Students

Frequently Asked Questions

So, what is interdisciplinarity?

This question is huge and contested in the modern academy, but the short answer is that interdisciplinarity is the use of two or more disciplinary methods to arrive at a richer insight into research questions than would be possible through a singular disciplinary approach.

The ILA grounds its pursuit of interdisciplinarity in:

  • an explicit study of the history of disciplines, their fluidity and role in contemporary higher education
  • vibrant co-teaching and intentional opportunities to bring students and faculty from different disciplines and majors into dialogue around shared questions
  • an intensive faculty adviser to ensure rigor and structure in each student’s course of study
  • structured writing instruction, to enable students to use the writing process for greater insight into readings and research topics
  • encouragements toward public scholarship, which allow students to integrate their disciplinary actions in actions that reach a public broader than the classroom and the ILA

How do the AMST and IDS majors work?

You get to choose a set of courses from across Emory College that will constitute part of your major requirements (24 of 44 total required credits); we call this a "student designed concentration," and the courses you propose are, upon approval, your Concentration Requirements.

But the choice of courses counting toward your major is not random or made without expert advice. An ILA adviser will discuss with you your intellectual interests, helping you to focus on an interdisciplinary research question (or range of questions) that will be answered across your years at Emory College.

Examples of interdisciplinary questions pursued by recent students include:

  • how social assumptions about artists relate to the visual art produced by the artist
  • how native American leaders and writers understand and portray science, especially biology
  • how FDR's experience with polio changed public support for medical research in the US

The range of possible questions is as broad as your imagination, which will be guided by faculty advisers.

Because interdisciplinarity involves applying two or more disciplinary methodologies, your ILA adviser will also put you in touch with other Emory faculty experts who can help you to articulate your interests and to select relevant courses that might be part of your major. Early on, we'll help you identify a faculty "co-adviser," in addition to your ILA adviser, so that you'll be well supported in your academic decisions.

Five IDS/AMST Frame Requirement courses (the other 20 of the 44 total required credits) give you examples of interdisciplinary study and structure your senior capstone experience.

As a senior, you will write a senior thesis that culminates your research across the disciplines. See major requirements and the complete AMST/IDS Handbook. 

What is an IDS course?

Take for example, IDS 205W- Science and the Nature of Evidence. This class, frequently co-taught by biochemist Arri Eisen and a faculty member from a different discipline (examples have included philosopher Peter Wakefield, Buddhist meditation specialist Geshe Lopsang, and many others) investigates the connections between what we believe and why we believe it. The course material ranges from Greek philosophy to modern scientific practice, always focusing on science and the mind. Students in this course are exposed to scholarship from multiple disciplines and enhance their academic experience through intense, in-class discussion with students from many other majors.

This example illustrates that the IDS program embodies interdisciplinarity by bringing Emory experts from various fields into dialogue over questions that have both classical roots and urgent, contemporary implications. Learning is discussion-based, student-centered, and writing intensive.

What’s unique about an AMST course?

AMST courses share with IDS a commitment to interdisciplinary investigation. Sources from multiple disciplines are included (e.g. literature, sociology, history) as students examine questions that have particular meaning and history in the context of the US or the greater Americas—e.g., borders, immigration, the West, civil rights, race. Recent AMST courses have included Resisting Racism; Memory and Memoire (where Jimmy Carter’s memoir was among the works studied; and Narrative, Storytelling, and Trauma (one focus of which was the way that telling of their stories affects veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars).

What is the Senior Thesis?

As a synthesis of a student's course of study, and as a credential demonstrating a student's ability to organize complex ideas, each AMST and IDS student completes a significant senior project. Senior projects frequently involve scholarly research (fifty pages is typical), but can be composed of research and other forms of scholarship, such as artistic expression or other forms of broader public engagement. Examples of the latter have included films, art exhibitions, teaching in local public schools, etc.

Here is how we structure the capstone experience of the senior project:

  • Spring of junior year: IDS 390 Junior Tutorial (covers all the nuts and bolts of a major research project, from an initial concept paper, to a bibliography, to consultation with faculty advisers, an outline, timeline, and public presentation at the end of the semester of junior year). (Note: students studying abroad spring of junior year must make special arrangements to fulfill this requirement—discuss this with the DUS.)
  • Fall of senior year: AMST 490/IDS 491 Senior Seminar (unites the cohort of interdisciplinary majors for substantive reading and discussion of the nature of interdisciplinary research and requires each student to submit a term paper that constitutes a significant part of the senior project).
  • Spring of senior year: AMST/IDS 495 Honors Research of AMST/IDS 499 (students set aside time in their schedule to finish reading, research, and writing of the senior project, guided by extensive comments and recommendations given by the instructor of AMST 490/IDS 491 in response to each student’s term paper).

If a student meets other requirements set by the Honors program, the Senior Project can count as the Honors Project.

What can I do with an IDS or AMST major?

The rigorous set of skills that come with crafting your major requirements, organizing a team of faculty mentors, and culminating your undergraduate experience with a senior project has served former students well. Recent IDS and AMST graduates have gone on to law school and graduate study in fields including theology, public health, history, and education. Others have gotten jobs at Google, Amazon, and a range of firms in the Atlanta area. Close work with faculty advisers on your project means that your letters of recommendation will be enthusiastic and personalized. See what recent graduates are doing.

I'm interested. What's next?

Schedule an appointment with an ILA adviser to see where your intellectual passions can take you.