Beginning in 2018-19, the SIFK capstone curriculum experience, designed and taught by UChicago faculty and postdoctoral scholars, will enable fourth-year students in the College to build upon their Core training and knowledge acquired in their majors. These courses will each approach the topic of “how we know” from a point of view outside the disciplines and representative of the range of fields of knowledge in general.  Capstone courses will encourage students to think differently about contemporary claims to knowledge from across the globe. Because these courses expose College students to different kinds of thought, at the very time that they are specializing their course of study, they will contribute to improving their understanding of other cultures, other claims to knowledge, and other value systems in this complex, interconnected world, opening new avenues of inquiry and generating insights that will prove invaluable beyond the University’s walls.

Emphasizing process as well as content—learning how to creatively confront difficult intellectual and pragmatic problems wider than one’s area of expertise and to understand why methodologies and assumptions vary across disciplines, the capstone experience created by SIFK will complement both the basis for learning provided by the Core curriculum and the more specialized knowledge developed in the majors.  These courses will show how economics, art, the humanities, medicine, and most academic fields can accomplish much more when they interact with each other. Here is a sample of potential topics:

  • What roles do empathy and storytelling play in creating better medical outcomes?
  • How are democracy and economics tied together?
  • What can indigenous knowledge and indigenous culture teach modern science?
  • How does art work in conflict mediation?
  • What distinguishes world religions, and how do these distinctions affect international diplomacy?
  • Can we think of human existence as teleological?

Through consultation with faculty from across the University—including emeritus faculty—and faculty from other universities, the capstone project aims to bring leading thinkers together to help transform the existing disciplinary assumptions invisibly in place in all institutions of higher learning, and to pass on these benefits to the undergraduates with whom faculty share the learning experience. Institute faculty, supported by SIFK’s postdoctoral fellows, will conceive, teach, and regularly evaluate each course.  The courses may have additional impact through faculty publications about the capstone project’s rationale, methodology, and syllabus; future courses; lectures and panels for the wider UChicago community; and/or the formation of new scholarly organizations to investigate classes and pedagogy not limited by disciplinary boundaries.  

Participating Faculty

  • Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer, Classics, western tradition, ancient philosophy
  • Marianne Bertrand, Labor economics, corporate finance, and development economics
  • Luis Bettencourt, complex systems, statistical and evolutionary dynamics, cities and urbanization
  • Shannon Dawdy, Landscapes of capitalism
  • Damien Droney (McLennan Postdoc), Science in Africa, anthropology of science​
  • Tom Ginsburg, Comparative law
  • Will Howell, Comparative politics & US constitution
  • Ada Palmer, European history, medieval to modern
  • Rama Ranganathan, Cell and molecular biology, biological systems
  • Robert Richards, History of science & history of medicine
  • James Robinson, Economic development, interaction with politics and history
  • Haun Saussy, Comparative China/west, Asian history, comparative epistemology

Ex-Officio Members

  • John W. Boyer, Dean of the College
  • Elisabeth Clemens, Interim Deputy Dean and Master of the Social Sciences Collegiate Division
  • Jocelyn Malamy, Deputy Dean and Master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division
  • Michael Stein, Deputy Dean and Master of the Physical Sciences Collegiate Division
  • Christopher Wild, Deputy Dean and Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division