April 29, 2017

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Dr. Karen Cardozo, MCLA associate professor of interdisciplinary studies at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), presented “Canaries or Surgeon Fish? IDST Majors as a Litmus Test of MCLA’s Future” as the final Brown Bag Lecture event of the spring semester.

The Brown Bag Lecture Series allows MCLA faculty to present and discuss their scholarly activities, and provides campus and community members opportunities to learn about their interests and research.

In her talk, Cardozo explained why a liberal arts education in general, and the IDST major in particular, remains an excellent investment in the future. She also reported on the results of using design thinking methods to conduct ethnographic research on the diverse paths and interests of IDST students.

According to Cardozo, the interdisciplinary studies program at MCLA is unusual because it houses the most diverse cross-section of people and academic interests on campus.

“Providing students the option to design their own majors by integrating their unique set of interests, it plays an invaluable role in recruitment and retention efforts by ensuring that MCLA students can pursue whatever program of study suits them best,” Cardozo said.

Individualized majors, she added, align well with the rise of entrepreneurship and other creative trends of today’s “Conceptual Age,” which emphasize the need to “pivot” in response to changing job markets and generate one’s own “body of work” through thoughtful and intentional life design.

Cardozo worked as a career counselor at Harvard University in Cambridge and Williams College in Williamstown, dean of student and academic affairs at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, and taught on all campuses of the Five College Consortium of Western Massachusetts before coming to MCLA, where she recently was tenured and promoted to associate professor of interdisciplinary studies.

In this role, she coordinates minors in leadership studies and women’s studies, and teaches various topics courses, such as “East Meets West,” on how mindfulness supports cross-cultural engagements; “Leading Women,” which integrates women’s studies to broaden our understanding of leadership; and “World of Work,” which puts the question, “Who am I, and Where Am I Going?” into cultural, historical and philosophical context, and invites students to apply design thinking to envisioning their own futures.

Having published on ethnic, literary , trauma and feminist science studies, as well as and diversity, pedagogy and the academic profession, Cardozo’s interests revolve around futuristic studies of work, leadership and higher education to explore how best to proceed in what life coach Martha Beck calls the “wild new world” of the 21st century.

Her current research was supported by a Faculty Incentive Award (2016) and the Feigenbaum MCLA Leads initiative, which seeks to integrate design thinking into the MCLA curriculum to support innovation and community-based engagements.

Cardozo received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Haverford College in Haverford, Pa; her Masters in higher education administration from Harvard University; and a Ph.D in literary American Studies from UMASS-Amherst.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens. For more information, go to