Julie Thompson Klien (2014)

The nominee for [recipient of] the 2014 Newell Award for Exemplary Service is famous for her scholarship on interdisciplinary studies, but even most AIS members are unaware of the nature and extent of her contributions to our Association. Her networking, initiating, consulting, editing, and supporting of interdisciplinarians and interdisciplinary programs have been just as important as her research, even though they often take place out of the limelight.

 Her networking of individuals interested in interdisciplinary studies began in the summer after her first AIS conference in 1983, when she undertook a national tour of interdisciplinarians. Bill Newell has a vivid recollection of sitting with her in his small home office, surrounded by books, discussing over a couple days the merits and shortcoming of different authors’ approaches to interdisciplinary studies. Through dialogue and networking, she started collecting ideas about IDS that she painstakingly brought together, compared, and organized in her first book. Around that time Roz Schindler remembers the nominee encouraging her to attend her first AIS conference, and Bill remembers the nominee alerting him that Roz would make an excellent leader of AIS.

A major aspect of her contribution to AIS has been networking with other associations, organizations, and groups, not just individual scholars. Most visibly, and perhaps of most service to AIS, have been collaborations she set up or facilitated with the Association of American Colleges & Universities. In the late 1980s, she was appointed to the (then) Association of American Colleges task force on interdisciplinary studies for their Study in Depth project, bring AIS sensibilities about IDS to the attention of AAC for the first time.  A few years later she became one of the AIS leaders who collaborated with AAC on a joint FIPSE-NEH-NSF grant proposal for the Asheville Institute on Interdisciplinary General Education, and then staffed the Institute for two summers (1994 and 1995). Several years after that she was designated a senior scholar at AAC&U, contributing to influential AAC&U publications on interdisciplinary and integrative studies, arranging a joint AIS-AAC&U conference on interdisciplinary higher education in 1998, and thereby paving the way for subsequent AIS-AAC&U collaborations on conferences devoted to integrative learning and undergraduate research. Another example of her fruitful networking was with The College Board, which culminated in their publication between 1998 and 2002 of a series of books written by AIS authors.

At the 1984 conference she and Ray Miller proposed that AIS establish three networks in the philosophy, pedagogy, and politics of IDS, and she agreed to serve as overall coordinator. When the politics and pedagogy networks were replaced by the arts network in 1991, she was a leader of that network as well as an active participant in the philosophy network. In particular, she was active in the all-day retreat of the philosophy network task force that met after the 1987 conference to try to achieve some consensus on the definition of IDS, and (no surprise) she was a major contributor to the bibliography on IDS compiled by the philosophy network in 1991.

Also, in 1984 she (along with Ray Miller) represented AIS at the third INTERSTUDY conference on interdisciplinary research. She played key leadership and editorial roles with that organization as long as it continued to function. And later that year she attended an OECD conference in Sweden at which she displayed a newly constructed AIS display and described our work in a paper she presented. That was the first of many such international conferences, congresses, symposia, seminars, academies, panels, centers, research teams, task forces, and advisory boards on interdisciplinary studies in which she actively and prominently participated. It is largely through her efforts over the last thirty years that AIS and its work have been brought to the attention of European inter- and trans-disciplinarians.

Along with a few other AIS leaders, in the 1980s she began consulting at colleges and universities interested in starting interdisciplinary general education programs, as well as serving as an external evaluator of existing general education program. The result was the dissemination throughout the United States of AIS insights into the nature, practice, and habits of mind of interdisciplinary studies.

Largely alone among the leadership of AIS, however, her consulting on interdisciplinarity was not limited to the U.S. but was worldwide (including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay, to name but a few). Nor was her consulting focused solely on general education, or even on education as a whole; it also included interdisciplinary research and administration, and emerging interdisciplines as well. In these diverse consultations, she has drawn not only upon the work of AIS but also of GRIP—Group for Research into the Institutionalization and Professionalization of Literary Studies (focused on disciplinarity), HASTAC (focused on digital humanities), INTERSTUDY (focused on interdisciplinary research), Science of Team Science (interdisciplinary team research), td-net (focused on transdisciplinary studies), and other professional groups in which she gained prominence over the last three decades.

Just as important have been the quiet, behind-the-scenes networking she has carried out over the decades to forge connections among the various groups, including AIS, with which she has been associated. Her overall approach to the formation of knowledge is highly collaborative, between individuals as well as groups, and across institutional types, national boundaries, and divergent perspectives, including fledgling academics as well as seasoned scholars. The vast majority of these efforts have been highly individualized, involving face-to-face discussions, phone calls, or emails, and requiring an enormous amount of time and effort.

She has made important visible contributions to AIS publications, not just as a frequent contributing author, but also as a guest editor. Again, though, her informal work has been much appreciated by editors as well. For many years she was the source of most suggestions for books to review for the newsletter, and she offered frequent suggestions for up-coming conferences to feature, topics to discuss, or authors to solicit for manuscripts. Well outside public view she has also nurtured scholars seeking to establish themselves in interdisciplinary studies—most notably, perhaps, Tanya Augsburg and Allen Repko, as they wrote textbooks on interdisciplinary studies. And she has been indefatigable in writing letters of recommendation and serving as an external reviewer for promotion or tenure for many a professional interdisciplinarian.

And, finally, she has played important roles in organizing at least four AIS conferences—as a member of the teams organizing the three AIS conferences hosted by her institution, and as the co-host of the 1988 conference when she served as AIS president.