Beyond combining two cultures

The Arts & Science Program at 40


  • Elizabeth Marquis Assistant Professor, Arts & Science Program and Associate Director (Research), Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation, and Excellence in Teaching, McMaster University
  • Jean Wilson



The Arts & Science Program, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program that emphasizes inquiry-based learning, social engagement, and the development of essential scholarly skills, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021–22. Following the example of Combining Two Cultures (Jenkins, Ferrier, & Ross, 2004), and informed by published reflections and our own experiences in the program, this chapter describes key developments in Arts & Science’s recent history and reflects critically on some of its successes as well as on tensions and challenges it continues to navigate. While the chapter focuses on the particular trajectory of this unique program, which has been an important part of McMaster’s teaching and learning community for four decades, its broader relevance emerges as we attend to significant questions of interdisciplinary education and imagine possibilities and priorities for the future.