Cross-Divisional Co-Taught Courses: Faculty Reflections

In 2020 and 2021, in an effort to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration and curricular innovation, the FAS Dean’s Office and Yale College Dean’s Office invited proposals for new co-taught Yale College courses that bring together the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

In Spring 2021, three courses were offered through this initiative, and an additional two courses are scheduled for Spring 2022. These courses represented exciting collaborations that cut across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences:

  • Asian Americans in STEM (Spring 2022)
    Mary Lui (American Studies and History) and Reina Maruyama (Physics and Astronomy)
  • Blood: Science, Culture, and Society (Spring 2022)
    Moira Fradinger (Comparative Literature) and Claudia Valeggia (Anthropology)
  • Choice Theory and its Critics (Spring 2021)
    Daniel Greco (Philosophy) and Larry Samuelson (Economics/Management)
  • Cinema and Physics: When the Birth of Cinema and the Scientific Revolution Met (Spring 2021)
    Francesco Casetti (Humanities and Film Studies) and Michel Devoret (Applied Physics)
  • Racial and Economic Justice in Transgender Health (Spring 2021)
    Greta LaFleur (American Studies) and Ronica Mukherjee (Nursing)

We invited faculty who had taught cross-divisional co-taught courses to give us their thoughts on their experience and the program more generally.

Faculty Reflections

Choice Theory and its Critics

EP&E 364, PHIL 304, ECON 302 (Spring 2021)

Daniel Greco (Philosophy) and Larry Samuelson (Economics/Management)

Daniel Greco:

Last year, as my research in philosophy was turning towards questions that touch on issues relevant to economics–in particular, methodological questions about idealization and model-building–I started seeking out faculty members in economics to talk to. I was pointed to Larry, and we had a nice chat over lunch. In reading his work, I realized that he’d written fascinating papers in economics squarely on the topics I’d been thinking about. I don’t think we would have thought about co-teaching, though, if not for the proposal for cross-divisional co-taught courses. Because of that suggestion, it made sense to think about a course that would explore some areas of our overlapping interest in a way that would be both accessible and interesting to undergraduates.

Larry Samuelson:

The blending of ideas (in this case, from Economics and Philosophy) has been fruitful and fascinating, for students and instructors alike. The students are eager and engaged, but I suspect the faculty are getting even more out of the course, including possibly some continuing work.  I would welcome the chance to do it again.

Cinema and Physics: When the Birth of Cinema and the Scientific Revolution Met

FILM337, PHYS337, APHY337, HUMS359 (Spring 2021)

Francesco Casetti (Humanities and Film and Media Studies) and Michel Devoret (Applied Physics)

Francesco Casetti

[We] like challenges and [we] like the idea that our university is challenging us, and trying to get the best [out of us], and [to get us] to try new ways of dealing with intellectual research. We started to work together many months ago, following one idea: that both physics and film provide visions of the world influenced by two revolutions: the revolution of depicting words through moving images and the quantum and relativistic turns in physics at the beginning of the twentieth century.

This suggestion may look reasonable, but in reality it is extremely challenging. Turning it into a course took a lot of work. I am happy we succeeded.

Michel Devoret

In this course we are more interested in metaphors than explicit connections; usually [such courses] limit themselves to examining certain scenes of the movie and see if [they] follow exactly the laws of physics. Of course, we are going to let [some students] delve into this, but frankly we’re more interested in the connection at the level of ideas.

Racial and Economic Justice in Transgender Health

AMST 458b, WGSS 469 (Spring 2021)

Greta LaFleur (American Studies) and Ronica Mukerjee (Nursing)

Greta LaFleur:

Access to competent trans healthcare is something that affects all trans people. While the same racial, class, gendered and immigration differentials shape trans peoples’ access to competent healthcare as they do non-trans people, even trans people with a lot of access are faced with the fact that medicine has historically been a site of policing, gatekeeping, and oppression for trans people. It’s a major issue. I discuss this at some length in my intro class, but I’m not a medical provider and don’t work in institutionalized medicine, so there is just a lot that I don’t understand about the granular, everyday forces shaping what kinds of trans healthcare is available. Prof. Ronica Mukerjee, however, is a Nursing professor, an acupuncturist, and also a direct services provider– she started the gender and sexuality health track in the Nursing school at Yale, and also just has a ton of experience. And we share the understanding that healthcare is a system that cuts across other structures that shape– often to their great detriment– the lives of trans people. Trans people’s access (or lack thereof) to competent healthcare shapes trans life chances in schools, in prisons, in detention, on the streets, etc. So, we decided to co-teach the class. I teach the history of medicine material and Ronica teaches the actual science and current institutional politics.