The Office of Undergraduate Curricula houses the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDST) major. This major, designed by the student and their faculty advisor, is intended for students who wish to develop a major different from those already offered in the College of Arts and Sciences. An IDST major requires considerably more preparation and academic focus than many of the more traditional majors, and should not be seen as a default for someone undecided about their course of study. The major should be well conceived and substantially different from majors available in traditional departments, and should not parallel existing majors or replicate courses of study in the professional schools. Students are strongly encouraged to meet all the General Education Foundations and Approaches requirements before pursuing an IDST major.
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. The Advisory Board strongly discourages double majors in the IDST program, since focused study in one field is considered sufficient for advancement. In the past, students have designed majors in such varied fields as medieval studies, food studies, arts management, medical geography, healthcare policy, medical humanities, cultural studies, behavioral finance, computational physics and ethnobotany.
Students must have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 and have at least 45 hours left before graduation (approximately three semesters of coursework). The IDST degree consists of eight courses, which must be chosen from at least three departments, with a maximum of four courses from any one department. All eight courses must be appropriate for juniors and seniors majoring in those departments. The courses should form a coherent plan of study to which the student is able to assign a title. Additionally, students are encouraged to select electives and General Education (Gen Ed) courses that complement the eight major courses.
More information can be found in the current edition of the University Catalog.
Students interested in pursuing an IDST major should contact James Thompson, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Curricula and the Interdisciplinary Studies Program Director, with a draft proposal and preliminary course list. Students are strongly encouraged to utilize the Historical Course Record when designing their course list, to ensure all their preliminary courses are readily available.
IDST proposals take the form of a narrative, roughly two single-spaced pages in length, with three sections. The first section explains how you became engaged in this area and why other conventional majors won’t suit your needs. The second section, the largest, explains in some detail the eight 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.
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: first, to help the student develop their IDST 8-course major program and second, 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.
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.
Senior Honors Thesis
Qualified interdisciplinary studies majors may pursue a senior honors thesis through one of two routes.
- You may pursue a senior honors thesis through one of the departments or curricula included in your major core (permission must be granted by the department or curricula). Please consult with your thesis advisor and their academic unit for additional instructions.
- You may pursue a senior honors thesis directly through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.
- Once you have received approval to pursue a senior honors thesis and have a thesis advisor, you may log into the Online Learning Contract Manager (OLCM) with your thesis advisor – or after consulting with them – to complete and submit a learning contract for IDST 691H (see here for examples of questions that are going to be on the online contract form). Once you log in, please be sure the term is correct and the unit is Undergraduate Education. If you do not see your instructor/advisor listed, you can search for them within a list of all CAS faculty (Checkbox = Check if instructor is not on the list). See OLCM student help document for more detailed instructions. Please be sure to submit this learning contract by the fifth day of classes in the semester in which you intend to do the IDST 691H thesis work. Upon approval of your contract by your advisor and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Curricula, you may begin your thesis work.
- If approved to continue your senior honors thesis for a second semester, you would log into the OLCM to complete a learning contract for IDST 692H. Please be sure to submit this learning contract by the fifth day of classes for the semester in which you intend to do the IDST 692H thesis work. The review and approval workflow for the IDST 692H learning contract is identical to that of the IDST 691H process in the prior semester.
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.
Questions about the major can be directed to Associate Dean James Thompson.
Questions about registering for the Senior Honors Thesis can be directed to First-Year Curriculum Specialist, Ben Haven.