Interdisciplinary studies offers alternatives
Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 18:07
Out of more than 200 programs offered at UCF, interdisciplinary studies ranked in the top 10 of most popular majors for the 2008-2009 school year.
The program is composed of about 1,600 students, including 25 graduate students. Once known as the College of Liberal Studies, the school underwent an overhaul and name change following a program review during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Michael D. Hampton, a UCF faculty member since 1981, was brought on as the interim director in fall 2007. Since becoming the permanent director a year later, he has been working to enhance the students' educational experience.
"This is a high-level program, and I was brought in to raise the level even more and help redesign it, continue the process to help make it a nationally-recognized program," Hampton said.
Students majoring in interdisciplinary studies currently have three tracks for their degree: interdisciplinary studies, environmental studies and women's studies.
"We used to have a liberal arts track … but it wasn't very popular anymore, and one reason is you could do honors in the major, which was essentially the same thing," Hampton said. "We also had a nanoscience track that's now suspended. That was a course availability thing."
About 95 percent of interdisciplinary studies majors choose the interdisciplinary studies track, consisting of two areas of concentration, two core courses and a minor.
According to the UCF Interdisciplinary Studies Web site, this allows students to tailor programs that meet their interests and inform their goals.
Vishal Dave, a junior majoring in communication sciences and disorders, is looking to switch to interdisciplinary studies because he feels combining communication sciences with a business concentration will help him to realize his dream of opening a private speech therapy practice.
"Both of those things will help me, definitely," Dave said. "It will give me the idea of how to run a business rather than how to do it myself."
Though more arts and humanities majors switch over to interdisciplinary studies, Hampton said the college has been working on expanding the science side.
"I'm a chemist — that's what I was brought here to do," Hampton said, "just to convert it from right-brain to full-brain."
Another one of Hampton's goals is to orient more freshmen into the program.
"We have around 50 in the program right now, but I want more," Hampton said.
Gabrielle Swaby was one of those oriented freshmen. Swaby, now a sophomore, is on the environmental studies track through interdisciplinary studies, an interest she credits to a high school class.
"I took a class in high school, environmental science, and I fell in love with it," Swaby said. "I'm studying about the earth and how the earth is in jeopardy because of humans and their actions, and we in environmental science see several methods that can be put in place to fix this."
Swaby is also majoring in French, which she hopes will facilitate her goal of working for the United Nations' environmental program as a French correspondent.
"With that I'll hopefully be able to travel, which has always been a dream of mine," Swaby said.
While there is a certain stigma attached to interdisciplinary studies and liberal arts programs in general — the student could be considered a jack-of-all-trades but master of none — Hampton doesn't see it that way.
"Up in New England, liberal arts degrees are really cherished because they are typically at private colleges, and they are some of the hardest degrees on campus," Hampton said.
Senior Ashley Lee, who is on the women's studies track, agreed the degree is worthwhile.
"Nowadays, you don't have a very good chance of getting a job in any study, so do what you love," Lee said.
Interdisciplinary studies majors can get any job, Hampton said, because they could "put together whatever's needed for the task."
"If you look at the structure of a lot of companies, the people who are managing the larger group of people accomplishing a task are going be the interdisciplinary types," Hampton said. "They have the broad view to be able to do that."