Brain Meets Mind

Uniting the sciences and humanities to better understand how we comprehend the world.

Which has more to offer in explaining human nature and cognition — philosophy or the sciences? That question has fueled late-night campus debates for ages.

But in recent decades, scholars from psychology, philosophy, computer science, neuroscience, linguistics and other related fields have supplied a novel answer: both, please. They’ve crossed disciplinary boundaries, joining forces in their drive to better understand cognition.

By launching an interdisciplinary cognitive science major this academic year, Marquette joined the leading institutions in the United States in recognizing that the study of the mind requires more than one set of methodologies and concepts. With this collaborative effort of philosophy and psychology faculty, Marquette became the first Jesuit university in the nation to offer students the opportunity to major in this fast-growing area, studying the mind as it relates to reasoning, learning, memory, decision-making, perception, action and language.

“The new major will enable students to use various conceptual tools and problem-solving skills to approach fundamental questions about cognition,” says Dr. Corinne Bloch-Mullins, an assistant professor of philosophy who directs the new major and helped develop it with four fellow faculty members from her department and two from the Department of Psychology. (See full list below.)

Cognitive science majors are encouraged to declare a second major in one of the fields integrated into the curriculum for the major, including anthropology, biological sciences, English, mathematics and computer science, philosophy, psychology and sociology.

Driven by her interest in neuropsychology, Marquette senior Sara Pardej originally planned to major in psychology and minor in neuroscience. But something was missing, and the new major filled the void. Now she’s majoring in psychology and cognitive science with a minor in family studies. “Because cognitive science has so many disciplines intertwined within it, I feel like I can separate myself from other applicants when I apply to graduate school. I’m going to have a background in computer science and linguistics and a philosophical background in cognitive science,” she says. “I have an edge because I have all these other fields I’m familiar with and can talk about.”

By launching this interdisciplinary major, Marquette joined the leading institutions in the United States in recognizing that the study of the mind requires more than one set of methodologies and concepts.

Another benefit of the major is the opportunity it presents faculty in the different departments to collaborate on research projects. “It can bolster and highlight Marquette’s strength in neuroscience and its academic stature and visibility,” Bloch- Mullins says.

What careers are open to students with this new major? Research, marketing and communication, user interface, industrial design, software development, information technology, education, psychology, medicine and law are among possibilities that extend almost as far as the mind can imagine.

Mind meld the interdisciplinary team behind the new major: Dr. Nakia Gordon, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Kristy Nielson, professor of psychology; Dr. Anthony Peressini, professor of philosophy; Dr. Corinne Bloch-Mullins, Dr. Yoon Choi, Dr. Katherine Rickus and Dr. Ericka Tucker, assistant professors of philosophy.

Joe DiGiovanni, Jour ‘87

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Adapted from the debut issue of A&S, the annual magazine of Marquette’s Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. Read the entire issue.

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