In the kitchen, it's easy to turn contrasts into winning pairings. (Oil and vinegar; soup and sandwiches, etc.) But can we bring that same mix-and-match sensibility into the classroom? Some fascinating work in this area is being sponsored by The Teagle Foundation in New York, which is encouraging professors to add a liberal-arts twist to classes with a business, engineering or science dimension.   

I got a chance Friday to sit in on a panel discussion in which Teagle grant recipients shared their approaches. Among the presenters was Purdue University historian Melinda Zook, who talked about the way her school's "Transformative Texts" classes are drawing science majors into literature via a carefully customized reading list. Books such as Mary Wollstonecraft's "Frankenstein" and Charles Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle" do double duty, she observed.

How far-ranging can these pairings be? Jeff Nesteruk, a professor at Franklin & Marshall College, cited Entrepreneurship and Improvisational Dance as an offbeat fusion that somehow succeeded. Hey, if nibblers can enjoy chocolate-covered popcorn, why not?