The Challenges and Benefits of Breaking Down Silos: An Article Review

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As a beginning interdisciplinarian, I want to take the time to look at interdisciplinary programs in universities and discuss whether or not they are truly beneficial. I found a scholarly article called Breaking Professional Schools Out of Their Silos, written by Michael Anft, that discusses the trend of graduate programs in U.S. colleges taking a more interdisciplinary approach and revising programs to be more hybrid – that is, mixing different disciplines and collaborating. Some of the universities he outlines that has such programs include the Master of Science in law option at Northwest University’s Pritzker School of Law, plans for one at the Main Center for Graduate Professional Studies by the University of Maine, and Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Anft mentions how creating these interdisciplinary programs opens up a “path to greater relevance, higher enrollments, and students better equipped to deal with the modern world’s tangle of problems.” Over the course of the semester, I have seen these same benefits outlined time and time again from a variety of sources, the evidence is clear that interdisciplinary programs create more skillful and confident individuals, but why are universities just NOW starting to make this switch?

According to Anft, the world itself is starting to become more interdisciplinary in nature and that is forcing the education system to reflect its needs. The marketplace of employment is demanding that students are not only competent in their chosen field, but also well-rounded overall. They need to be able to bridge gaps between professions in order to help solve pressing issues. This means that employers now want people with all different types of degrees that can also do a bit extra. An example of this would be healthcare providers who are also competent in technology, are good at math, writing, and have excellent communication skills. Anft states that “the idea is emerging that a sizable number of students need to focus on the niches between professions to get the best jobs and make the most impact.” Therefore, universities are starting to make the switch to interdisciplinary styled programs in order to make better professionals out of the students that employers would want to hire immediately after graduation.

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Despite there being clear benefits of interdisciplinary programs, some universities are holding back on making the switch because they simply can’t afford the costs. Money, as always, plays an important role in the creation of interdisciplinary programs, and without the funding through individual donors and foundations, universities are struggling to keep up with the demands of the world. As seen in the article, building such programs is certainly not cheap, Anft states that “The University of Maine is raising $150 million for the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies, in Portland, which it plans to open in 2021.” This specific plan of an interdisciplinary program is definitely an enormous one, but other smaller universities, that do not receive as much funding, are still joining the trend and implementing cross-disciplinary programs in hopes that it will draw in the attention of funders. After all, as stated previously, the world is demanding more well-rounded individuals to deal with the “multifaceted issues that spill over from one discipline to the next.” In my opinion and personal experience with the education system, finding funding for programs seems to always be an issue. Despite this, I believe that interdisciplinary programs will soon thrive in many universities across the nation as complex issues demand our attention, and employers demand well-rounded critical thinkers.

After reading this article I have become more aware of the issues preventing interdisciplinary programs from opening all over the nation. As a beginning interdisciplinarian, it is essential for me to learn everything about my program, all of the benefits and challenges, and what I should expect when graduating with this type of degree.

Work Cited:

ANFT, M. (2017, May 5). Breaking Professional Schools Out of Their Silos. Chronicle of Higher Education.  Accessed on December 11, 2017, from

One Comment on “The Challenges and Benefits of Breaking Down Silos: An Article Review”

  1. Great summary. I was very interested in the cost conversation, since sometimes we see interdisciplinarity deployed as a cost-savings tool (consolidating two programs into one integrated program can possible save on administrative costs) and sometimes– as here– we see it costing universities more… Very interesting paradox!

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