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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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SDSU students take part in a physics and dance collaborative class. (Photo: Danny Sanders) SDSU students take part in a physics and dance collaborative class. (Photo: Danny Sanders)

Interdisciplinary Courses Provide Transformative Experience for Students

The Arts Alive SDSU program allows students to explore academics with a new lens.
By Anna Waletzko

A physics class and a dance class do not seem to have much in common, but for the 25 students enrolled in Dance and Physics, an Arts Alive SDSU interdisciplinary course, each discipline informs the other of the ways in which acceleration affects movement.

Arlette Baljon, assistant professor in physics, and Joseph Alter, associate professor in the School of Music and Dance, developed the collaborative class after working together for San Diego State University’s Common Experience.

“There was a mutual set of beliefs that had conditioned the students to think they belonged in one group or the other: physicists or dancers,” said Alter. “Interdisciplinary courses allow students to expand their understanding outside of their respective majors.”

Dance and Physics is one of a number of courses offered through the Arts Alive SDSU Collaborative Teaching Program, a new concept in interdisciplinary academics.

“This is a transformative experience because it is asking students to consider familiar ideas in a new way,” said Baljon.

Dani Bedau, chair of Arts Alive SDSU, oversees the program and has presented on it at symposiums across the country.

Also known as stacked courses, these collaborations pair one art and one non-art discipline that academically complement each other. The courses are offered at the same time and day, but faculty members teach together at least four times during the semester, giving students the opportunity to interact with peers from other majors. The first course, Introduction to Literature and Psychedelic Rock of the 1960s, was offered in fall 2016.

At the end of each semester, students create an exhibition—a culminating event open to the public—that showcases the relationship between the two disciplines. On April 20, students in the Dance and Physics course presented research on polymer science and danced to choreography based on that research.

Currently in its fourth semester, the Arts Alive SDSU Collaborative Teaching Program offers a variety of courses including Graphic Design and History of Childhood Around the World as well as Public Affairs and Television Writing.

Upcoming course exhibitions

Entrepreneurship and Design
Culminating Event: 3:30-6:30p.m. on Tuesday, May 8 in Storm Hall West 011
Collaborating on entrepreneurial ideas, business students will produce an idea and build the business model, while design students build a branding system for the idea. At the semester’s end, the group will present the idea, the business model and its branding system to a panel of community judges.

Dramaturgy and Communication
Culminating Event: 3:30-6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9 in PSFA 350
Dramaturgy calls for the adaptation and production of short performances of ethnographic scholarly research. Issues may originate from the Sage Project, which focuses on specific community concerns around the San Diego area.