A key characteristic of concentrations within interdisciplinary studies is that they bridge two or more program areas to connect or combine the different perspectives of those areas. These combinations and linkages can be developed by:
Most interdisciplinary concentrations include both types of study.
Some concentrations are interdisciplinary by nature, and already recognized and defined by the scholarly community; examples are environmental studies, cognitive science or Native American studies. Students with such concentrations may wish to examine survey or introductory textbooks and study college catalogs to determine what these known concentrations typically cover.
On the other hand, an interdisciplinary concentration also can be created to match a particular student’s interest. As with all concentrations, it may be focused upon a theme, problem or profession, or on a topic that necessarily includes several disciplines; examples selected from approved student programs include arts management, culinary educational studies, holistic health or writing as therapy. As with all concentrations, the structure of interdisciplinary studies concentrations must meet the college’s expectations of progression and integration:
A common way of establishing a concentration’s integral structure is to:
For example, a professionally oriented interdisciplinary concentration might comprise studies in history, theory and practice; a social science-oriented concentration, borrowing from psychology, might comprise studies in academic methods (e.g., research or evaluation skills), disciplinary surveys, relevant practice skills (e.g., interviewing, counseling, problem solving) and integrated advanced-level studies.
The concentration components also could be content based. For example, a concentration in women’s health could be subdivided into three main areas: studies about women, studies about health and studies that integrate women and health.
Note: Subdivisions of an interdisciplinary concentration are typically not the different disciplines or perspectives that make the concentration interdisciplinary; rather, each subdivision is itself a combination of perspectives.
It is when the subdivisions are combined that the concentration is defined as a whole. In recognition of the importance of the whole, a unique requirement for interdisciplinary concentrations is the inclusion of one study that explicitly integrates the key component parts. In most instances, this integrating study carries the same title as the concentration. Depending upon the student’s needs, it can occur at any time during the student’s studies.
The written rationale also plays an important role in defining the interdisciplinary-studies concentration. To provide an adequate account of the purpose and meaning of the concentration, beside the usual topics, the interdisciplinary rationale also should include:
The following interdisciplinary examples are not prescriptive; these programs could have comprised any number of other studies or types of organization. The left column shows how the structure of the example was conceptualized, and the right column lists those studies that comprise the example components. The integrating study is marked with an asterisk.
In this example, the concentration draws upon studies from science, mathematics and technology, community and human services, human development and cultural studies. Progression is shown by foundation studies in the different disciplines, intermediate- and advanced-level integration studies; the integrating study, women and health, serves to capstone the entire program.
Note: The structure is by content rather than function.
Human Biology Nursing Arts Personal Adjustment Human Development Health Psychology Health Industry in the U.S.
Introduction to Women's Studies Adolescence: Growing up Female Feminist Theory Middle and Old Age: Social Issues for Women
AIDS: Special Issues for Women Mental Health Problems for Women Medical Approaches to Aging: Gender Issues Women and Health: Past and Future
This concentration combines studies from human development and educational studies, along with studies from either business, management and economics or community and human services, depending upon the student's orientation. Progression is shown by foundation studies in psychology, education, communications and human services (or business), and integrated studies that are largely intermediate and advanced.
The integrating study is an intermediate-level survey of the purposes and methods of professional training and development.
Human Development Foundations of Education Basic Communication Skills Overview of Human Services (or Survey of Business Organizations)
Professional Training and Development: Purposes and Methods Adult Development and Learning Workshop Design and Implementation Learning Theory
Program Evaluation Tests and Measurement in Education Statistics
In this example, the concentration draws on studies from community and human services, social theory, social structure and change and human development. Progression is shown by foundation studies in human services, sociology and psychology as well as introductory surveys in criminal justice and corrections, by intermediate and advanced studies in the different areas (e.g., probation and parole) and by advanced integrated studies (e.g., crime and poverty, ethnic issues in corrections).
The integrating study in this program is an introductory survey of the entire field.
Introduction to Criminal Justice Incarceration in America: A History
Theories of Correction Introduction to Sociology Human Behavior Crime and Poverty Ethnic Issues in Corrections Crime and Corrections in the Middle East and Europe
Criminal Law Probation and Parole Program Evaluation Statistics Internship: Division For Youth
Note: A criminal justice concentration also could be designed to fit within the community and human services program area or as a specialty of sociology within the social theory, social structure and change program area.
Students select the interdisciplinary studies program area for their associate degrees for at least two very different reasons.
Although single-column programs are not organized around a concentration or focus, they still have an order or an underlying organizational plan. The purpose of these programs is to introduce the student to a broad spectrum of studies that illustrate different (often conflicting) concerns, perspectives and methods of higher education's academic disciplines. At the same time, the program can include foundation studies in areas that interest the student, in particular his or her projected concentration for the bachelor's degree (assuming it is known), and associated fields, regardless of whether they fall within an existing discipline.
In designing these programs students need to explore and understand the meaning of a broad spectrum of studies. Traditionally, breadth is defined by including in a program a minimum of two or three studies from each of the broad areas of the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences and mathematics.
A slightly different way of defining breadth might be to include a couple of studies from each of a number of Empire State College's different program areas.
The traditional approach will ensure that students will be introduced to a number of existing disciplines (such as psychology or history); the program-area approach also will introduce students to subject areas where several disciplines are explicitly combined (such as women's studies or environmental science). Although both approaches, alone or in combination, are appropriate, they are by no means the only way of conceptualizing breadth. The key requirement is that once students determine how breadth is to be achieved in their program, they must explain it in their written rationale. They need to describe how their interpretation of breadth meets their own particular needs and purposes and how it provides underlying structure to their program. Thus, the rationale becomes as important a part of the associate degree program as the actual selection of studies.
Revised May 1995