This is a quotation from Kathy Bader, one of the PhD students involved in the Ordered Universe Project. It sums up an almost self-evident truth, and nonetheless it’s something one can sometimes forget when it comes to thinking about choosing between courses or jobs or generally between things to which one could devote one’s time and effort.
Here are some examples of how the educational systems we operate in can make it quite difficult to change one’s mind and hence one’s path. (1) Application deadlines for Masters and PhD programmes often coincide with examination periods, and Anne Lawrence-Mathers from Reading University described how this makes many students write their applications based on the research area they are already working on, simply because there’s not enough time to write a decent proposal on a topic that would require extra background reading. (2) Academic posts seem to often require people to be highly specialised in their respective fields, and being a bit of a modern-day polymath might not necessarily help in finding a job. (3) I’m German, and in Germany the expectation is that one sticks to the discipline one originally trained in; the British way of offering graduate schemes to students who’ve done undergraduate courses in totally unrelated areas would be pretty much unthinkable in the German system. (For instance, after my clinical psychology Masters in Mannheim, I’m going to train as a mental health social worker in the UK – even though I very much stick with mental health issues, the switch from psychology to social work remains quite ununderstandable to some of the lectures here.)
These three points might generally apply to what’s expected in (at least some) education systems, but the Ordered Universe Project defies them all. It’s a pool for people whose knowledge and interests go far beyond their primary areas of expertise, and it offers training and job opportunities to those who want to change their paths and work at the interface of what are generally considered far-apart disciplines. The atmosphere thereby created is very special, very inspiring, and very enriching.
In Grosseteste’s words: ‘[…] interpreter orizon finitor visus ([…] horizon is understood as that which limits vision)’, and through the engagement with the Ordered Universe Project we expand the limits of our imagination, consider paths that divert from the beaten track, and broaden our horizons. Engagement with this interdisciplinary project makes one feel that it’s not only acceptable but welcomed that one changes one’s mind. It’s not considered a sign of indecisiveness but of living the essence of what education should be about.