Guiding Directives

When designing a custom program of study, IDS students narrow their field or topic of interest by identifying and selecting guiding directives in the form of "wicked problems," "vital questions," and "sticky ideas." These guiding directives serve as a framework for the IDS major’s course selections; furthermore, they energize the student’s research inquiry, culminating in a substantial final project.

Wicked Problems

"Wicked problems," as defined by Jeffry C. Davis in Interdisciplinary Inclinations, are “complex issues that elude easy categorization, ones that do not allow for a simple solution because the pursuit of any response inherently causes more complications; problems that cannot be adequately addressed by one academic discipline” (p. 193). Each IDS major chooses a wicked problem to address through interdisciplinary inquiry. The following are a few examples of wicked problems: 

  • AIDS, poverty, and the ethics of medical treatment 
  • International coordination in response to a pandemic
  • Adverse influences of technology on human behavior
  • Terrorism and religious fanaticism 
  • Climate change, politics, and social policy 
  • Extreme drought conditions, wildfire mitigation, and ethical oversight 

Vital Questions 

Vital questions “often address wicked problems and lead to the consideration of how people should live and be human; questions that defy brief or simple answers; questions that challenge personal commitments and life values” (p. 192). The following are a few examples of vital questions:

  • How should Christians interpret the theory of evolution in light of Scripture? 
  • What are the optimal conditions for human flourishing? 
  • Should emergency responders prioritize life-saving treatments in disaster settings?
  • Do scientists have unique responsibilities to communicate their findings to the public?
  • In what ways have Jesus’ depictions in art throughout history shaped church practices? 
  • Can Evangelicals reconcile politically liberal and conservative views in America?

Sticky Ideas 

Sticky ideas are messages that “are memorable and have coherence with other ideas” (p. 192). Such ideas are foundational, important, connected to higher beliefs, and hinge on the doorframe of values. The following are a few examples of sticky ideas:

  • Spiritual experience through the lenses of psychology and sociology 
  • Communication theory relative to gender, race, and culture 
  • The power of myth in science and religion 
  • Genomic implications for nature versus nurture 
  • Consumeristic thinking and the reduction of human worth