In 1987, President Ronald Reagan famously went to the Berlin Wall, which had divided East and West Berlin for a generation, and he issued this plea to the Soviet Union’s leader: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Two years and five months later, the wall came tumbling down, as did, not long afterward, the Soviet Union. There are many walls remaining today—including some in higher education that we at the Carroll School and Boston College have been busy cracking.
I’m speaking of the thick and tall barriers between disciplines, schools, and departments. This edition of the Carroll Connection includes several illustrations of how we are hacking away at those walls—making it possible for students to step across multiple boundaries.
There is, for example, the newest interdisciplinary studies program at Boston College—Managing for Social Impact and the Public Good. Sponsored by both the Carroll School and the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, it is the first such program at the University to cross borders between schools and their curricula.
Just two items below this message is a feature story about the Summer Management Catalyst Program. If you were to look for management students in a Catalyst class, you wouldn’t find any. That’s because all of the students are primarily liberal arts majors, mostly from the Morrissey College. They’re able to step across academic lines. They’re digging deeply into the major disciplines of management, integrating these ideas with the best of the liberal arts tradition.
With three Catalyst summers under our belt, we’re now exploring the possibility of creating a minor in management tailored specifically to students at other schools of the University.
Also featured here is the summer internship program of our Joseph E. Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action. It brings together students from both Carroll and Morrissey, young men and women with a shared interest in urban revitalization as well as real estate. They’re not just off on their own, working remotely with local organizations and firms. They’re also coming together regularly during the summer for rigorous academic work—integrating (there’s that word again) fieldwork and classroom learning.
And then there’s the annual Forbes Under 30 Summit coming to Boston next month. Boston College is serving as the conference’s academic partner through our Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of Social Work’s Center for Social Innovation. The collaboration between these two centers is one example of how entrepreneurship is serving as a focal point of convergence between our schools and students.
I can talk all day about many other border-crossing programs and initiatives—stories for future (and past) editions. And I can talk all year about the imaginative, energetic, passionate, and top-rated faculty that is driving innovation at the Carroll School. Our professors are breaking down the silos and constantly finding new ways to engage our students at higher levels.
For now, I’d like to close with a word about the point of it all.
It’s about ideas. As I see it, we’re helping students work with a far more lively range of ideas and perspectives than they might otherwise encounter. We’re giving them the tools to use those ideas and discover new ones in the future, long past graduation. That’s regardless of whether their formal course of studies is finance or philosophy, anthropology or accounting.
Ideas are what add value to the work done by knowledge professionals of all kinds. They’re what separates people with broad (and deep) learning from those with narrow, technical skills. They are the seedbeds of true innovation. And you don’t find these ideas in one little box marked “discipline,” “specialty,” or even “school.” Ideas are everywhere. They’re waiting to be found, integrated (did I use that word again?), and applied in fresh contexts.
To help people find the ideas, you have to knock down some walls. Or at least carve out openings so that our students can pass freely between the reimagined East and West Berlins of higher education.