What is interdisciplinary studies?

By Rebecca Schweitzer

Have you ever found yourself wanting to pursue a career that’s uniquely your own? One that lives at the intersection of your interests and your aptitudes and combines multiple academic disciplines? If so, interdisciplinary studies at the University of Cincinnati might be right for you.

The Interdisciplinary Studies program, offered through UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, gives you the opportunity to customize your own major program. Through this, you are able to mold a curriculum that fits your individual interests, ranging from areas like the humanities and social sciences, to mathematics and natural sciences.

“The primary focus of the interdisciplinary studies degree is the student,” said undergraduate director John Brolley.

Emily Serger, an interdisciplinary studies undergraduate, has found the major to be the best way for her to blend her interests into a real goal-focused plan.

“Without the interdisciplinary studies program, the realization of both my personal and professional goals would have remained distant and intangible,” Serger said.

Serger said the concept of interdisciplinary studies is the perfect mixture of academic disciplines blended together to generate an entirely new creation dedicated to students finding their academic and professional niches.

Another interdisciplinary studies student, Myrna Borgert, took her coursework as a dietetics major and applied it to an Interdisciplinary Studies major that better suited her personal goals.

“My clusters are nutrition, anthropology and creative writing,” Borgert said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making that trifecta work for me, developing my thoughts and ideas, encouraging my interests and world concerns.”

Due to the personalized approach of the program, opportunities for internships, co-ops and research varies greatly from student to student.

Students interested in gaining work experience during their academic career are supported through internship opportunities or independent study courses. Independent study courses allow students who already hold job positions to apply their academic work to their career. Some students have used their workplaces as basis for senior capstone projects and been offered mentors from their positions.

Students uninterested in co-op or internship opportunities can dedicate themselves to studies in different subject areas that pique their interest while working through their undergraduate degree.

“Interdisciplinary Studies program is an awakening of sorts, in that a nontraditional student like me can have a visceral option to sew together the pieces of an academic career that started several decades ago and has found its way unto today,” Serger said.

Throughout their academic career, students gain career preparation through three points: an introduction to interdisciplinary studies course, mid-career methodology course and final capstone course, said Beckelheimer.

“In the capstone course, students produce an original project that involves research on a problem or issue related to at least two disciplines, as well as mandatory experiential research,” she said. “Students conduct experiential research ranging from conducting interviews or surveys to implementing their own production of data or experiments to producing creative work such as a website or work-related document to interning.”

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