Individually designed majors give students more flexibility

by Todd Milbourn

Despite having more than 60 majors to choose from in the College of Liberal Arts alone, many University students still feel there isn’t a degree program that meets their interests.
Lindy Martin is one of them.
Martin created her own major three years ago, integrating animal science, psychology and film studies through the Bachelor of Individualized Studies program in CLA, and she plans to graduate this spring.
The BIS program allows students to combine three separate areas of interest, two of which have to be from CLA, into a single, personalized major. Students work closely with advisers to set up their program, choose classes and fulfill BIS requirements.
In recent years, students have pursued degrees incorporating urban studies, music and computer science, as well as intertwining Spanish, women’s studies and public health.
“I’m not focusing on one job,” said Martin, referring to her post-graduate plans. “But I might go to graduate school to study veterinary genetics.”
Following graduation, most BIS students enter the work force. A BIS degree distinguishes them from traditional graduates, said Karen Murray, coordinator of the BIS program.
“Employers like the breadth of background, and it shows the person has initiative and creativity,” Murray said.
Jenna Custer, a recent BIS graduate now employed as a promotions planner at General Mills in Minneapolis, focused on management, United States/European Union relations and Benelux studies –the study of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg– in her degree program. She said BIS prepared her better for the international business world than a traditional degree could have.
“I wanted the cultural and economic aspects of business and felt I couldn’t get that in just management,” said Custer, who studied abroad in Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands during her four years at the University.
Many BIS students like Martin also continue their education beyond the undergraduate level.
“A lot go on to medical school, law school and grad school,” Murray said.
Martin and Carter both praised the flexibility that the BIS program offers.
“The flexibility allowed me to study abroad three times and still graduate in four years,” Custer said.
In its present form, the BIS program began in 1978, but its roots can be traced to the ’30s and to a similar program aimed to allow “the greatest freedom in relation to the specific interests of the individual student,” according to the department’s mission statement.
Currently, 52 University students are in the BIS program, making it the 21st most popular major in CLA.

Todd Milbourn welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3214.