Understanding Change from Many Perspectives

New interdisciplinary course helps students understand, weather, and affect change.

by Anne Reynolds

It is often said change is the only constant, and perhaps this old saying has never been more true. Business, religion, politics, and conflicts operate within parameters that are regularly shifting, demanding responses that meet these fluctuations.

A new course to be taught in fall 2016, Organizing Cultural Change, studies these parameters – and society’s responses to them -- from the standpoint of multiple disciplines.

History, business, psychology, sociology, and conflict analysis all contribute to an understanding of cultural shifts: their meaning and significance, how they happen, and how people can affect change in their own lives.

From religious conversions to social movements to corporate settings, students in the course will conduct research to help them understand common patterns and best practices for implementing and analyzing culture change. At a period in our history where the only certainty is uncertainty, students will complete this course more equipped to work effectively with culture shifts of all kinds.

Peter Stearns, Provost Emeritus and University Professor, History and Art History, leads a team of faculty members that represents these diverse disciplines. He stresses the importance of examining the subject from an interdisciplinary perspective. “Culture change is a complex topic, whether one is trying to understand a major shift or working to promote such a shift,” he explains. “Gus Speth, an environmentalist, recently noted: ‘The top environmental problems … [require] a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don’t know how to do that.’

“The culture change course groups several disciplines that do explore the process, in societies and organizations alike, to develop a better understanding of what the phenomenon is all about and how it can be more successfully promoted, around a number of key issues. It’s a novel approach, and should be a stimulating experience for students and faculty alike.”

Organizing Cultural Change is listed as HIST 387, PSYC 461, MGMT 491, CONF 299, and SOC 395.