more experience working on teams (initiating a small business venture)” Gahala said. In addition, Professor Gomes explained, “students learn how economic principles such as ‘economies of scale’ and ‘economies of scope’ can be applied to a business - to make it more cost effective, competitive and profitable.”

In addition to Business 101, three other IS courses are offered this fall, including Culture Clash (Anthropology + History); Rich Man, Poor Man (Sociology + Psychology); and Philosophy Goes to the Movies (Philosophy + Theatre/Communication Arts). Anthropology Professor, Chris Hays has been teaching “Culture Clash, The Making of the Modern World” with Associate Professor of History, Kirk Tyvela for the past five years and finds that IS classes “teach students to look at the same phenomena from different angles – which is what the liberal arts are all about.” According to Hays, “the teaching is so interactive” with each professor sitting in on the other’s classes and offering commentary. His students’ have called it “an awesome course” and mentioned, “having two professors for one class is new and refreshing.”

Philosophy Professor, Mark Peterson has taught several IS courses during his 29 years with the UW Colleges. This fall, he will be teaming up with Chris Yogerst, Assistant Professor of Theatre/Communication Arts to teach a new IS course they are referring to as “Philosophy Goes to the Movies.” Already at capacity, the class will have Yogerst present various examples from popular culture, including their history and social relevance. Peterson will then “do the archaeology – digging down to show how these movies and TV shows embody the same questions humans have been talking about for the last four or five thousand years…and of course, the answers humans have come up with so far.”    Peterson further explains, “At some point as a college student, you begin to realize that every class you’re taking is focused on roughly the same set of ideas, but from (importantly) different angles. Normally, you’re stuck in one class approaching one idea in one way. IS courses make those connections explicit and give students permission to explore all those points of contact, and that makes it easier for the student to really see – how those ideas, old and new, are related to their own lives. It helps students to see that their education is personal.”

Rich Man, Poor Man combines Psychology principles (taught by Professor Margaret Hamilton) with Sociology (taught by Professor Sandi Brunette-Hill). The 3-credit thought-provoking course delves into the concept of inequality – from both sociological as well as psychological perspectives - focusing on social class, race and gender. Wealth, power and poverty are explored - including their effects on family life/parenting as well as psychological characteristics, such as compassion and cognitive ability. The influence of popular films, television and music on one’s view of inequality is also examined.

All faculty agreed that they benefit from teaching IS courses too, citing the opportunity to work and share ideas with colleagues in other departments, fruitful discussion sessions, identifying connections between two disciplines, and the opportunity to learn too

Fall semester at UW-Washington County begins Tuesday, September 5. The campus, part of the University of Wisconsin System, is located at 400 S. University Drive in West Bend and offers freshman and sophomore level classes in over 250 majors. A complete list of fall courses is available on the website,  For more information or to meet with an advisor, email, or phone 262-335-5201.

For students interested in registering for any of the IS classes mentioned in this article, complete information follows. (Note: When registered for an IS class, students should register under the discipline they would like credit in.)

  • ANT 291 “Selected Topics in Anthropology” or HIS 255 “Proseminar in History” meets Tue. & Thr., 10:30am-11:45am (Culture Clash – The Making of the Modern World)  <Combines History + Anthropology>
  • BUS 101 “Introduction to Business” meets Tue. & Thr., 1-2:15pm <Combines Business + Economics>
  • CTA 218 “Popular Culture in the Media” or PHI 253 “Philosophy of the Arts” meets Thr., 4-6:30pm (Philosophy Goes to the Movies” <Combines Philosophy + Communication/Theatre Arts>
  • INT 290 “Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies: Rich Man, Poor Man” meets Mon. & Wed., 1-2:15pm <Combines Psychology + Sociology>
Prof. Chris Yogerst
  Assistant Professor of Theatre/Communication Arts, Chris Yogerst
will teach "Philosophy Goes to the Movies"
             with Philosophy Professor, Mark Peterson this fall. 



Sue Bausch, Regional Director of Communications