Mix-and-match major popular

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | JULY 09, 2009 7:21 AM

Students in the interdepartmental studies department can major in arts management, Romany studies, and even human rights.

And with the inclusion of three pre-approved interdepartmental-studies tracks, the program has rapidly grown from 17 students in 2006 to 834 last semester.

UI junior Megan Slach is one of them.

She likes the program because she has “no idea” what she wants to do after graduation, she said.

“With this major, it lets me have more options and stuff I can do,” she said.

She studies the recreation-management track, a mix of business and recreation studies.

“It is a good major to get into if you don’t really know what to do, and it is really easy to get a good job,” Slach said.

Business studies and health science are the other pre-approved tracks, which didn’t exist prior to 2007.

Before then, interdepartmental studies had fewer than 20 students, each following an individual plan.

Students can still follow individualized plans in the program, developing their own course lists with the help of a faculty mentor. The lists are later reviewed by a seven-member advisory committee that sees the student periodically.

Even with the addition of the tracks and the corresponding increase in popularity, interdepartmental studies still officially has only one faculty member. That man, David Gould, does not personally advise, or even necessarily meet, the hundreds of students in his program. He primarily works with the students following individual plans.

Those on the pre-approved tracks, however, are advised by the Academic Advising Center.

“We have the advising resources in order to do this,” said Pat Folsom, the director of the center. “I think it is a great program, personally.”

Gould agreed, saying the interdepartmental-studies students have “initiative, creativity, focus.”

“These are students that are intellectually curious,” he said. “We don’t have a traditional major that does what they want.”

The students who take the preapproved tracks may be students who were rejected from their intended course of study in selective programs, such as the Tippie Business School, for example, because of grades lower than the 2.75 requirement.

“There is nothing wrong with that — that is a perfectly fine student,” Gould said. “They begin to have a shrinking pool of options, and they were becoming very frustrated.”

And the program seems to relieve this frustration, said Gould, who noted that a recent survey of seniors in the program contained incredibly positive responses.

Now that the track programs have grown dramatically, he wants to focus on the individual plans of study.

Folsom, noting the specific-track program’s beginning just three years ago, said there is plenty of room for fine-tuning.

She said, “This is a program in the beginning.”

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