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Moving Toward a Trans-disciplinary Approach in the Land Grant System: A Case Study

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The complexity of problems facing contemporary society requires an approach to knowledge creation that synthesizes solutions from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Traditional disciplinary structures functioning individually can inhibit the integration and application of useful knowledge. In response, many funding agencies and some universities have promoted multi-disciplinary collaboration and even interdisciplinary approaches, where faculty from different disciplines work together as a unit. This article takes the discussion a step further by examining the evolution of the Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) department at the University of Vermont. It provides an illustrative case study of a move beyond interdisciplinarity into transdisciplinarity, where faculty coheres as a team in teaching, researching, identifying and solving problems. The experience of this department suggests that the development of a transdiciplinary approach is not easy or simple. It cuts against the grain of the traditional culture of the Academy, which continues to incentivize and place high premiums on traditional disciplinary structures. The article concludes with an examination of the difficulties experienced in the building of a transdiciplinary program. It reveals the importance of maintaining openness to the stakeholder participation and collaboration that is vital in attracting scholars and students accustomed to the security of orthodox disciplinary identities.



trans-disciplinary, land grant system


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