Look Out! Letter from the Department Chair

My departmental theme for the year ahead is Looking Outward—or in short, “Look Out.”

The first part of this theme refers to interdisciplinary work. Along with the rest of DAFRE’s faculty, I believe the university’s goals are best achieved when professionals from different disciplines work together to serve a common purpose, while at the same time encouraging students to make connections between different subject areas.  

Indeed, multidisciplinary projects are a key element of the “constructivist” paradigm in education.  In this approach, students are encouraged to solve difficult problems on their own and then reflect on (and incorporate) those disciplinary concepts they find useful. The process spirals upward to create both new knowledge and a sophisticated intellectual toolkit—one that the student truly owns.

The second part of this year’s theme uses the word “outward” more literally, in the form of outreach. To promote greater dialogue with units both inside and outside of Rutgers, I plan to invite speakers to faculty meetings and other venues. These speakers will include researchers from other disciplines, alumni, and practitioners. And of course, you are reading the inaugural issue of a departmental newsletter designed to appeal to…well, anyone inside or outside of 55 Dudley Road and the university.

This newsletter covers the year that has just passed. However, the stories you will read here illustrate perfectly my own themes for the future:

  • The piece on alumnus Bill Fitzpatrick (“Roulette Wheel”) will take our students outside the academy, providing a first-hand perspective on how to manage a professional career in real time.
  • The piece on Michael Camasso (“Culture Club”) showcases interdisciplinary research at its best. The piece on Brian Schilling does the same for interdisciplinary extension programming.

The piece on Yanhong Jin’s class project (“Impossible Meat”) shows how a creative teacher uses the constructivist paradigm to make a lifelong impression on her students.

I hope you enjoy reading these articles about DAFRE people as much as I did!


Ramu Govindasamy

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