Brock launches new PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities

Students in the new PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities program participate in a seminar discussion, from left, Natalie Azzi, Sean Morton, Terry Trzecak, Malisa Kurtz (seated), Professor Michael Berman, Grant Yocom and Paul Williams.

Students in the new PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities program participate in a seminar discussion. From left: Natalie Azzi, Sean Morton, Terry Trzecak, Malisa Kurtz (seated), Professor Michael Berman, Grant Yocom and Paul Williams.

The world of ideas just got a little bigger at Brock with the launch of the Faculty of Humanities first PhD program.

The PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities is the University’s eighth doctoral program and the first class of students began studies in September.

“Our new PhD program builds on a strong disciplinary base to create even stronger interdisciplinary collaborations for students and faculty,” said Douglas Kneale, Dean, Faculty of Humanities. “This program represents an innovative ‘free play of the mind’ at the crossroads of several disciplines at once. It’s hugely exciting, and it’s only just beginning.”

Students choose from four fields of study — Ways of Knowing (Epistemologies), Critique and Social Transformation, Culture and Aesthetics, and The Digital Humanities.

We could think of it, said Carol Merriam, Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, as “a grand and glorious playground of ideas.”

“It’s appropriate for the Faculty of Humanities as it will benefit from the range of disciplines and expertise from within our Faculty,” Merriam said. “We’ve had a terrific response from our faculty members since the program was proposed.

“One of the things a university has to do is to create new ways of looking at problems, starting from the knowledge we already have. This program provides an opportunity for students to pursue research of a question or an issue by collaborating across disciplines and connecting with wider communities of inquiry.”

Some examples of the research interests of students in the program demonstrate an eclectic and fascinating mix of topics that crisscross disciplines.

Student Natalie Azzi said the Brock program was a natural choice for her after pursuing interdisciplinary studies as an undergraduate and masters student.

“I find being in the first cohort of students to be exciting,” she said. “As one of the first PhD students to study in this program, I want to pave the way for future students.”

Azzi’s research area will focus on questions concerning the relationships between women and power structures within the context of the warzone.

“I hope to contribute by conducting research in Middle Eastern countries that focus on the effects of war on the mentality of men, and the influences upon the motivations and justifications of sexual assault targeting women, from ideological and personal perspectives.”

Malisa Kurtz is continuing with her doctoral studies after completing her masters in Popular Culture at Brock.

“My interests and research lie in multiple fields, and no other program catered to it quite like Brock’s,” Kurtz said. “In my opinion, almost everything is interdisciplinary now, and it is difficult to discuss one field of study without discussing the complexities of another.”

Kurtz’s research focuses on science fiction texts that explore the impact of science and technology on marginalized communities such as those in developing countries.

Grant Yocom’s research hits close to home. St. Catharines will be one of several post-industrial cities that Yocom will study as part of research into the role of urban social movements in proposing innovative methods to meet the needs of under-served communities. The other cities are Buffalo, N.Y., Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, Mich.

“The interdisciplinary program here at Brock provides this project with the skills and expertise to expand both the theoretical and practical ground over the next several years,” he said.

Posted on October 19, 2011

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