Last week, we posted a piece that highlighted some interesting majors we’ve seen at colleges we’ve visited lately. This post, the second in this series, focuses on some new interdisciplinary options. Today’s students are multi-faceted and have different academic interests, and colleges have created opportunities for them to explore and expand their knowledge in multiple areas.
Last year, Johns Hopkins University introduced a new interdisciplinary major called Medicine, Science and the Humanities. The program is described as “using cultural and historical context to explore the roots of medicine.”
Johns Hopkins is, of course, well-known for its undergraduate natural sciences and pre-med programs, and has always had a strong department in the History of Science and Technology. But this new program allows students to take a different approach to their education, with guest speakers and in-depth discussion in small classes where students can explore the overlap between the arts and sciences. Courses like “Death and Dying in Art, Literature, and Philosophy” filled up quickly, and a small cadre of sophomores and juniors quickly declared the major when it was implemented in 2015. Other interesting courses include “Insomnia,” “History of Chinese Medicine,” and “Intro to Bioethics,” among many other options.
MSH department director Dr. Charles Wiener says that the nascent program was successful beyond expectations in its first year. “The interdisciplinary nature and the interface between medicine/science and humanities appeals to a broad audience,” Wiener told us. “About 75% of the declared/likely majors are likely pre-health but the rest are interested in other graduate schools (law, business, public health) or are liberal arts majors.”
This new major that combines science and the humanities gives truly multi-faceted students the opportunity to explore their interests, while differentiating themselves in the competitive graduate school applicant pool.
The University of Texas may be the first to create a new degree which allows students to combine both a scientific major – including computer science, biochemistry, physics and others – with a liberal arts concentration. They call the degree a Bachelor of Science and Arts, the BSA. This interesting option was created, and appears to be ideal, for students who want to mainly focus in a scientific field, but who are also compelled to study fine arts, business or humanities, and possibly want to minor in one of these areas.
UT says this option “allows students to have ‘one foot in another college.’” Many colleges give science majors the opportunity to try courses in other fields, and some colleges require, through core curriculum or distribution requirements, that they do this. But these students frequently don’t have enough flexibility in their schedule to spend time studying other academic areas. The difference with the BSA is that a non-science minor is required, along with the standard University core requirements. So the BSA is great for science-focused students, including engineers, who also want to concentrate their studies in another specific discipline.
Don’t think that only larger schools have stepped up to the interdisciplinary plate with new academic offerings. “Global commerce and trade are deeply rooted in the liberal arts,” according to Denison University, a small, nationally-ranked liberal arts college in Ohio.
Similar to an international business major, but with a strong focus on the humanities, the Global commerce major requires students to take a foreign language through the intermediate level, and requires an off-campus experience, which could be study abroad or a domestic internship. Students who major in this discipline also choose a part of the world as their “Global Focus” area; they will take six courses that focus on this region.
The Global commerce major aims to produce students who are educated in the basics of economics and business as well as strong cross-cultural understanding, and who also have strong experience in reading, writing, presenting their ideas and collaborating in teams, skills which are highly valued in today’s workplace.