I heard the term “interdisciplinarity” when I first came to Lafayette, but it had little meaning for me. I fell into an interdisciplinary project by default.
Easton has community gardens that are barely used. My market research class and an anthropology class on food and sustainability worked together to identify reasons why. Our economics class developed surveys to gather quantitative data. The anthropology class conducted interviews. We jointly created a final report synthesizing results from both forms of research. Working across different disciplines not only helped us provide wider, more knowledgeable results but also helped us realize the value that different ways of thinking have for solving problems.
The project made me realize how one-tracked my mind had become. I focused on achieving statistically signifi cant results and thought information was only important if it had numbers to back it up. When merging the quantitative data with qualitative interview responses, I realized the many aspects that were missed in the quantitative research. For example, a topic that came up many times in the interviews was that people were not using the gardens due to the feeling that they were for an exclusive group, and they did not feel welcome. The qualitative data was able to uncover this important problem that would not have been revealed using only quantitative data. The project helped me see the importance of other disciplines in real-world applications of mathematics and has opened my mind to a potential career that combines the two.
Nothing in real life is a singular discipline. Skills are needed in many areas.
— Hannah Grover ’13, mathematics-economics