Book by Karri A Holley
Review by Dr. Peter Kim
Academic Success Center

The definition of Interdisciplinary Studies as part of, and at the same time, in conflict with the traditions of academia is chronicled in Holley’s Understanding Interdisciplinary Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Education. In furnishing a clear and concise textual summary of the genesis of Interdisciplinary Studies, Holley presents a comprehensive examination of this academic discipline’s past, present and future. The objective of this monograph is achieved in that Holley provides an overview of Interdisciplinary Studies and American higher education; detailing the inherent conflict generated from challenging the long standing tradition of academic disciplines as highly specialized and decentralized institutions. Holley achieves this objective by situating the importance and necessity of Interdisciplinary Studies in advancing research and scholarship beyond the traditional paradigm of departmental silos and discipline-based theoretical frameworks. Her work is supported by an extensive literature review of previous studies on Interdisciplinary Studies, while additionally forwarding recommendations to college and university administrators on advancing scholarship in this promising field of academic inquiry. 

Holley’s monograph begins with informing the reader about the history, theory, and practice of Interdisciplinary Studies, while highlighting examples adopted and implemented across college campuses. She then chronicles the connections between Interdisciplinary Studies and college student learning, in challenging undergraduates to examine ideas and issues from multiple perspectives. 

However, the author acknowledges that there are challenges confronting the practice of research in Interdisciplinary Studies, recognizing that the field of research is the hallmark of any academic discipline’s reputation. Contributing to the production of knowledge and practical research to solving problems is the means to establishing credibility as an academic discipline within the Ivory Tower. Given the novelty of Interdisciplinary Studies within the ranks of academia, this challenge confronting Interdisciplinary Studies is considerable. This is coupled with a list acknowledged by Holley, including faculty promotion and tenure, institutional goals and faculty engagement, and dedicated organizational and physical space for Interdisciplinary research. Yet, Holley contends the challenges to Interdisciplinary research are available through an adoption of a set of best practices related to Interdisciplinary education that are already taking shape in several campuses across the country. Accordingly, while Holley acknowledges the challenges, she also accepts the opportunities of understanding Interdisciplinary Studies in higher education. 

Understanding interdisciplinary challenges and opportunities in higher education: ASHE higher education report, vol. 35, num. 2. (2009) Book by Karri A Holley. Review by Dr. Peter Kim. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 140pp. $29.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-55337-4
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