Document Type



This proposal showcases the success of an interdisciplinary approach. It provides an overview of a project titled: "Cacao and Chocolate: A Powerful Legacy." It took place during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2023. The project aimed to explore the rich and multifaceted legacy of cacao and chocolate in Latin America, incorporating perspectives from various academic disciplines, including public history, chemistry, Spanish language, graphic design, culinary arts, and family science. The interdisciplinary nature of the project highlights the power of collaboration in research and education, serving as a model for integrating diverse fields of study.

The project was divided into two main components: faculty-led research and experiential learning activities. The faculty-led research involved students Alyssa Vernon, a public history major, and Ethan Wilkins, a chemistry major, who conducted in-depth studies on the historical, cultural, and medicinal aspects of cacao and chocolate. Their research culminated in annotated bibliographies, research posters, and presentations at both the Hispanic Heritage Month event and the Association for Science Teacher Education annual conference.

Experiential learning activities included cultural documentation by Spanish minor Olivia Eubanks, creative design by graphic design major Reggi Pech, culinary demonstration by culinary arts major Erik Vasquez-Diaz, and data collection for program evaluation by family science major Hailey McCool. These activities provided students with hands-on experience and opportunities to apply their academic knowledge in real-world contexts.

The project also extended into the classroom, with Dr. Vergara integrating related themes into her Spanish language and literature courses. It also allowed Mr. Dodson the opportunity for continue mentoring outside of the classroom setting. Overall, the interdisciplinary experience highlighted the value of collaboration across disciplines and the importance of experiential learning in enhancing students' understanding of complex topics.

Course Number

A campus-wide event that was integrated into various 200-300 Spanish level courses

Learning Objectives

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: To understand and appreciate the value of interdisciplinary collaboration in exploring complex topics.

Research Skills: To develop research skills in various disciplines and work with others who are putting said skills into practice, creating cohesiveness.

Cultural Understanding: To gain a deeper understanding of a topic with cultural, historical, and scientific significance, like that of cacao and chocolate in Latin American societies.

Experiential Learning: To engage in experiential learning activities, such as cultural documentation, graphic design, culinary demonstrations, and data collection, and to understand their role in enhancing academic knowledge.

Communication and Presentation Skills: To develop the ability to effectively communicate research findings and experiential learning outcomes to diverse audiences through presentations, posters, and written materials.

Critical Thinking and Analysis: To critically analyze and synthesize information from various sources and disciplines, and to apply this analysis to a broader understanding of the subject matter.

Application of Theoretical Concepts: To apply theoretical concepts from various disciplines to practical, real-world contexts.

Reflection and Self-Assessment: To reflect on personal experiences and learning outcomes, and to assess the impact of the interdisciplinary experience on participants and general academic growth.

Curricular Context

An event titled Cacao and Chocolate: A Powerful Legacy, co-organized Dr. Reyna Vergara (Assistant Professor of Spanish) and Mr. Michael Dodson (Biology Instructor), was held during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2023. This endeavor was interdisciplinary, which allowed the team of faculty and students to delve into the rich and intricate legacy of cacao and chocolate in Latin America, examining it from a variety of perspectives that ranged from historical and linguistic to anthropological and ethnobotanical. This event was then expanded into the Spanish classroom and further mentorship opportunities.

Instructor Reflections

Reflection and Challenges:

The interdisciplinary experience outlined in this proposal has demonstrated alignment with the W's commitment to academic excellence by providing a comprehensive and multifaceted educational experience. The integration of diverse disciplines, such as languages, history, science, and culinary arts, has enriched students' learning journeys and prepared them for the complexities of a global society.

One of the key strengths of this model is its emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, which fosters a well-rounded understanding of complex topics from multiple perspectives. This approach not only enhances critical thinking and analytical skills but also promotes the synthesis of information across different fields. The involvement of students in research and experiential learning activities further reinforces their ability to engage with and contribute to their areas of expertise.

The acceptance of Mr. Dodson as a Provost Fellow and his proposal to create an interdisciplinary experience on campus exemplifies the potential for expanding this model beyond the initial project. By mentoring students from various departments to work collaboratively, the initiative aims to broaden the interdisciplinary approach and foster a more inclusive learning environment.

Challenges: One of the challenges encountered in implementing this interdisciplinary model is the coordination and integration of diverse disciplines and perspectives. Ensuring that all contributions are cohesive and complementary requires careful planning and ongoing communication among faculty and students.

Securing funding and resources for interdisciplinary projects can also be a challenge, as they often require support from multiple departments and external sources. It might necessitate effective outside grant writing and collaboration with administration within the institution to sustain and expand the initiative.

Overall, the interdisciplinary experience described in this proposal has shown promising results in enhancing academic excellence and preparing students for a global society. By addressing the challenges and building on the strengths of this model, we can continue to innovate and inspire future generations of learners.

Sample_Assignment_Article_Presentation_the_Columbian_Exchange.pdf (151 kB)
Assignment Article Presentation for Spanish Class

Syllabus_Part_I_Vernon_Summer_Scholar.pdf (205 kB)
First Part of Vernon's Syllabus

Syllabus_Part_II_Vernon_Summer_Scholar_Abridged_Tentative_Plan.pdf (113 kB)
Abridged Second Part of Vernon's Syllabus

Vernon_Abridged_Weekly_Key Accomplishment.pdf (89 kB)
Vernon's Abridged Weekly Accomplishments

Vernon_Detail_Weekly_Reports_Summary.pdf (117 kB)
Vernon's Abridged Weekly Reports

A Summary of Ethan Wilkins Preparation Version2.pdf (108 kB)
A Summary of Ethan Wilkins Preparation

The Columbian Exchange and the Journey of Sugar.pdf (178 kB)
The Columbian Exchange and the Journey of Sugar