Dr. Ann Schauber has spent the best part of her career helping people think and work effectively with their differences. An OSU faculty member since 1978, primarily with the Extension Service, she specializes in intercultural communication. Her recent book, Working with Differences in Communities, is being used to create more inclusive communities across the country.
In her new job as half-time Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, she takes those skills in another direction, to help students design graduate programs that blend several disciplines. “My Extension job is about cultural diversity,” she says. “This job is about diversity of thought. How do you bring two or three distinct disciplines together to create an integrated, richer educational experience?”
Schauber’s primary responsibility will be to coordinate the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. The MAIS allows a student to integrate any three fields of study (one of which must be from the College of Liberal Arts). The program has been available at OSU since the 1960s , but the newly created Director’s position will give it greater focus and organization.
“Interdisciplinary studies have been around for a long time,” Schauber says. “It’s a sign of the times that we’re starting to pay more attention to them now. The world we’re preparing our students for is so complex. It often takes more than one discipline to address the kind of societal problems we’re facing today.”
Schauber has been struck by the enthusiasm she sees among the students considering the MAIS degree. “They start with a societal issue – something they passionately want work on,” she says. “Our job is to help them figure out where to get all the pieces they need, so they can do what they really want to do. I’m fascinated with their journeys, and with the process of helping them find their continuing paths.”
Sometimes MAIS students don’t enjoy the kind of collegiality that develops among students working in a single department, Schauber says. She plans to bring MAIS students together periodically to network and learn from one another, like a cohort with different fields of interest.
In her new position, Schauber will also help coordinate other interdisciplinary programs. Some, like the Environmental Sciences Graduate Program and the Master of Public Policy, are already well established, but many others are just being developed and introduced.
“One of the best parts of this job is working across the entire university,” she says. “I get to learn what’s happening in every department, and I’m just loving it. There are such amazing people on this campus, wonderful faculty who are very committed to the students here. It feels great to be in the middle of it all.”
Schauber will keep working half-time in her Extension job, where she currently
serves as State Diversity Leader.