Breaking Down Walls: UHD’s Cultural Enrichment Center Fosters Interdisciplinary Learning
By Hayden Bergman
The development of Western higher education has led to academic specialties (what we know as majors), with the idea being that students could leave institutions as employable, capable contributors in their chosen field, filled with the kind of advanced knowledge that only prolonged specialization can afford.
There is, however, a cost to such specialization, particularly in our current world in which things can rapidly change in drastic, often stunning ways. Specialization, then, taken too far, can be a limiting factor for students, as they risk losing valuable skills like adaptability, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to consider opposing or slightly differing views. One way to combat these risks is interdisciplinarity.
UHD’s Cultural Enrichment Center (CEC) provides a place for just such interdisciplinarity, and it also provides a space for valuable interactions and educational opportunities between UHD students, faculty, and working scholars and professionals. The center is run by Dr. Anita Raychawdhuri, CEC Director and Assistant Professor of English. She defines the term cultural enrichment broadly. “A lot of it is about collaboration. What are our students interested in? What’s going on across campus? How can we make our programming as interdisciplinary as possible?”
In the past, the CEC has hosted the The Borderlands Shakespeare Colectiva, a group that “seeks to amplify the work of Chicanx and Indigenous artists who adapt Shakespeare to reflect the histories and lived realities of the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands.” This semester, the Center has already hosted Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, Houston’s first Black Poet Laureate. On March 5, JD Pluecker will be on campus to discuss her writing at the intersections of language, justice, history, bookmaking, and queer/trans aesthetics. Also, on April 18, Dr. Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Professor of English at Rice University, will give a lecture at UHD titled “Demonic Angels and Angelic Demons.”
Several events revolving around ecology are also in the works, says Dr. Raychawdhuri, as it is not only something that both scientists and artists engage with, but also deeply important to Houston and UHD, what with our proximity to the city’s network of bayous.
“I try to create multiple opportunities for people to engage [with a given topic],” Dr. Raychawdhuri says. “One way to do this is, of course, by listening to a speaker and learning from them. But another way, I think, is to have smaller discussions. We want to create a space where students can express the knowledge that they’re gaining.”
Those interested in proposing an event or speaker for the CEC should draft a brief proposal and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The proposal should describe the event. It should also articulate the event’s purpose, goals, and potential impact on the campus community. Dr. Raychawdhuri also asks that a rough date be proposed so that there is ample time for planning.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.