Deciding on an academic major is a big deal! We have so many options at UMBC, including a unique major for students who are interested in carving out their own pathway.
Do you have so many academic interests that it’s difficult to pick just one? Are you curious how different academic disciplines can intersect? Do you want the chance to have more “say” in the types of classes you take? The Indivualized Study Program at UMBC might be just what you’re looking for!
We interviewed Carrie Sauter, Assistant Director of the INDS Program, to bring you more information about this exciting opportunity.
EC: Can you briefly describe the Individualized Studies program? What are the benefits to a student who selects this path?
CS: Individualized Study (INDS) is a unique path for a highly motivated undergraduate student to design their own major to meet specific goals. Students in the program merge courses from several disciplines into one themed degree plan. In addition to our core courses, we encourage internships and research outside the classroom. A quote from one of our alums: "My INDS degree has provided me: (1) critical thinking skills (2) tools to facilitate interprofessional conversations (3) fostered my understanding of research methods and application to research projects and (4) developed a sense of curiosity to understand problems from multiple perspectives."
EC: What additional work is involved to officially "declare" INDS. Can you talk a bit about the proposal writing process?
CS: We encourage anyone at any stage of their academic career to consider INDS. Obviously we would like to start advising students as early as possible, even before transferring to UMBC. Our core curriculum is a minimum of four semesters, and we would be happy to talk to students about how that can work with their goal graduation date. To declare INDS, students simply need to meet with an advisor in the program and obtain a signature on the Declaration of Major form. While in the second course in our core curriculum, INDS 335 Degree Writing Seminar, students craft a degree plan, present it to our faculty committee, and secure two degree mentors. The degree plan consists of not just a list of classes in a timeline, but a narrative of why this major is best suited for the student, definitions for particular aspects in the degree, and ways this degree plan connects to immediate and long-term goals.
EC: Besides the fact that you are creating your own degree plan, what do you think sets the INDS major apart from other majors?
CS: INDS students stand out in any application process: employers, graduate school admissions, medical school committees. Our students and graduates say they are able to think across disciplines, consider other viewpoints, and communicate clearly. We also require INDS students to complete a capstone project completed in their final year.
A quote from an alum: "In the public health field I am constantly interacting with professionals from other fields and disciplines such as social workers, medical doctors, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and a variety of researchers. As an Individualized Study student, I learned to see the strengths each different discipline could offer to address a problem and create an optimal solution no discipline could independently develop. Instead of seeing divides between my colleagues from different fields, I see connections and ways to build bridges by avoiding stereotypes of certain fields and communicating with shared language. This perspective will help me work more effectively with colleagues from a variety of professions to help create more comprehensive culturally appropriate health programs as a future physician aiming to promote integrative care."
EC Any notable alumni stories you can share? Any interesting things alumni have gone on to do?
CS: INDS students have gone on to medical school, law school, physical therapy school, doctoral programs, and employment across diverse fields. We also have several alumni who have started their own business after graduation. Notable highlights of graduates from the past eight years: two graduates with fully-funded PhD programs at Harvard University and University of Manchester (UK); full-tuition merit scholarship to George Washington University School of Law; Forensic Chemist at Prince George's County Police Department; software engineer at Northrop Grumman; Biomedical Engineering PhD at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; professor of entrepreneurship and business at Howard Community College; Software Developer at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Sounds like something you might be interested in? Click here to explore this pathway further.