Innovative University-wide Courses Break Down Academic Silos

November 8, 2017

Tackling complex societal issues in the modern world is often best done through a multidisciplinary approach. In order to use the most up-to-date resources and to help coax academics out of their disciplinary silos, CEU kicked off the Intellectual Themes Initiative (ITI) in 2015. ITI involves a number of programs including University-wide courses that combine the expertise of academics from different fields. New courses are offered each semester and are open to all CEU students.

“It's like I am taking a number of different courses, like sociology and public policy, on one topic. I guess we will combine even more different fields. Again, I find this a very nice mix,” said Bono Siebelink, an exchange student in CEU's Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, who is taking the Sound Studies: Listening & Creating Between the Material, Medium and Metaphor course. “From Monday to Thursday I have very theoretical courses with similarly theoretical articles and books to read. This course is a sort of nice mix. I really like the fact that last week we got the opportunity to explore and think about the social consequences and meaning of sound. This week we talked more about the policy aspect of sound.”

In addition to the Sound Studies course, two others are offered this semester. The Just Data course examines the pervasiveness of big data and the research potential it offers, as well as the darker side like the misuse of personal data. Instructors' areas of expertise range from economics to philosophy to mathematics.

Yuliia Kazmina, who is working toward her MA in Economic Policy in Global Markets said the course encourages her to think about ethical issues related to the use of big data. She noted that she appreciated the opportunity to have a real-life example of the use of big data from Transparency International lecturers.


A lecturer from Transparency International talks about how the organization uses big data. Image credit: CEU/Stefan Roch

“I actually really like the course, because it doesn’t feel like a course in the traditional sense. You just come and talk to your friends on very interesting topics, which are actually very good. For example when we discussed Google Flu or bots,” Kazmina said. “These are very innovative topics that you can rarely read about in the textbooks. So we do research on them and then we come and discuss it in a friendly environment. This is very innovative. I also like the fact that professors are from different departments and different backgrounds, so they have different points of view as well. This enriches our knowledge about the topic.”

The Text Analysis Across Disciplines - Data Collection and Curation (TANAD) course asks students to consider the following questions: what do we consider ‘data’? how do we collect it as researchers? and how do we curate it as scholars? This class focuses on the task of turning raw materials – both analog and digital – into a usable dataset for research purposes.

SPP student Dena Elian wanted to take the TANAD course to learn to develop methods and mechanisms for understanding how she can analyze text for the purpose and use in public policy.

“The professors have done a really good job bringing in different examples and different academics to portray their use of text analysis in ways that I think I would have never imagined on my own,” Elian said. “For example, recently we had a professor who came and talked about the way she uses film to analyze content. Another professor talked about his use of Jewish tombstones for textual analysis, and how this contributes to his field. These are methods of research that I think I would have never conceptualized on my own. They have completely opened up my eyes to what can be used for the purpose of research.”


CEU Professor Joszef Laszlovszky lectures in a University-wide course. Image credit: CEU/Stefan Roch

Two classes will be offered in the winter semester: Journalism and Social Change in Historical Perspective and Social Justice Frameworks in Action. During the spring semester, students can take the Text Analysis Across Disciplines - Text Mining and Text Analysis course. For further information on University-wide courses, click here