Let’s encourage interdisciplinary study

Neha Dronamraju

According to a 2014 New York Times article, interdisciplinary study is a competitive necessity in the workplace. Creativity is gradually replacing critical thinking as the essential marketable skill, and a multifaceted education instills creativity in those who seek it. Colleges across America are starting to emphasize open curricula to accommodate a well-rounded education. However, rigid requirements impede a student’s ability to obtain such a degree at some universities.

Pursuing an interdisciplinary education at UT is more difficult than it should be because of the University’s stringent core requirements. 

As a STEM major with an interest in both science and humanities, I thrive in an environment where I am able to take classes in both fields. In high school, I was taking classes just to fulfill graduation requirements, and I looked forward to college and the promise of exploring different fields of study. During my first semester, however, I found myself in the same place — unable to find creative outlets due to restrictive core and major requirements.

In order to double major or complete certificates in conjunction with a major, many students either have to take 18–20 hour semesters or delay their graduation.

Anh Vu, a biology and Plan II freshman and Polymathic Scholar, agrees that double majoring in two different colleges can be exhausting.

 “Because I’m planning to graduate in four years, I had to take 18 hours my first semester here just to fulfill the freshman Plan II and Polymath requirements,” Vu said. “It was definitely really hard at first, because I was adjusting to college. You have to be really organized and on top of things to do well.”

Organization and discipline appear to be obvious steps to success, but juggling a pivotal transition and an extremely heavy course load can be discouraging to freshmen.

Interdisciplinary study at UT can be manageable for some students. Vu is determined to stick with both of her majors, and she plans to extend her interdisciplinary study into her career. 

“Currently the plan is to go to medical school and then pursue a long-term career in health policy, perhaps in government or international organizations, so I’m definitely going to stick to my current path, though it will be challenging,” Vu said.

 Vu is ready to step up to the challenge of an arduous academic life in pursuit of her goals, but she should not have to compromise her mental health or school-life balance to do so. While students such as Vu are able to take this path, even she agrees that the workload is daunting. 

UT should encourage students to merge different fields of study rather than make it difficult for them to do so. 

Options exist to improve this system. There could be a greater selection of classes that count for multiple requirements or an option to petition classes to count for more than one requirement. UT’s Bridging Disciplines Program, a program that allows students to supplement their major with a secondary specialization, could be advertised more to prospective students. This will allow them to start planning their interdisciplinary study early. 

What starts here changes the world, but only if students are given the time and freedom to explore and create innovative ideas through an interdisciplinary education.

Dronamraju is a public health freshman from Dallas.