With a demand for more jobs that require a blend of majors, the integrative studies program was started in 2015 to help students achieve two majors at once — the only catch is the focus areas have to already be offered at SIUE.
“Integrative studies is one of our new programs that exists on both the undergraduate and graduate level,” Director of integrative studies, Zenia Agustin said. “It allows a student to mesh two focus areas. So basically, if you are a student who has interest in two different fields and you want to be able to get the background that integrates the two studies, then integrative studies is the way to go.”
This year, graduate student Megan Arnett, of Roxana, will be completing the program, making her the first one to get her Masters of Integrative Studies.
Agustin knows Arnett personally, and is the person to know if a student is wanting to choose this route.
“She is actually a double major,” Agustin said. “She is pursuing a graduate degree in sociology and also in integrative studies in sustainability. I guess she first started in sociology and she was getting close to the end of the degree when she learned about sustainability, then she took an interest in sustainability, and the interesting thing with integrative studies is that she has the environmental studies part, which talks about the different laws and policies.”
Agustin said with sustainability, someone could work with institutions to develop a “Go Green” initiative, among other career options. However, to understand what someone does with an integrative studies degree, there should be an understanding of what the program is beforehand.
According to Agustin, the program is very flexible. She looks at the academic background of the student, what the interest of the student is, and what the goal is. Then she works with each of the programs to map out a viable curriculum.
“My role is to meet with students and basically to recruit students interested in integrative studies,” Agustin said. “Once I have students who are interested, I have to help them develop their plan of study. You can build your own program, so I facilitate the process.”
According to Director of Graduate Education Tessa Keys, the program is offered for undergraduates and graduates. For graduates, they can either get a master’s degree, or choose to get a baccalaureate certificate. The certificate route was only approved in the fiscal year 16-17.
“One of the nice things about the [post-baccalaureate] certificate is that students can choose to select courses within two different departments that work together to create their own personal goal,” Keys said. “That goal can be professional, academic or a stepping stone into another degree, but it allows [students] to choose from the courses that we offer and we can design something truly unique to them.”
Keys said it give students an opportunity to stick their toe in the water. If a student doesn’t necessarily want to commit to graduate school, they can complete the 18 credit hour option of a post-bachelor’s degree, rather than complete the master’s, which requires 37 hours, according to Keys.
“There are just so many diverse jobs out there now, and there are great opportunities out there now, especially within technologies and diversity playing a big role, and so much of that may pull from just two different areas,” Keys said. “[We want to] make sure that a student gets the education that most suits their needs.”
Keys said she wants students to know about the program, and that they would have to work within existing programs, but by earning the degree they are able to focus in on a particular topic.
“Most of the time you go to graduate school to focus in and narrow in on your profession,” Keys said. “Integrative studies opens up a lot of possibilities, but you can still try to focus in on what you are trying to achieve.”
As of April 10, Agustin said there are 41 undergraduate and 10 graduate students in the program.