You are here


What is CHID?

CHID is a one-of-a-kind department where students enjoy the freedom of an interdisciplinary liberal arts degree within the context of a renowned research university. Our award-winning faculty and staff help students explore their passions and deepen their understanding of the world.

Department Philosophy

By introducing students to the interrelation of ideas and society, Comparative History of Ideas demonstrates the need to consider intellectual problems from many perspectives. The goal of the department is to develop the tools of critical thinking in each student. We hope to engender an attitude of personal engagement and creativity within students. We encourage them to think for themselves, and to think critically about the world and the categories we use to understand it. In addition, the department seeks to inculcate a sense of the importance of a disciplined and interdisciplinary methodology as a means to investigate intellectual problems, while at the same time revealing the inherent weaknesses and limitations of any system.

Statement of Principles

The participating members (students, staff and faculty) of the Department of Comparative History of Ideas are engaged in a collective endeavor to construct a dynamic, creative learning community that will mobilize our collective and individual passions. We encourage our members to pursue the ideal of self-knowledge collaboratively through informed and self-conscious participation in the changing world in which their selves are shaped and which they will shape for their own and future generations.

CHID is widely recognized across campus for a number of contributions. We have created an exemplary curriculum for a problem-oriented interdisciplinary program, and nurtured a unique undergraduate culture. CHID has produced students recognized across the university for their inquiring, experimental, totally engaged participation in the life of the mind, their outstanding intellectual achievements, and their passionate commitment to asserting ownership of both the content and the process of their education. Additionally, CHID is noted for creating a laboratory for curricular innovation, for the "internationalization" of undergraduate education, for pedagogical creativity in learner-based methods of teaching and research, for extensive cross-unit collaborations, and for its focus on engaged community learning and public service.

As CHID has developed and grown, we have been guided by a number of general principles:

  • The questions are the content.
  • Interdisciplinarity is disciplined knowledge.
  • Students are the agents of their own education.
  • Education is a dialogical process within a learning community.
  • Experience is the best teacher. 
  • Critical thinking and self-understanding are tied to knowledge of the world.

From these principles have emerged the educational practices, the institutional innovations, and above all, that reflective, questioning, engaged "CHID student." We believe these qualities have immensely enriched the undergraduate life of this university. Many people think that this kind of intense, engaged community of learning is not possible within the context of a large, urban, commuter-oriented research university. For CHID, the large university is an opportunity for collaboration and exploration: an enabling condition for, rather than a hindrance to, passion, perspective and community in undergraduate education.

More about our rhizomatic community

CHID's Diversity Statement

The Comparative History of Ideas Department is deeply committed to fostering a critically engaged and supportive community where all students, staff, and faculty are treated with respect and care. We strive to create an inclusive space where difference is valued, and people from a diverse range of backgrounds and orientations—including ability, gender, national, religious, sexual, racial, political, and more—are welcomed and able to thrive. Our community emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and actively addressing barriers to knowledge and education, and of making visible the ongoing dynamics of settler colonialism, patriarchy, and other structures of oppression that continue to marginalize, minoritize and invisibilize various gender, racial, national and ethnic identities. We recognize our collective responsibility in addressing and mitigating those dynamics to create the conditions in which our learning community can flourish. We recognize the power of stories and personal journeys as crucial for creating an engaged and reflective community. 

Inspired by the work of Federico Ardila, professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University, we offer the following axioms:

  • Axiom 1—Intellectual potential is distributed equally among different groups, irrespective of geographic, demographic, political, and economic boundaries.
  • Axiom 2—Everyone can have joyful, meaningful, and empowering intellectual experiences.
  • Axiom 3—Intellectual inquiry is a powerful, malleable tool that can be shaped and used differently by various communities to serve their needs.
  • Axiom 4—Every student, staff, and faculty member of our community deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.


Below you can download a PDF file of CHID's current brochure. Just click the link and your browser will view it online. If you want to download a copy, right-click the link and choose "Save As," then indicate where you wish to save it on your computer.

CHID Brochure (2016) PDF