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The start of my journey with interdisciplinarity

In the context of a global pandemic, I start my journey with the concept of interdisciplinarity. This emerging method soon became the political driver of the Covid-19 decision and the vector of my research.
Odile Joblin
10 November 2022

It’s 2022 and so much has happened since my graduation. Who thought that the freshly graduated from 2020 in the blooming context of the pandemic would now live in a world that has slowly but certainly returned to its habits?

People go to restaurants again.
Hospitals are no longer saturated with Covid patients.
Cultural activities and sports have returned to their normal courses.
Planet earth has come to its old patterns again…

Yet, some things have definitely changed and cannot be compared to pre-covid times anymore. Some things the 22 years old self had predicted in some ways. 

It’s 2019 and I’m doing a Master’s degree in Maastricht. And as many students experience, I have to come up with a thesis topic. I’m in the middle of my degree, I have no clue what I want to specialize in and the world is under threat of a pandemic. I feel lost. I then meet who would become my thesis supervisor, the kind of person whom you may think is completely out of its mind. But also the type of person that has outstanding intelligence. A comprehension of the world that goes beyond limits. For him, everything was possible and easy. When I presented him my interest in eventually designing a university curriculum that would help future professionals become more interdisciplinary he had a very interested but also humble reaction. “Yes, sure. You can do that. You just have to do this…, this… and that…” I remembered him saying something like that.

 UNU Merit

UNU-Merit, Maastricht, Netherlands. This is the faculty where I studied my Master’s. 

This signed the beginning of Odile doing research on how universities could become more interdisciplinary and adapted to societal needs. My logic was simple. Covid has resulted in interdisciplinary working groups composed of politicians, doctors, epidemiologists, social science people, and many more coming together and designing strategies combining their expertise. Why wasn’t the school designed in that way? Why were faculties and programs isolated from each other instead of creating programs combining the skills and knowledge of all? 

After extensive research, long days spent at the library, many tears on my desk, and countless discussions about “why is thesis writing so hard” with my fellow students, I finished this research. I was so proud of myself. My thesis is about my very first baby. Something that I did all by myself. It is a reflection of me, my thoughts, and my ambitions for the planet.

Library of Maastricht University

Library of Maastricht University, the place where I spent my summer writing my thesis. 

What this thesis also represents is a solution. A framework on how universities, and eventually also other institutions, can think and implement interdisciplinary working programs. Sure, it’s not a complete manual you just have to follow. It could use more extensive research and additional brains to become more holistic and efficient. Yet it’s a start. A start that can be taken by anyone willing to have an impact on society. It helps the user bring adequate responses and tools to complexifying problems. Planet earth is aging and is becoming more and more complex. Harder to understand. An interdisciplinary method could be more helpful to benefit this old lady. 

Thanks to this professor, and mentor, that I had, I pushed my limits to ends I didn’t expect to reach. I realized research that for the time being had forward-thinking ideas. Interdisciplinarity has become a new paradigm in post-covid times and is more and more used in international and global contexts. It is also a key to opening doors to better and faster responses to societal issues. That is why this tool is at the core of my methods. When I design a solution, I push the limits of development to multiple insights into the same problem. Everyone’s opinion is valid, valuable, and complementary. Put together, these ideas create the power to lift solutions to higher horizons.