My Experience with Interdisciplinary Studies

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Isabel Layne

In the summer of 2017, I arrived at my orientation as a first-year student at Plymouth State University already thinking about joining the Interdisciplinary Studies department. My mother, who has worked for universities my whole life listened to my grief regarding applying to schools and declaring a major. She supported my decision to start a degree and major that would grow and change alongside evolving interests and specific fields of study. That summer she had introduced to me the idea of Interdisciplinary Studies, a degree that would allow me to design my undergraduate program based on my interests and experiences. After meeting with the incredible Interdisciplinary Studies staff, I was determined to build a program of my own. 

What Students Should Know about Interdisciplinary Studies?

I would first like to say that the benefit of an Interdisciplinary Degree is not just in the ability to self-design a program of study but also the fact that it most closely mirrors how we live and work beyond an academic bubble. After university, we are required to work in combination with all the knowledge and skills we have learned through our experiences and education. By designing an interdisciplinary degree, where one discipline works in combination with another, this integration of knowledge and skills becomes inherent within your degree.

This integrative approach to higher education makes an interdisciplinary studies student more marketable to future pursuits in academia, and the workplace. Interdisciplinary Studies is often described as a “general studies” degree; however, this moniker is quite misleading. Instead of a traditional degree where you are often required to follow the path prescribed by your major, Interdisciplinary Studies allows you to pick classes that are more likely to line up with the things you want to study. Thanks to that flexibility, I was able to build a curriculum combining various courses from cultural studies, criminal justice, history, political science, and sociology, among other disciplines to build an interdisciplinary degree that would allow me to address the complexities of peacebuilding, conflict, and human rights.

Who is best suited for an Interdisciplinary Studies degree?

An Interdisciplinary Studies degree is a great option for disciplined and creative thinkers. This degree allows them to explore and make connections between a wide variety of ideas, methods, and ways of thinking. An Interdisciplinary degree requires that you incorporate two or more disciplines. This allows students to apply knowledge gained in one field to improve their comprehension of subject matter in another.

I found that this major is great for students who, like me, had specific interests that might not necessarily be met through a more traditional degree path. As an Interdisciplinary Studies student, I was able to better understand current and historical conflicts by simultaneously studying the politics, history, and culture of the region. So, if you are a student like me who is looking for an undergraduate degree that is more specialized, or you are looking for a degree that can combine your interest in multiple disciplines, then I think Interdisciplinary Studies is the right place for you.

A Final Note to those thinking of an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree

The Interdisciplinary Studies department has been my home for 3.5 years, and thanks to the professors, and mentors I have met along the way I have grown into a determined and impassioned life-long learner. The Interdisciplinary Studies degree has changed me from a passive recipient of knowledge to an active contributor to the learning process. Through building my own major and all the opportunities it opened for me, I take pride in what I created at Plymouth State University. I hope more students can find what they are passionate about, and I hope that an Interdisciplinary Studies major could help them do that.

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