The coolest major you’ve never heard of


Jeffrey Barr

Clyde Stats

If you have yet to declare a major, or if you are not satisfied with your current major, then a switch to Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) may be for you. In the Interdisciplinary Studies program, the areas of concentration you focus on is completely up to you.

Assistant Director of Academic Support Services Clyde Stats is not only the driving force behind bringing this program to JSC, but he followed the same style of program when he was a student at the University of Chicago, which the JSC program is modeled after.

At JSC the IDS has replaced the Liberal Arts degree, and this is not just a rebranding to spark interest. According to Stats, there is quite a bit more to it than just a name change. “Liberal Arts degree sounds very general and doesn’t really say much in the title of the degree about the student,” Stats said. “The problem was that the [Liberal Arts] degree didn’t seem to have much internal coherence. Interdisciplinary studies brings with it the connotations that the student has crossed disciplines to study and has some expertise in several areas. We wanted something that was more intentionally connected.”

You cannot simply wake up one morning and change your major to the IDS, you have to be accepted into the program. Acceptance into the program is granted by a committee that consists of both JSC faculty and staff. They meet monthly and that is when the members vote on whether or not to accept the applicant.

The application process starts with consulting your current academic advisor to see if the IDS is right for you. If you decide this is the road, you will then need to identify the three areas you will focus on. Once you have your areas selected you must decide on what courses will fill the requirements for those areas. After you have all of that figured out there is only one hurdle left, the essay.

Your essay must cover why you want this degree, how this degree is going to fill your career and personal goals, why you selected those areas of concentration, and most importantly how they are intrinsically connected. Essays are reviewed by an academic advisor prior to submission to the approval committee to ensure that it meets all criteria, which means you may have to complete several drafts.

There is one other requirement: at least 12 credits must be taken in semesters after the plan is approved. This means that you cannot wait until the spring semester of your senior year to decide that the IDS is in your best interest. So when is a good time to change the degree you are following?

“A good time to change is kind of towards the end of 2nd year, beginning of 3rd year…you’ve usually matured enough and gotten some idea what you may want to do with your degree after you graduate, but you still have time left to make a plan,” Stats said.

The IDS is not for you if your career path requires specific schooling, such as becoming a doctor, but for most that is not the case. “I think there are several advantages…a lot of businesses like majors that are broad, like interdisciplinary studies,” Stats said. “For a lot of occupations the employer is going to train you in the specialized way that they want so a specific degree is not necessarily required.”

No one program is for everyone, and the IDS is no different. It is not, for example,for students who simply cannot decide in what to major. Being self-directed, proactive and disciplined are requirements. Students that really have a weak sense of direction, let’s say, this would not be a good degree for them, They would do better to have a degree where the road ahead for them is mapped out.