A Breath of Fresh Air

The first time I heard someone talk about being an IDS major I was a freshman at Plymouth State, in 2012.  Her name was Cari and she was interested in

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athletic training, just as I am.  While back then I was an athletic training major, things have obviously changed.  I’m not sure what her program was, and I definitely did not know what IDS was.  Even when my advisor suggested I finish my undergraduate education as an IDS major, I had no idea what that meant.  From January of 2017 to the first day of Intro to IDS in September I quite literally had no idea what I was in for or what IDS was.  I had no idea what the class would be like, or how well I would do in the class.  The biggest question I had sitting in my brain was “Well what am I going to be able to do with a bachelor’s degree in IDS if I don’t end up getting into grad school?” This wasn’t really a question of mine, it was my dad’s biggest question in me returning to school.

I moved to campus on August 14th of 2017, three weeks before classes were starting for community advisor training.  In the first meeting of my staff of course we go around the table and introduce ourselves, what our major is, where we are from, etc.  On this fateful day I met a fellow IDS major, little did I know that she would become my best friend here and also my IDS mentor.  We didn’t discuss what IDS was at all; I sort of wanted to find that out on my own.

On the first day of Intro to IDS I had no idea what to expect.  I sat in the back of

Kayleigh and I enjoying PSU Men’s Rugby Photo By: Madisen Giordano

the class, not seeing any familiar faces in the crowd.  After the first day I was drowning, so overwhelmed.  Although I didn’t know what to expect, what I had learned this course would be like made me dread what the semester was going to be like.  Being a super old fashioned student gets the best of me sometimes.  I mean it is 2017, I should know as an almost 24 year old adult that technology is in the forefront of every facet of life; and now it was taking over an entire college course.  I was so nervous in the first few weeks, not about building a program and getting it approved (I knew that was going to be the easy part for me) but building a functioning website, formulating blog posts,

connecting with professionals in a personal learning network, I was petrified.  I came to realize there was nothing to fear, the IDS program has a built in support system in the way of an amazing professor/program director, peer support, and the IDS office staff (aka Janina).

Before this class had started, I had tried to field tons of questions about what my major was.  Every person that asked what I was studying got the same answer “Interdisciplinary Studies!” I would say enthusiastically.  They would look at me like, HUH? And say so what exactly is that? And I’d reply just as enthusiastically, “I have no idea!”  The person would nervously laugh, shake their head and walk away thinking ’that girl is nuts.’  After the first few weeks of class were over, when I was asked the same type of question I would reply, ‘Well I’m an interdisciplinary studies major, and I’ve basically gotten the opportunity to create my very own, unique major.”  While this still made people kind of confused, I felt like that was the only way I could explain it.  Now, at the end of a very long, in-dep

Photo By: Plymouth State University

th semester of studying IDS; what it is, what the variations of it are, why it’s important, how it’s going to help me in the future, etc. I can confidently say my knowledge on what IDS is has done a complete 180.  If someone now was to ask me what it means what I say I’m an IDS major, they might become infuriated with the annoying amount of information I throw at them.  IDS has helped me develop a passion for a different approach to learning, which was really nothing new to me, it just had a name and a definition in my brain, finally.

Interdisciplinarity is an essential part of education, society and life.  Simply put, it is the combining of two or more disciplines used to work towards a common goal.  Being an athlete for most of my childhood and a coach for most of my adult life so far, the easiest way for me to define Interdisciplinarity is relating it to sports, even easier, the sport I love so very much, field hockey.  In field hockey there are 11 players on the field to compete in a game, against another 11 player.  You have some forwards, some mid-fielders, some defense, and a goalie.  Much like an IDS program where the disciplines involved may be slightly similar or complete polar opposites, all the members of a team are slightly similar in that they are athletically inclined, but also polar opposites in their abilities.  Some players are sharp shooters and can score goals on any goalie out there, where some are such great defenders that no one on their team or any others can get past them while keeping possession, with the rest of the players having a solid mix of these qualities.  All these styles of players unite for one common goal, winning.  Much like an IDS program where all the disciplines ‘unite’ to give a unique program of study that not only achieves the end goal of receiving a degree, but also instils a sense of accomplishment, passion and creativity in the student.

The more I have learned about Interdisciplinarity, the more I start to realize it is essential in all facets of life.  It is my understanding that interdisciplinary studies programs do not exist at my universities across the US, and that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me.  College is supposed to be a time of exploration, not only into ones education but in one’s self and abilities.  When a student is made to choose a major and follow a rigid program of study, only being able to advance every year with appropriate grades in select courses and an overall GPA meeting requirements, it allows students to fall

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into the ‘I’m just doing this to get a degree and get a job’ mentality.  When in all reality, they are paying for their education and every single student should have the opportunity to have a unique learning experience tailored to where they want to go in life.  If a student is okay with being ‘just another student’ in ‘just another major’ then fine so be it, and allow them to do so.  But if a student is starving for something more, craving passion in their education, IDS should be an option for them.  IDS helps to create a more well-rounded education, including classes from may disciplines and forcing students to be creative in how to connect and interlace their disciplines within their program.

Interdisciplinarity matters to the world because major problems and projects would not cultivate to fruition without an interdisciplinary approach.  One could hire experts or specialists in various fields and ask them to collaborate on a project together; you may expect this to go very well, for it to be a successful project.  Well, you’d probably be wrong.  Specialists in disciplines tend to believe the way they do things on their own is the best or only way, they know what they know, and not much else.

In my opinion, one of the best chapters in the textbook had an article titled Standing Alone.  In this article the author, Carly Ristuccia, discussed metacognition and its relation to Interdisciplinarity.  Metacognition is defined as ‘awareness of your own learning and thinking processes.’  Ristuccia says the IDS fosters the ideals of metacognition encouraging the students that find themselves in the IDS program to be independent thinkers and in touch with their education.  While I have always been very cognizant of my education goals and my learning processes, this year has really opened my eyes to what I want from my education, and how I can get what I want regardless of the class or professor.  A mantra that I firmly believe to be applicable to education is ‘you get out what you put in.’

Vartan Gregorian wrote “The fundamental problem underlying the disjointed curriculum is the fragmentation of knowledge itself.”  This sentence from Gregorian’s Colleges Should Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge, really resonated with me.  For the past six years I’ve been in higher education, I’ve explored many disciplines; the major I have chosen to study in graduate school is also a collection of many disciplines.  Universities and colleges create rigid majors without crossing of disciplines and expect students to meet GPA requirements without having the opportunity to meander across disciplines: something that develops critical thinking skills and keeps students in touch with their passion for learning.

In The Challenges of Doing Interdisciplinary Work, Janina Misiewicz discusses the barriers of Interdisciplinarity: attitude, communication, academic structure, funding and career development.  Of these five, attitude and funding stick out the most to me, while I feel academic structure applies to my personal program.  The attitude of scholars unwilling to collaborate with those who do interdisciplinary work is huge.  Those who do not understand the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach may not be as bright as they think they are especially specialists or ‘masters’ in a field.  Funding is a major problem that stretches across higher education as a whole; its problems are not an easy fix.  Shifting funding to allow students to have more freedom in their education should be on the top of universities priority lists, but as well all know, it is not.  Before returning to Plymouth State this fall I was incredibly displeased with the structure of the program I was in at my previous institution.  While I still achieved very good grades and earned two degrees, I felt as though I was in a revolving door of classes and information, which was not changed in the two years I spent taking movement science classes.  Being an IDS major at PSU has given me the breath of fresh air I was searching for after taking a yearlong break from academia.

The closer I get to graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, the more I realize I’m slowly but surely achieving every academic goal I have set for myself.  Almost six years ago I graduated from high school, at that point I didn’t think I would be receiving my third degree in five years of schooling, I thought I was going to follow the ‘normal’ college journey: four years at Plymouth State, and a one to two year graduate program at a bigger university.  Back then, I didn’t know it

Dream Job includes Death Valley at Clemson University CCBY Erik Larson

was okay to take the path less traveled, but now I know sometimes the path less traveled is a better route for some people.  The near future for me holds graduate school in a competitive, fast paced major.  Beyond that I hope to get a great job at a big university in Boston, South Carolina, Texas or Colorado (of course I will go pretty much anywhere I am offered a good job).  One of my major goals for the future is to work at a university that offers free courses to its employees.  After working for a few years and paying down all the student loans I have accrued, I hope to be admitted to a PhD program.  While I have a burning passion to be on the side lines of major league sports (specifically the NFL, but I’d take any of the four major sports), I also have a passion for spreading knowledge and I hope to be a professor of athletic training someday, when I no longer want to work in the field.  A huge dream of mine is to be an athletic trainer for an international sport club (field hockey, rugby or soccer) and have the opportunity to live overseas and travel the world.

My hopes for the IDS program at Plymouth State are that it continues to grow stronger and stronger with every passing year, with more students and new unique programs.  I hope the IDS department and Dr. Robin DeRosa eventually gain recognition across the higher education community and more universities offer and IDS option in their degree programs.  Not only do I hope this for just the IDS program but also for pedagogy of the IDS courses: Openly licensed textbooks (FREE ACCESS), pass/fail grades, and creating a portfolio of work on the web (following The Domain of Our Own project).  IDS and Dr. DeRosa have helped shift my old school education style to one that is more updated, and most importantly this shift wasn’t done reluctantly or just because I had to do it: it was done thoughtfully with in class discussions about the importance and the evolution of technology in the class room.

Shout-out to one of the best professors I’ve had in a long time: Thanks for a great semester Robin!  Looking forward to Senior Seminar next semester!


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2 Replies to “A Breath of Fresh Air”

  1. Very well written, hitting every point of the assignments requested material and then some. I like that you said the hard part would be the technology and making blog posts and all that jazz however I think you exceeded in this aspect of the course work. All your posts have been wonderful to read, great job!

  2. Wow– that is some pretty cool stuff where you show the similarities between how teams work together and how disciplines work together (and against each other, sometimes!).

    This whole post clarifies my own current work: makes me see the effects of the kinds of pedagogies that seem promising to me. When I watch how students like you blossom, I feel so lucky to be part of this program. You have been an INCREDIBLE addition to IDS, and I am a huge fan of your work. Please keep me informed when you post, since I don’t want to miss anything that’s coming down the pipeline!


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