Interdisciplinary Studies Curriculum

For Curriculum prior to Academic Year 2021-22, please visit here.IS Curriculum Graphic

Degree Requirements 

B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies

Concentration Areas:

IS majors select one of the following concentrations based upon their interests and career goals.

Ethics, Law and Social Justice

This concentration is designed to foster critical inquiry into the dynamic interrelationships between ethics, legal institutions and social justice.  Students will examine how historical and contemporary social forces influence the legal system and how law affects society.  They will analyze and evaluate how personal and societal value systems, as well as identities and their intersections shape attitudes towards and treatment within the legal and judiciary systems.

Please click here for a powerform to enroll in this concentration area.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Emily Ryalls.

Global Citizenship and Global Sustainability

Students in this concentration are challenged to conceptualize, understand and analyze issues of sustainability from social, cultural, and environmental perspectives in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.  The concentration asks students to reflect on the idea that long-term sustainability requires attention to social equity, cultural preservation, and economic development as well as to environmental stewardship.

Please click here for a powerform to enroll in this concentration area.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Matthew Harsh.

Health and Society

Students pursuing this concentration will examine the social and societal dimensions of mental and physical health.  They will investigate how gender, race, social class, sexuality and ethnicity shape health in both national and global contexts, as well as the political, ethical, environmental, cultural, and social influences on health and health institutions.

Please click here for a powerform to enroll in this concentration area.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. David A. Kirby.

Science, Technology and Society

In this concentration students investigate and analyze the complex relationships between science, technology, and society in an increasingly technical world.  Students will identify, assess and develop solutions to complex problems transcending the traditional divide between the humanities and social sciences and scientific, technical and professional fields.

Please click here for a powerform to enroll in this concentration area.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Matthew Harsh.

Visual, Media and Cultural Studies

Students pursuing this concentration will enhance their critical grasp of how art, media, and related form of cultural production simultaneously shape and are shaped by our social and political worlds. They will apply interdisciplinary approaches to articulate, contextualize, and analyze how historical and contemporary developments in visual, media, and cultural studies have not only transformed individual experiences but also social relations and systems of power, privilege, and oppression. Gaining critical understanding of these complex and rapidly changing contexts requires the integration of history, theory, and practice with critical engagement from humanistic and social scientific perspectives.

Please click here for a powerform to enroll in this concentration area.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Elizabeth Adan or Dr. Emily Ryalls.



The Interdisciplinary Studies B.A. provides a flexible, focused and rigorous curriculum centered around a central theme or guiding question that interests you.  The core sequence of ISLA courses are: ISLA 201: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies; ISLA 255: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Theory and Methods, ISLA 355: Interdisciplinary Research Methods; ISLA 440: Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies Seminar; and ISLA 461: Senior Project, asks you to consider the nature of interdisciplinary and the process of interdisciplinary research.  Each student also selects one of five concentrations areas, defined below to focus on their degree.  You can learn more about the curriculum requirements for the IS degree by visiting the 2022-2026 Cal Poly Course Catalog.

To help our majors think over their career prospects, we include workshops with career services at key junctures of a student's academic career in the following major required courses: 

  1. ISLA 201: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies 
  2. ISLA 355: Interdisciplinary Research Methods 

The encounter with career services in ISLA 201 is specifically for incoming freshmen IS majors to first meet the CLA career services staff and learn about career services programs. Students subsequently engage with career services in the required course ISLA 355. This course is designed to prepare IS majors for their senior year. As part of the course staff from career services lead a workshop tailored for IS majors who are nearing graduation. This workshop directs the students to resources for exploring career options, including career paths already taken by Cal Poly IS alumni. Attendees also discuss career services events that are generally open to or that specifically target CLA students, including résumé guidance, assistance in writing statements of purpose for post-graduate applications, career fairs, and meetings with alumni. In addition, students in ISLA 355 work on skills related to résumé  writing and interviewing for jobs. 

After completing the B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, students will be able to:

  • Identify and think critically about the assumptions, strategies, and potential biases underlying discipline-based and interdisciplinary inquiries
  • Conduct interdisciplinary research and/or engage in creative activities that incorporate and synthesize information, theory and methodological approaches from more than one discipline in a culturally-competent way
  • Apply interdisciplinary approaches to understand, contextualize, and propose solutions to complex issues or problems, especially those relating to students' emphasis areas
  • Communicate effectively both in writing and orally.
  • Collaborate productively in pluralistic settings and with people of diverse experiences, identities and worldviews
  • Make reasoned, ethical, and socially responsible decisions
  • Engage in self-motivated and self-directed learning, in order to become life-long learners
  • Employ the intellectual and practical skills necessary to create and engage with a more inclusive, just and equitable world.


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