Students craft personalized degrees with interdisciplinary studies major

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Students craft personalized degrees with interdisciplinary studies major

Amber Stutz portrait taken by Rachel Sartain. Greenville, SC, BJU, Rachel Sartain

Students interested in two or three fields could study multiple majors, but if they want to learn how to make several majors work together, they may want to consider majoring in interdisciplinary studies. 

According to BJU’s website, BJU’s interdisciplinary studies’ program allows you to combine two or more disciplines to form a major unique to you. 

This is different from double majoring or majoring and minoring, since a student is able to create a schedule that blends two disciplines together.  This flexibility does not go unchecked, though, according to Dr. Doug Garland, the interdisciplinary studies adviser. 

Garland said students must get their class schedules approved in advance. “[The students] choose their disciplines, and they choose courses.” said Garland. “They have to get a couple of faculty members to sign off on what they’ve done.”

For Rebecca Duke, one of six current interdisciplinary studies majors, this flexibility was majorly beneficial when she chose to combine the disciplines of zoo and wildlife biology and voice performance. 

Duke hopes to be a veterinarian but decided to combine her zoo and wildlife biology studies with vocal performance. She was advised to study something unique so she could stand out on her application to veterinary schools. 

She originally majored in zoo and wildlife studies and minored in music, but this did not allow her to focus on the main part of music she was interested in. 

When she switched to interdisciplinary studies, she was able to take voice specific classes and sidestep some additional theory classes that would not be as beneficial to her specific study. 

“You do organize your own checksheet, so it’s not like you’re doing necessarily all the classes that would be required [of each major],” Duke said.  

Duke said that one reason interdisciplinary studies was a better choice for her than double majoring was the credit load reduction. “I didn’t have to try to double major in two things in their entirety,” Duke said.

If Duke had double majored in both zoo and wildlife studies (48 credit hours) and voice performance (69 credit hours), she would have had a combined total of 117 credit hours. This would not have allowed Duke to graduate in the timeframe she wanted to.

Because interdisciplinary studies can combine several focuses into one major, it can be especially beneficial for Christians; for example, it’s the perfect major to combine religious studies with secular studies. If someone wanted to become a nutritionist but also wanted to be able to counsel their patients from a biblical perspective, they could combine the majors of nutrition and biblical counseling. 

This is exactly what Kendra Schmitt decided to do. “My goal is to become a dietetic technician, which is more nutrition [and] health science than it is counseling, as biblical counseling,” Schmitt said. “But even in secular nutrition jobs, they like their employees to have counseling background so they can help counsel their patients and clients.”

If a student is interested in majoring in interdisciplinary studies, he or she must complete 30 credits (usually before or around the beginning of a student’s sophomore year) while maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

Doug Garland, the adviser for the interdisciplinary studies major, said that the major has two required classes: introduction to interdisciplinary studies and the interdisciplinary studies capstone.

Introduction to interdisciplinary studies teaches students how to combine majors effectively, and the students by the end of the class must submit a proposal for a potential capstone project.

This capstone project is due the second semester of the student’s senior year. In this project, they must show how they combined their majors and how it will be useful in their future career.  This major requires direction and responsibility on the students’ part. 

Amber Stutz combined the majors business, criminal justice and behavioral sciences because she has an interest in working with victims of sex trafficking. Before Stutz joined interdisciplinary studies, she was majoring in international studies, which she found was not the right fit for what she wanted to do in the future.

Stutz went on a BJU mission trip to the Dominican Republic to work with sex trafficking victims. There, all the speakers and missionaries that Stutz worked with kept saying they wished they could have had a more well-rounded education in college. Their field had multi-faceted problems that could not be solved by someone who was an expert in just a singular study. 

Other members of the BJU mission team told the group that BJU may have a solution to this problem the missionaries were speaking about; BJU was implementing an interdisciplinary studies program.  

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s great! This looks like just what I’m looking for,’” Stutz said. “So, I came back to the University and inquired about it and started the program.”

Stutz said you must be hardworking and self-motivated because interdisciplinary studies is a self-propelled major; because of that, there are high expectations to reach.