Interdisciplinary Studies

Each year, some of our strongest students create majors that more appropriately address their academic interests and future plans than do existing majors.  By combining courses from existing departments, students have the opportunity to construct an interdisciplinary major that has internal topical coherence, as exemplified below.

In the words of 2008 graduate Angela Meisterling Billman:

Angela Meisterling Billman
Angela Meisterling Billman

“I started at Coe as a math major and by the strong urgings of my statistics teacher (and advisor), decided to attend the Summer Institute in Biostatistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The amazing six week program re-shaped my career goals and gave me an exciting new direction to take my studies. I really wanted to try to incorporate biostatistics into my education as a second major even though it wasn't listed as a traditional major. The idea was slightly ludicrous, as I was in the middle of my junior year and hadn't taken any science courses at all (of course BIOstatistics requires a deeper understanding of BIOlogy, genetics, anatomy, etc.). With only one and a half years left to squeeze in 5 science courses and their respective labs, I approached my advisor with the request. His immediate response was to grab the list of course offerings and a calendar and, together, we found a way to make it happen. Working outside of the typical system was challenging at times, as it was often necessary to skip necessary pre-requisites to get at the classes that really play a part in biostats. However, all of my professors were extremely encouraging and supportive. They wanted me to succeed and were thrilled to help me achieve my goal. By adding on an interdisciplinary major in biostats, I was able to show graduate school admissions departments that I was serious and excited about my academic endeavors. I feel strongly that having this major on my resume got me into the biostats department at the University of Iowa where I, later, received my Masters degree. Looking back on my experience at Coe, the ability to create an interdisciplinary major was indicative of my entire experience. The professors and staff at Coe are eager and excited to help students make their education whatever they want it to be, whether that falls within the confines of a traditional major or not. I feel extremely fortunate to have lived and learned in such a supportive environment where opportunity in education comes first.”

Other examples of recent Interdisciplinary Majors include:

  • Kathryn McBride graduated magna cum laude in 2006 with a major in History and an interdisciplinary major in Ancient Mediterranean Studies.   Kathryn took courses in four languages (Latin, Greek, French and Spanish) Classics, Art history and Anthropology, and spent a semester at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.  Kathryn earned an MA in Classics from the University of Arizona, has done a good deal of archaeological field work in Greece, has taught Classics at a community college in Tuscon, and was recently admitted to the prestigious Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World Ph.D. Program in Classics at Brown University.   She is currently conducting field work at the Mt. Lykaion Archaeological Project in Arcadia, Greece.
  • 2010 graduates Vaclav Shatillo and Heidi Reynolds constructed majors in Classical Studies to supplement their History majors.  Both students studied Latin and Greek as part of the interdisciplinary major, but each chose additional courses focused on their areas of interest and postgraduate plans.  Vaclav’s courses included Ancient Mythology and Western Masterworks, and he spent a semester in Athens studying archaeology and sharpening his language skills.  Heidi’s interests tended more toward the arts and philosophy, and her interdisciplinary major included classes in Ancient Greek Philosophy and Ancient Art History.   Vaclav is currently a graduate student in Classics at the University of Arizona, eventually looking to earn his Ph.D. in Classics
  • Emily Cameron, class of 2012, constructed a Film Studies interdisciplinary major by combining courses from Coe’s English, Theatre and Art departments.  While most of these courses were regular Coe catalog courses, she also has been able to take directed study courses in film history and short filmmaking with Coe faculty who have expertise in these areas.  Emily studied Thai Cinema during a semester in Asia, and will complete an internship in film through Coe’s New York term in the spring of 2012.
  • Jacob Breitbach, class of 2012, created an Integrative Physiology major to maximize his post graduate options in the fields of exercise research, sports medicine, physical therapy, health and fitness or nutrition.  He will graduate with a Biology major, and has included courses in Chemistry, Physical Education and Physics to complete the interdisciplinary major.
  • Summa cum laude graduate Kelly Carlblom, class of 2010, completed a major in Global Developmental Studies by taking courses in Political Science (e.g., International Development, International Organizations), Economics (e.g., Comparative Economic Systems, Economic Development. International Economics) and Sociology (e.g., Social Conflict and Social Change).  Part of Kelly’s major involved a term in Washington, D.C. where she completed an internship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • Several students in the past five years have proposed and completed Interdisciplinary majors in Sports Management by taking courses in the Business and Physical Education departments.  Depending on their areas of interest, students have included coursework in Psychology, Sociology, Biology and/or Economics.
Specific guidelines for the Interdisciplinary major can be found here.