Why Interdisciplinary Studies?

Is Interdisciplinary Studies right for me?

Are you interested in big issues?  Issues that seem to defy the bounds of one discipline?  Do you want to design a major to investigate these wicked problems and graduate in a timely matter?  The Interdisciplinary Studies degree is designed to provide you with flexible framework, rigorous coursework, and tailored advising that will allow you to focus your studies on the issues, problems and skills you are passionate about. 

What can I do to learn more about the IS Degree?

  • Explore the curriculum by reading course course descriptions and about each of the seven emphasis areas.
  • Explore the admissions page for ISLA majors for more information and how to apply here. 
  • Enroll in a core course if you are interested in an internal transfer or course in an emphasis area of interest.  
  • Meet with the CLA Advising and learn about the CLA change of major policies.
  • Meet with the IS Director, Dr. David Kirby.  
  • Meet with Career Services to discuss your areas of interest and career goals.
  • Talk with IS Faculty.

Can I apply for the IS major as an incoming first year student?

Yes, the IS Major accepts incoming Freshman. For more information about admissions and to apply to the IS major, please visit the IS major admissions page here.

How do I transfer in?

The first step you should take if you want to become an IS Major, is to meet with Dr. David Kirby, IS Director.  When you meet with Dr. Kirby, you will discuss if the IS major is a good fit for you and how it might fit in your professional and academic goals.  Dr. Kirby will get you started on the process to change your major, including how you can start your change of major form.  You can schedule a meeting with Dr. Kirby here and learn more about the change of major process here.

How do I choose a concentration?

The IS major positions students to tackle the wicked problems and global challenges we face today.  As part of the major, you'll select one of five concentration areas to help focus your work and empower you to change the world.  To get started, think about a current or historical issue or problem that interests you.  Maybe you want to understand the interconnections of film and social justice.  Maybe you want to develop better social and policy responses to future health challenges.  Or, help organizations and governments think through questions of sustainability.  If you haven't pinned down a specific challenge or wicked problem, you might think about two or three of your favorite classes at Cal Poly.  Think about what in the course that made it so interesting or what topics that you covered that intrigued you.

What job skills will I acquire during my time as an IS major?

The essential skills cultivated by your degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, such as critical and creative thinking, effective oral and written communication, empathy and compassion, and the ability to be life-long learners are crucial in all sectors of the U.S. economy.  Liberal Arts skills are forecasted to dominate the knowledge categories in greatest demand by U.S. employers by the year 2030.  In part because as workplaces continue to automate routine tasks, the workplace will increasingly demand individuals with skills in holistic, big-picture thinking; skills in creativity and agility; and knowledge of cultural contexts of complex social systems.  The Interdisciplinary Studies degree is uniquely able to provide you with these skills to prepare you for your career or for graduate school.

Is this degree something Cal Poly made up?

No!  In fact, at least fourteen CSU and four UC campuses offer similar types of programs.  There are a number of other programs nation-wide that offer interdisciplinary studies programs, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, and Texas A&M, to name a few.  All of these programs emphasize integration and student-directed paths thorough the major.  The Cal Poly B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies aims to provide students with truly interdisciplinary educational experiences driven by your interests, questions and professional goals. 


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