Many interdisciplinary programs demand extra time and effort from advisors. "An advisor working with these students is close to master's-level advising involvement," says Ivanick. In selected studies, advisors help students plan college careers almost from scratch, while keeping an eye on whether these programs fulfill the educational goals expressed in students' proposals. |
According to education professor Biklen, all CFE students have a first-year review to make sure they are progressing. During these reviews, advisors make presentations to faculty committees, which then discuss students' progress and make recommendations. Students are reviewed again after completing 45 credits.
Despite the extra time required of advisors, selected studies major Stewart thinks they might work better with students like him because only those dedicated to their subjects are likely to go through the lengthy approval process. "Selected studies students are really motivated and unlikely to be sidetracked on the way to a degree," he says.
Working with a student so passionate about a subject can be very rewarding, Ivanick says. Arlene Kanter, professor and associate dean at the law school, says students pursuing joint degrees enrich the classes they take. "The Ph.D. education students who take my disability law course ask different questions from law students; they approach cases from different perspectives," she says. "I love it, and it adds greatly to our class discussion."
Students also provide impetus for developing multidisciplinary programs. Some just have unique combinations of interests, like Stewart or a recent student who earned degrees in magazine journalism, German, and religion. Others suspect that a degree in a single discipline won't lead them to the career they want. "Graduate students are very savvy," says Linda Littlejohn, assistant dean in the School of
To some extent, multidisciplinary programs are the front line in the evolution of the university. As new areas of interest arise, they tend to progress from being certificate programs or concentrations to degree programs. Sometimes they make the leap to become full-fledged departments. Disability studies reflects this progression. Many teacher training programs focus on special education, but it's a core area for SU professors Robert Bogdan, Steven Taylor, and Douglas Biklen, who study disability from social science, policy, and cultural studies perspectives, rather than administrative or clinical views. Two years ago, they made disability studies a concentration within CFE, and SU is now a leader in developing this discipline. "It's an emerging area of scholarship. In five years or so, universities will have academic positions in disability studies," says Taylor, coordinator of the disability studies concentration. |
The next step, Taylor says, is to create a disability law program that combines courses at the School of Education and the College of Law, plus an interdisciplinary seminar. Another emerging area is health care administration. Two years ago, Dr. Thomas Dennison came to Maxwell to teach a course in health services administration. He quickly realized that health professionals needed more. "We've been good at training health care professionals in their disciplines," he says, "but we haven't been good at training them to work together. The health care system would be better served by people trained to understand what people from the other disciplines will bring to the table."
Dennison and Timothy Smeeding, director of Maxwell's Center for Policy Research, wrote a proposal for a Health Services Administration and Policy (HSAP) Program, and received funding from the Office of Academic Affairs. Early on, they decided to bring in partners from SU's other colleges. The School of Management became the number-one partner, Smeeding says, while the School of Social Work and the colleges of nursing, human development, and law have all expressed an interest.
Social Work. "Most of them do their homework before they come to graduate school, and find out how they can best market themselves." Social work has a number of graduate students who are enrolled dually in Maxwell's public administration program. These students plan to move directly into administrative or policy positions, instead of starting out as counselors like many social workers do. |
Faculty members have an even bigger role in getting new multidisciplinary programs off the ground. "How we understand things shifts over time," says Biklen, necessitating changes in the way subject matter is structured. Pointing to women's studies, one of SU's fastest-growing disciplines, she says, "You can't study women from just one discipline."
Michael Flusche, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, believes interdisciplinary programs reflect the world at large. "The real world doesn't respect departmental boundaries," he says. "An awful lot of the interesting work goes on at the boundaries between traditional disciplines."
Maxwell was the first to devise a curriculum for the program. This fall, students had the opportunity to begin a course of study leading to a concentration in health services administration and policy as part of the public administration program. |
The School of Management will also add to its multidisciplinary menu. Currently, qualified students can pursue a dual degree with any Newhouse department, while marketing students can enroll in the College for Human Development's retailing program. Hanna Waggoner, assistant dean for undergraduate student services in the School of Management, says a dual degree with the School of Information Studies is in the works. Some management students are already allowed to add an information studies major by petition. And once the new program is in place, any qualified management student will be able to pursue a dual degree in information studies.
The School of Management is also developing a retailing/entrepreneurship degree with the College for Human Development. The content will overlap some with the retailing/marketing degree, but the new degree will be tailored more to students who want to start businesses.
Ultimately, one of the reasons multidisciplinary programs thrive at SU is that the University offers so many academic resources. Grassi of Newhouse says there's a multitude of possible combinations for students looking to devise a degree program. "The possibilities and the richness are here," she notes.
Many faculty and administrators involved in multidisciplinary programs share Bogdan's view: "These programs make people hungry," he says, "and let students partake of all that's here."
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