Sample Majors: Interdisciplinary Studies and Disciplinary Studies

The curriculum fosters learning communities of students and faculty whose intellectual interactions revolve around two groups: (1) The interdisciplinary community, which spans laterally a variety of disciplines. To the big questions at the core of each interdisciplinary community will be deployed a variety of disciplines, voices, viewpoints and expertise, usually also from a variety of divisions. The deep expertise brought to bear on discussion will be provided by both faculty and advanced students. (2) The disciplinary specialization, which is akin to, or even entirely aligned to, a traditional vertical discipline. From this community comes the training in the methods, knowledge, and skills of a specific discipline.   Individual courses that belong to an interdisciplinary community or disciplinary specialization may be taken at various stages of a students’ career. But the interdisciplinary community comes first in a student’s overall development – it provides a broad intellectual home and is followed by more specialized work.

The dual structure is also flexible, to accommodate a variety of student goals and outcomes. Some students might choose to pursue a less deep path in the disciplinary specialization while focusing more on developing broad expertise in the questions underlying the interdisciplinary community— and in that case the outcome can be a powerful kind of integrative education for students whose goal is not graduate school or specialized study, which is where a great many careers and life paths lie. This approach allows for a highly integrative, team-based approach to problem solving and knowledge acquisition. For students oriented towards graduate study, the integrative and out-looking approach in the interdisciplinary community broadens and enriches their deeper specialist expertise, which will be increasingly attractive to 21st century graduate admissions committees. A student with deep expertise who also has interacted in a significant, deep way with an interdisciplinary group focused on big questions will be more, not less, appealing to graduate schools or other specialty pursuits.  For certain disciplines, students oriented towards graduate school may also need to use some electives, guided independent studies, online courses and Study Abroad courses to deepen expertise beyond the seven courses required for the disciplinary specialization.

Sample Majors:

  • material science with a focus in physics
  • political economy with a focus in political science
  • environmental science with a focus in chemistry
  • environmental science with a focus in public policy
  • global health with a focus in public policy
  • global health with a focus in biology
  • global China studies with a focus in history
  • applied mathematics with a focus in computation


Sample Majors: Interdisciplinary and Disciplinary Components