What is interdisciplinary studies?

Take a look into UC’s undergraduate program to see if it’s right for you

By Rebecca Schweitzer

Have you ever found yourself wanting to pursue a career that’s uniquely your own? One that lives at the intersection of your interests and your aptitudes and combines multiple academic disciplines? If so, interdisciplinary studies at the University of Cincinnati might be right for you.

The Interdisciplinary Studies program, offered through UC's College of Arts and Sciences, gives you the opportunity to customize your own major program. Through this, you are able to mold a curriculum that fits your individual interests, ranging from areas like the humanities and social sciences, to mathematics and natural sciences. 

“The primary focus of the interdisciplinary studies degree is the student,” said undergraduate director John Brolley. 

Take from a student in the program

Emily Serger, an interdisciplinary studies undergraduate, has found the major to be the best way for her to blend her interests into a real goal-focused plan. 

“Without the interdisciplinary studies program, the realization of both my personal and professional goals would have remained distant and intangible,” Serger said.

Serger said the concept of interdisciplinary studies is the perfect mixture of academic disciplines blended together to generate an entirely new creation dedicated to students finding their academic and professional niches.

The beauty of studying multiple disciplines is that students are preparing themselves with both hard and soft skills to work in a variety of settings.

Lisa Beckelheimer, Interdisciplinary Professor

Another interdisciplinary studies student, Myrna Borgert, took her coursework as a dietetics major and applied it to an Interdisciplinary Studies major that better suited her personal goals. 

“My clusters are nutrition, anthropology and creative writing,” Borgert said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making that trifecta work for me, developing my thoughts and ideas, encouraging my interests and world concerns.”

Real-world experience

Due to the personalized approach of the program, opportunities for internships, co-ops and research varies greatly from student to student.

Students interested in gaining work experience during their academic career are supported through internship opportunities or independent study courses. Independent study courses allow students who already hold job positions to apply their academic work to their career. Some students have used their workplaces as basis for senior capstone projects and been offered mentors from their positions. 

Students uninterested in co-op or internship opportunities can dedicate themselves to studies in different subject areas that pique their interest while working through their undergraduate degree. 

“Interdisciplinary Studies program is an awakening of sorts, in that a nontraditional student like me can have a visceral option to sew together the pieces of an academic career that started several decades ago and has found its way unto today,” Serger said. 

Career and graduate study possibilities

UC Interdisciplinary professor Lisa Beckelheimer

UC Interdisciplinary professor Lisa Beckelheimer

Because of the mix-and-match nature of interdisciplinary studies, students have a wide number of academic paths to pursue. Graduates from the program have forged careers in management, entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, videography and digital media, just to name a few. 

“The beauty of studying multiple disciplines is that students are preparing themselves with a variety of both hard and soft skills to work in a variety of settings. Students can determine their own paths with their choice of disciplines,” said Lisa Beckelheimer, interdisciplinary studies capstone professor.

This also enables the degree to be a perfect fit for non-traditional students like Wesley Banks, who are looking to complete their degrees. Banks returned to UC after a decades-long break, and through Interdisciplinary Studies was able to craft a degree for himself out of all the fields he found himself interested in pursuing. 

Notable classes

Throughout their academic career, students gain career preparation through three points: an introduction to interdisciplinary studies course, mid-career methodology course and final capstone course, said Beckelheimer. 

“In the capstone course, students produce an original project that involves research on a problem or issue related to at least two disciplines, as well as mandatory experiential research,” she said. “Students conduct experiential research ranging from conducting interviews or surveys to implementing their own production of data or experiments to producing creative work such as a website or work-related document to interning.”

Take it from a graduate

UC Interdisciplinary graduate Rachel Baker, who blended her study between humanities and the sciences.

UC Interdisciplinary graduate Rachel Baker, who blended her study between humanities and the sciences.

Rachel Baker graduated from Interdisciplinary studies in spring, 2021, and currently works as a clinical research coordinator. She attributes her blended study of humanities and science to be one of the most helpful things to her current career. 

“I have the historical background to understand many of my patients’ concerns, and the scientific background to understand the needs of the doctors that I work with,” Baker said.

“The program also allowed me plenty of opportunities to be a teacher’s assistant and to do my own independent research,” she said. “This has led me towards applying to PhD programs in Interdisciplinary Studies with the hopes of doing more research that I’m interested in, and hopefully being able to teach in the future.” 

Featured image at top: Students gathered. Credit/Pixabay