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Designing Your Proposal

How to Design Your Multidisciplinary Studies Concentration Proposal

Every multidisciplinary studies major must complete a “Multidisciplinary Studies Concentration Proposal Form” and submit it to Interdisciplinary Programs (HH 291) within one semester of admission to the program. When you declare the major it should be one of the first things you begin to work on.

Every Multidisciplinary Studies degree is a little bit different from every other multidisciplinary studies degree. The function of your proposal is to determine what exactly is YOUR degree going to be like. Your proposal has two main parts: a statement of purpose and a list of courses. These two parts are intended to work together, and should clearly fit together and inspire each other.

Designing Your Statement of Purpose

Your rationale is a few paragraphs explaining why you are a multidisciplinary studies major, what you hope to learn in the process of taking the courses in your course list, and how you see the courses you are proposing taking being linked together and motivated.

For the rest of your life, many people will ask you “Why did you chose Multidisciplinary Studies?” or “What does that mean?” You will hear this question from relatives, friends, and potential employers. It is vital that you have a good answer to give them. If the best you can do is mumble and say “well it seemed like a good idea at the time” they will not be favorably impressed by you. Your rationale is a chance to begin practicing how to give a good answer that you can be proud of to these very basic questions that you will hear a lot.

Begin by sitting down and thinking honestly about the questions. Why DO you want to get a multidisciplinary studies major, instead of an english, or business, or life sciences major? What is your motivation? What can multidisciplinary studies do that other programs cannot quite accomplish, in your case?

Many people who ask you this question will be a little skeptical about the value of your degree. They know what an english degree, or a business, or life sciences degree is, and what they are good for. But they aren’t quite certain what a multidisciplinary studies degree is. Find a way of explaining how YOUR multidisciplinary studies plan hangs together and makes sense.

One thing you must do is develop a brief title for the concentration you are proposing. When you graduate your diploma and transcripts will say that your degree is in “multidisciplinary studies: XXX”, where XXX is whatever brief title you choose.      

Once you have thought carefully through the issues, write a few paragraphs to explain your proposal. You may need to summarize, you’ll find you need to do that a lot in the future. The rationale is to practice boiling your arguments down into brief main points. Feel free to edit your rationale several times until it says just exactly what you what it to say, as succinctly and eloquently as you can manage.

Be sure to address how you see your courses being connected, what you hope to learn, and your motivation for taking this concentration. You may want to discuss why some other obvious major is not a better choice for you than multidisciplinary studies. 

Example Rationales:

 #1: Concentration: Religious Studies

         I am hoping to go into the ministry after completing my schooling.  I plan to go to a seminary after finishing my undergraduate degree, but I’m not sure which seminary I will go to yet.  Unfortunately, ISU does not offer a degree in Religious Studies, or any other degree that really caters to the goals of pre-ministry student.

         So I decided to design my own concentration in Multidisciplinary Studies that would combine the thing I think I am going to need to learn to do well in the Seminary, and later as a minister.  I am taking a number of philosophy classes, and both of the religions classes offered at ISU, because I’ve been told these will help me prepare for the Seminary.  I am also taking a few courses in social work and in psychology (including the Psychology of Religion), because I think I will need these when I am a minister.  I have tried to also include a few classes on history as it relates to religion, and on public speaking.

         Even though these are courses from several different fields I feel that they are all interconnected by being things that a minister will need to know.  I hope to learn enough from these courses to be prepared for seminary and to be a good minister later in my career.

#2: Concentration: Art and Computer Science

         I am hoping to work in computer animation or some other area of computer art (such as webpage design) after finishing my degree.  I feel that to do a good job of this, and be attractive to potential employers I will need to have skills and credentials related to both art and computing.  I could get a full degree in Graphic Design, much of which tangentially involves computer use, but I want to integrate Computer Science into my Art more fully than that, and to focus on animation rather than traditional text-oriented graphic design.  I cannot afford to stay in school long enough to take both majors in full, or even to major in Graphic Design, while taking as many Computer Science classes as I feel I will need.  Indeed some of the required courses are only taught at conflicting times.  However I can afford to stay long enough to get a minor in Art and one in Computer Science.  I feel that this will be acceptable, even attractive to future employers in by desired field.

         There is a little course work here that shows directly the overlaps between the fundamental issues of art and graphics design, and the way graphic design works on an electronic interface, such as Art 451 or CS 440.  But these connections are ever present in my mind.  The work and thought of Italian artist, Aldo Giorgini has been especially influential to my thinking on the connections between art and computing and in my person decision to pursue this as a career.  Art and computers really are connected in that computers are one of the central mediums by which we experience our world and more specifically our visual world today.  I hope that by taking this list of courses I will develop enough skills in graphical art and enough overall background in art, to be a competent and employable artist, and enough familiarity with computers as a medium, to do my art with and on computers.

Designing Your Course List 

Your course list defines which courses will count as courses in your major for you. As with any major, you will also need to complete the foundational studies requirements, and at least two years of foreign language if you are pursuing a BA. For each course, list the course number, the course title, and the number of credit hours. Your course list must:

1)      Be at least 42 semester hours of courses.

2)      No more than 24 can come from any single discipline.

3)      At least 21 credit hours should be at the 300/400 level.

4)      Your proposed list of courses should clearly match your well-thought out rationale and motivations. Make sure you can justify which courses you have on the list in terms of your rationale and motivation.  Likewise, if there is a course that is offered regularly at ISU that clearly relates to your rationale, then it probably ought to be on your course list

5)      If the course list you have designed is too close to some already existing major, your proposal is likely to be denied and you will be encouraged to take that major instead. Multidisciplinary studies is for situations where other existing major do not really meet the needs or learning goals of the student.

Example Course Lists

#1) Religious Studies

  • MST 401: Capstone Course in MST
  • Phil 105: Intro to Logic - 3
  • Phil 101: Intro to Philosophy -3
  • Phil 201: Ethics and the Good Life -3
  • Phil 302: Medical Ethics -3
  • Phil 313: Philosophy of Religion -3
  • Phil 333: Medical Philosophy -3
  • Phil 339: Eastern Philosophy -3
  • Comm 202: Public Speaking -3
  • Comm 311: Interpersonal Communications -3
  • Psych 490: Psychology of Religion - 3
  • Sowk 130: Intro to the Fields of Social Welfare – 3
  • Sowk 240: Family and Child Welfare -3
  • Rel 190: Intro to Religions -3
  • History 442: War, Religion, and Culture—3

Total: 45 hours, 21 upper-division hours

#2: Art and Computer Science

  • MST 401: Capstone course in MST
  • Art 101: Drawing - 3
  • Art 102: 2 D and Color - 3
  • Art 104: 3-D - 3
  • Art 170: Intro to Art - 3
  • Art 271: Survey of Art History 1 -3
  • Art 272: Survey of Art History II -3
  • Art 351: Intermediate Computer Art - 3
  • Art 451: Advanced Computer Art - 3
  • CS 170: Web Programming - 3
  • CS 256: Principles of Structured Design - 3
  • CS 258: Data Structures - 3
  • CS 320: Java Software Development - 3
  • CS 361: Small Systems Software Development - 3
  • CS 440: Graphics Programming - 3
  • CS 452: Software Engineering - 3
  • CS 479: Web Programming II -3

Total: 51 hours, 21 upper-division hours

Final Steps

Fill out the Multidisciplinary Studies Concentration Proposal form. Double check that your statement of purpose and course list make sense together and clearly support each other. Edit and double check. Submit all completed forms to Multidisciplinary Studies, HH 291.