Creating an Interdisciplinary Human Services Program

By Kras, Nicole | Journal of Human Services, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Creating an Interdisciplinary Human Services Program


Kras, Nicole, Journal of Human Services


Abstract

The field of human services is interdisciplinary in nature. Creating an interdisciplinary human services program provides college faculty the opportunity to present students with a variety of perspectives and encourages them to make meaningful connections between disciplines. This case example provides an illustration of how a small college created an interdisciplinary human services program.

Introduction

In recent years there has been an increase in interdisciplinary programs in higher education (Stone, Bollard, & Harbor, 2009), and this approach to program design is common in the field of human services. In fact, human services has been described as "uniquely approaching the objective of meeting human needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base" (National Organization for Human Services, 2016, para. 1). There are several strengths of an interdisciplinary perspective in program design, such as showing students how to move beyond disciplinary boundaries and demonstrating "an increase in flexibility and innovation when dealing with complex issues" (Stone, Bollard, & Harbor, 2009, p. 323). These strengths can be of great significance when preparing human services students for their future careers.

Designing a successful interdisciplinary program requires faculty collaboration and a strong leader who can facilitate this collaboration (Stone, Bollard, & Harbor, 2009). When adopting this approach, it is important that all faculty involved support and work together on a shared program vision. Some components of interdisciplinary programs may include team teaching, developing an intellectual community focused on interdisciplinarity, and offering a pedagogy aimed at achieving collaboration (Spelt, Biemans, Tobi, Luning, & Mulder, 2009). The following is a case example of how the faculty and administration at a small college in Connecticut designed an interdisciplinary human services program.

Case Example

The mission of our human services program is to take an interdisciplinary approach to educating and preparing students for their careers. We believe taking an interdisciplinary approach is important because students will be working in various locations and with diverse populations. By taking this approach, we can expose students to a variety of perspectives and experiences in the field of human services. The partnership between departments and faculty demonstrates to the students the importance of collaboration between professionals in order to meet the needs of the individuals they serve. This relationship also provides various faculty perspectives from their areas of expertise. Since we are a small college, it also provides us the opportunity to work with larger departments that offer other degree programs. The following are some ways that our program is embracing an interdisciplinary approach.

The bachelor degree human services students take general education and human services courses, as well as directed electives in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. The faculty and academic advisors work with students to focus on specific areas of interest that will benefit them in their human services careers. Students in the bachelor's degree program also have the option of selecting one of three concentrations: criminal justice, community health, or development. …

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