In 2022, the theme of the 44th Association for Interdisciplinary Studies Annual Conference is Wicked Problems and Interdisciplinarity: Sustainability, Resilience, and Designing the Future. The term “wicked problem” was first defined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber in 1973. The phrase describes:
a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems (Jon Kolko, 2012).
Interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity, integrative thinking, and design thinking provide tools for addressing the wicked problems we face in higher education and in our changing world. Wicked problems are ones for which the attempt to create a solution redefines the problem, much as interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are ever-changing constructs shaped by the contexts in which they are used. Integration and design offer ways of thinking and generative practices that reinforce the importance of multiple perspectives, collaborative efforts, and team-building.
The conference theme invites an international array of scholars, students, and community experts the opportunity to address complex issues, such as:
- How we prepare people and places for natural disasters, climate change, and global migration,
- How we become better stewards of democratic spaces,
- How we move towards equity-focused and inclusive learning environments in our universities and communities across the world, and
- How we measure progress towards social justice, economic equity, and environmental resilience and develop workable strategies to create measurable change.
The 44th Annual AIS Conference welcomes proposals in a variety of collaborative formats, including interactive roundtable and poster presentations, integrative panel discussions, solution room questions, workshops, and creative activities. The conference provides a welcoming community where senior scholars, early-career academics, staff from student support services, undergraduate and graduate students, and professionals in local, regional, and international communities can contribute to the discussions.
To provide structure for our discussion of the future, the conference theme, Wicked Problems, and Interdisciplinarity: Sustainability, Resilience, and Designing the Future, is broken down into five wicked problems identified below. In submitting a proposal, please indicate specifically how your submission aligns with one or more of the following themes. Below you will find instructions to submit your proposal.
- Spaces and Places: Saving the Planet and its Inhabitants
This wicked problem explores sustainability and resilience through the complexity of local and global (or “glocal” as the 2019 AIS conference framed it) spaces and places. It invites us to use integrative and interdisciplinary thinking, design practices, and transdisciplinary collaborations to explore what it means to be “stewards of place.” Topics for research, teaching, and community or professional practice might include:
- How could we leverage climate shocks to build social justice?
- What does it mean to design “democratic” spaces and places, and what are the challenges?
- How can we prioritize livelihood and nurture human, social, and natural capital?
- What is the role of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and problem-solving, building resilience, and shifting from disaster thinking to disturbance thinking?
- What kinds of research are best designed to sustain the planet and its inhabitants (human or non-human)?
- What do proposed solutions to endemic racism like reparations and ceremonies of place help us learn from history? What are the limitations of these efforts?
- How can we build environmental equity and provide broad access to new technologies so that future generations and marginalized populations reach their problem-solving potential?
- Being in the Room Where It Happens: Inter/Diversities, Equity, and Inclusion
Building on conversations at previous AIS conferences, in educational environments across the world at the primary, secondary, and higher education levels, and in social environments where people with different perspectives choose to interact and not interact, this sub-theme invites us to utilize complex and creative thinking as we confront topics such as:
- What are the best practices for supporting resilience, success, and persistence in education and society, and how do we know? How could the research help us address student and faculty success and retention?
- How do we build equity and inclusion through curriculum design, STEM research, theatre and dance, healthcare practice, or business development? How can we use interdisciplinary and integrative models to enhance inter/diversity? How do we fuel students’ social capital to increase their sense of belonging?
- What should we mean by social innovation and social entrepreneurship?
- What lies ahead for area studies, including Ethnic Studies and Indigenous Studies?
- What could the future of feminism look like? What’s the next wave?
- How do we address the legal, economic, and social concerns of marginalized populations, regardless of citizenship status?
- How do we promote and sustain intersectionality in the university and community?
- How do we make sure undergraduate, graduate, faculty, and staff research is equitable, accessible, and inclusive?
- The Future of Universities and the Role of Inter- and Transdisciplinary Knowledge-Making
Wicked problems in higher education abound in the U.S. and worldwide, as we consider the value of a college education, its role in economic equity, and the dichotomizing tensions we continue to perpetuate between the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs and between access and excellence. Topics include the following:
- What is the future of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary studies? Of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research or curricula? What structures will sustain integrated knowledge-making?
- How are interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary studies themselves wicked problems to be solved?
- Why do we need more grit (the ability to persist, change, and adapt), and how do we get it? How is the concept of grit integrative, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary? Who constructs the concept of grit and who needs it--that is, how is it racially or socioeconomically constructed, and what do we do about that?
- How do we create institutional intersections that actually work to promote and sustain interdisciplinarity and integration (between schools or colleges, between faculty and students, between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, between universities and community partners)?
- What is the future of disciplines? What role do they play in the creation or resolution of wicked problems? How do we balance providing disciplinary content with the interdisciplinary skills important for solving wicked problems?
- What is the role of general education, majors, or graduate education in preparing wicked problem solvers?
- The Tipping Point: How Do We Really Change the World and How Will We Know?
This sub-theme challenges us to move beyond talking about change and pondering wicked problems. What practices, actions, and steps can we design to effect real, measurable, lasting change? How do unlearning and undoing create space for new pathways? How do we know we made a difference?
- How do we build, sustain, and measure the impact of community engagement, service-learning, community partnerships, and the co-curriculum?
- What new models of assessment and evaluation will help us know we did what we intended to do? Can we be heretical enough to question and re-imagine traditional models of testing, grading, assessment, and evaluation?
- How do we sustain internationalization: international research, “glocal” partnerships, study abroad, and recruitment and retention of international students, faculty, and community partners?
- How do we design a learning-centered organization or institution?
- How can we change the world through activist research and pedagogy?
- Steering the Ship through the Storm: University and Interdisciplinary Leadership in Times of Crisis
Every year, university communities find themselves facing unexpected crises resulting from local to global acts of nature, including wildfires, flooding, and pandemics. What is the role of universities and interdisciplinarity in leading during these challenges? Topics for this theme could include:
- How can interdisciplinarity help us in the zombie apocalypse solutions room (or the COVID-19 solutions room)?
- How do we leverage interdisciplinarity in managing emergency operations and supporting continuity of learning?
- How do we support equitable digital access and inclusive online learning environments, particularly when the transition to a virtual classroom might be swift?
- How do we best communicate, across disciplines and across university units, to adequately manage safety, self-care, and learning during times of crisis?
- How do we incorporate these real-time wicked problems into the (virtual) classroom to facilitate learning in a way that engages the next generation so that history doesn’t repeat itself?
- How can universities provide leadership and form strategic partnerships with local organizations to bridge the crisis, moving from theory to practice to support community rebuilding?
Sonoma State University, a proud member of the California State University system, will host the 2022 AIS Annual Conference. Located in the North Bay, less than 50 miles from San Francisco and Oakland, SSU’s beautiful campus in Rohnert Park, in the world-renowned wine country of Sonoma County, will provide a contemplative space for wicked problem-solving.
Deadline and Submission
All submissions must be made electronically using the proposal submission form on the 2022 Conference website, which is also accessible through the AIS website. The following are required for all submissions: contact information for presenters and co-presenters, a proposal title (20 words or less), a short description of no more than 50 words for the program, an abstract of no more than 250 words, and the type of presentation (e.g., roundtable or panel discussion, solution room question, workshop, poster presentation, creative activity, or other).
We welcome all types of presentations, but this conference is about integration, design, collaboration, connection, and creative problem-solving, so make sure your conference presentation builds in those elements for your audience. Deadline for proposal submission is April 15, 2022. You will receive an email acknowledgment of your proposal submission. Proposers will be notified whether their proposal has been accepted by June 15, 2022. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to organize meetings of networks, associations, or other target groups (e.g. graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows, groups of researchers and educators, community or professional organizations), please contact the AIS office at Sonoma State University. Special meetings can be held Thursday, November 10, and Friday, November 11th, 2022, between 5:15 pm and 7:00 pm. We will provide the infrastructure and announce your meeting in the conference program.
Travel Funding for Graduate Students
If you are a current graduate student (verification of student status is required), you are eligible for up to $200 in travel funds from the AIS if your proposal is accepted. Awards are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact the AIS Office Manager Shaunda Mankowski for more information as soon as you have received your notice of acceptance.