Interdisciplinary Studies

Georgetown College offers an A.B. or B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies.

The Interdisciplinary Studies Major is a key part of the College of Arts & Science’s strategy to enhance undergraduate research and to support interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems.  The College has awarded a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (AB-IDST) for the last several decades.  Students in the Major design their own academic programs around big research questions, guided by two College faculty mentors and a dean, who leads the program. 

Interdisciplinary Studies Majors integrate methods and ways of knowing from distinct disciplines in order to approach meaningful and insistent questions. As Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former Father General of the Society of Jesus, has noted, the interdisciplinary approach is “the only significant way to heal the fracture of knowledge” that results from the separation and isolation of the work of the disciplines.  Majors develop their plan and approach to their research with the guidance of their advisors.  The thesis project may be a traditional written thesis or may be an experimental or creative project (with the approval of support of the faculty advisors and the Program Director).

The Interdisciplinary Studies (IDST) major is normally developed during the sophomore year with the aid of faculty from the disciplines to be integrated and in consultation with the Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Major, Dr. Bernie Cook. Sophomore applicants must have completed the majority of their Core requirements.

A viable proposal for an IDST major must demonstrate true interdisciplinary by spanning two or more fields in the College. A full-time faculty member from each of the anchoring departments or programs must be involved as a major advisor and thesis reader. The relevant department chair or program director must support the commitment of each faculty advisor to guide the major’s curricular and research choices.

The proposal should include a brief 1–2 page introduction to the proposed topic that justifies the major and outlines the research questions that guides the project and the course of study.  Prospective IDST majors should review and complete the application available on the Georgetown College website.   In consultation with the faculty advisors and the IDST Director, the student should identify 12–14 courses of instruction from College departments or programs that deliver breadth and depth in the disciplines to be explored.  The student must enroll in at least one capstone course/thesis tutorial course and must complete a thesis deemed satisfactory by the faculty advisors.

Requirements for the A.B. or B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies

12-14 courses as approved by the IDST Director (Dean Cook) and the two Faculty Advisors who commit to the major proposal

  • a maximum of 4 introductory courses appropriate to the proposed major
  • 4 intermediate courses 
  • at least 4 upper-level courses (from the disciplines being integrated)
  • Two 1-credit courses: IDST-3030: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Research (fall of junior year) & IDST-4950: Interdisciplinary Thesis Research (fall of senior year)
  • capstone course or senior seminar
  • senior thesis

The curriculum structure should include a maximum of 4 introductory courses appropriate for the proposed major,  4 courses at the intermediate level (usually 2000-3000 level), and at least 4 upper-level courses (including both theoretical and practical approaches)  from the disciplines involved, and a capstone course or senior seminar. Permission for study abroad must be received from the faculty mentors and the IDST Director (Dean Cook), and the student must make a strong case for the relation between study abroad and the self-designed major.  Study abroad unrelated to the major will not be approved. The IDST Major must be pursued over four semesters (early graduation is not possible with the IDST Major).  A senior thesis that integrates the curriculum pursued is required. IDST Majors are expected to present their thesis work publicly during the spring of their senior year.

Applications for the Interdisciplinary Studies major program should be made in the spring of the sophomore year to the office of the Dean of the College. Expression of interest must be made via email to Dr. Cook by February 1. The final proposal is due by March 1. The student should submit the proposal with signatures of the faculty advisors as well as the appropriate department chairs or program directors. The application is available on the College’s website. Dean Bernie Cook will review and approve interdisciplinary major proposals in consultation with the proposed faculty advisors.

Students approved for an Interdisciplinary major will fulfill the University’s core requirement in Integrated Writing through their capstone course or senior seminar and through the mentored production of an integrated thesis project.