The interdisciplinary studies (IDST) major, designed by the student and the student’s faculty advisor, is intended for students who wish to develop a major different from those already offered by the departments and curricula belonging to the College of Arts and Sciences.
An IDST major has more focus than many of the more traditional majors and therefore should not be seen as a default major for someone undecided about their course of study. The IDST major must be well conceived and substantially different from majors that students pursue through traditional departments, schools, and curricula. It is not intended to provide a path that parallels existing majors, nor is it intended to replicate courses of study in the professional schools. The Advisory Board strongly discourages double majors in the IDST program, since focused study in one field is the best path to advancement.
All IDST students must identify a faculty advisor who, in the absence of a department and a director of undergraduate studies, will serve as their mentor on course selections, career planning, graduate work, and advanced study. Students are strongly encouraged to meet all of the General Education Foundations and Approaches requirements before pursuing the IDST major.
In the past, students have designed their own majors in such varied fields as medieval studies, food studies, arts management, medical geography, neuroscience, healthcare policy, medical humanities, cultural studies, behavioral finance, urban studies, documentary studies, computational physics, and enthnobotany.
To pursue the IDST major, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 and at least 45 hours left before graduation (approximately three semesters of coursework). The degree program consists of eight courses, which must be chosen from at least three departments (with a maximum of four courses from any one department) and which must be appropriate for juniors and seniors majoring in those departments. The courses should form a coherent major to which the student is able to assign a title. Additionally, students are encouraged to select electives and General Education courses that complement the eight courses chosen for the major.
For more information, please see the current edition of the Undergraduate Catalog.
To pursue the IDST major, contact James Thompson, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Curricula and Interdisciplinary Studies Program Director, with a draft of your proposal and a preliminary course list.
IDST proposals take the form of a narrative, in about 2 single-spaced pages. The first section explains how you became engaged in this area and why other conventional majors won’t suit your needs. The second part, the largest, explains in some detail the 8 courses that make up your major, and how they form a coherent course of study. The last section explains what you hope to do with these skills upon graduation.
After reviewing the preliminary proposal, the Program Director will schedule a meeting with you to discuss your next steps, including finding a faculty sponsor to endorse your proposed major.
Research, Internship, and Honors Opportunities
IDST students may participate in the undergraduate research opportunities available in the departments and curricula that constitute their program of study; they sometimes complete an internship either in the summer or during the academic year, and an honors thesis in their senior year. Qualified students may pursue honors through one of the departments or curricula included in their major core.
Because an IDST major lacks a formal Department, the major has no Director of Undergraduate Studies with whom to consult. The role of an IDST Faculty Advisor is twofold: to help the student develop their IDST 8-course major program, and to be available for advice if it becomes necessary to adjust the major program — if needed courses are not available, or more appropriate courses become available. The advisor may also advise the major on a senior honors thesis if the student decides to pursue one.
The IDST program is directed by the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Curricula in conjunction with an Advisory Board, representing the three divisions of the College. The Board reads and approves all proposals, and initiates any policy changes, with the Associate Dean serving as initial advisor.