• Defining Integrated Research

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    True to its commitment to innovative interdisciplinary scholarship, The New School for Social Research recently launched the Integrative PhD Fellowship, a program that erases the boundaries between disciplines and trains students to incorporate new analytic and expository techniques, like data visualization and graphic design, into their work.

    Supported by a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and led by University in Exile Professor of Sociology Robin Wagner-Pacifici and associate professor of art, media, and technology Daniel Sauter, the program teaches doctoral students to use emerging qualitative and quantitative methods in their analysis of pressing questions of our time. The program also invites faculty across the university to identify courses offered at The New School that can help PhD students develop new fields of integrative research and support the creation of classes co-taught by faculty from across the university's colleges.

    Katinka Wijsman, a Politics doctoral candidate working on environmental issues, is one of the first four Integrative PhD fellows, having joined the program in part to learn more about visualizing landscape histories. Wijsman's research, which she conducts in New York City's Jamaica Bay, Suriname's Weg naar Zee district, and the Netherlands' Kijkduin, focuses on the way coastal communities use nature-based or green infrastructure as a means to adapt to climate change. In Wijsman's words, such nature-based approaches "conceive of nature as a climate change ally" rather than "something in need of domination.”

    Wijsman considers communities in a broad sense, thinking of them as not only human phenomena but entities that include other species and involve complex biophysical processes. Her participant observation in coastal communities entails what she calls "multispecies ethnographic encounters," which she combines with document analysis and interviews in her study of the changing landscape. In the Integrative PhD Fellowship program, she has mastered visual communication methods with which she makes her research accessible to new audiences.

    Activate Your Integrative Research

    In keeping with the intent of the program, Wijsman brings together analytic frameworks and methods from multiple disciplines into her work. She aims to better understand the potential inherent in combining nature-based responses to climate change with traditional approaches, investigating "the design, implementation, and evaluation of these nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and the politics of responsibility they emerge from and give rise to."

    Wijsman also works with a National Science Foundation–funded research network called Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (URExSRN). At URExSRN, university and government researchers and practitioners focus on climate change in ten cities in the United States and Latin America. Wijsman and her colleagues work on the ground, exploring natural environments, building new data resources, and presenting this information to the public and to government officials.

    For Wijsman, the Integrative PhD Fellowship program offers her an ideal opportunity to discover new ways to conduct research and exchange ideas with academics and policymakers across fields. "I am excited about the intellectual mission and plan of action of the Integrative PhD," she says. "This sort of exchange could be transformative to one's own thinking and push intellectual creativity."

    The New School, with its commitment to addressing real-world issues, is a force of new scholarship, activism, and solutions. Be a Force of New.

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