Opening Plenary

Our plenary sessions this year will frame the conference to examine interdisciplinarity in our past, present, and future.

Opening Plenary, Thursday November 10,
4:30 - 5:30 pm
Ballrooms B/C/D

The Hutchins School:  Challenges and Prospects for Interdisciplinary Student Centered Pedagogy in the 21st Century Academy

Eric McGuckin, Kevin Nguyen, and Wendy Ostroff

With reference to a paper presented on a panel 18 years ago at an AIS conference considering long standing interdisciplinary programs across the nation, the panel will briefly introduce key issues that have challenged the Hutchins School - a collaborative interdisciplinary program in existence for fifty-three years at Sonoma State University - in the previous decade and during the current pandemic. The program has gone through many incarnations, but still holds fast to Dr. Hutchins' key principle: "The University is a community of scholars that has as its primary purpose to unsettle the minds of students, to widen their horizons, [and] to inflame their intellect." The panel will consider historical and current institutional, technological, and cultural challenges and opportunities to the seminar based pedagogy of the Hutchins School. The discussion will include the use of technology in seminar based and senior thesis courses, and work on the scholarship and psychology of teaching and learning, placing this into the specific context of practices of the Hutchins School.

For those interested, this plenary session will be preceded by a panel discussion in our first Concurrent Session with emeritus faculty members of the Hutchins School: Les Adler, Richard Zimmer, Francisco Vazquez, Mutombo M’Panya, and Debora Hammond.  The Hutchins School at Sonoma State was part of the nationwide drive for educational reform movement that emerged during the countercultural movement of the 1960s and 70s. The emeritus faculty will share their perspectives on the program's accomplishments and challenges, and engage the audience in a discussion about the obstacles confronting similar initiatives in the 21st century.

Eric Mcguckin's photo

Eric McGuckin, Ph.D., is an anthropologist by training, having conducted archeological fieldwork in California and Ecuador, and two years of ethnographic research in India with Tibetan refugees. He has published and presented on issues of cultural production, material culture, tourism and ethnic relations, and interdisciplinary teaching. Since joining the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies in 1998 his courses have expanded beyond his disciplinary interests into interdisciplinary and often collaborative considerations of spiritual traditions, epistemology, death and dying, and humor.

Kevin Nguyen's photo

Kevin A. Nguyen, Ph.D., is a learning scientist and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education researcher. He is an assistant professor and the newest faculty member in the interdisciplinary Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University. He has published multiple journal articles in education research journals such as the Journal of the Learning Sciences, International Journal of STEM Education, and Journal of College Science Teaching. His main research examines how communities learn and engage with STEM outside the classroom. In his teaching, Dr. Nguyen combines multiple perspectives from science, engineering, education, women and gender studies, philosophy, and sociology.

Wendy Ostroff's photo

Wendy L. Ostroff, Ph.D., is an applied developmental and cognitive psychologist, and Professor  in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University, a pioneering interdisciplinary and seminar-based program that prepares prospective teacher-learners to be critical readers, writers and thinkers who bridge cognitive science with innovative pedagogies. The author of two previous books, Understanding How Young Children Learn (2012) and Cultivating Curiosity in K–12 Classrooms (2016), and numerous articles, Dr. Ostroff is an award-winning educator with more than 20 years of experience in state-of-the-art teacher training. She leads workshops and professional development events worldwide on curiosity, cognition and the brain.