The Best Integrative Studies Programs

If your goals aren't limited to traditional degree programs and trajectories, then you should consider one of these top-rated integrative studies programs for a more customized path forward.

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Published on October 29, 2020 · Updated on December 21, 2021

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Interest in integrative studies programs has risen as academics, organizations and students recognize the value of engaging in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning. These types of degrees equip students with a wide-range of knowledge as well as the critical and analytical skills needed to be successful in the workforce.

Rather than focusing on a single discipline, students can tailor their studies to their academic interests and professional goals. The result is an integrative learning experience that leads to personal fulfillment, a greater awareness of social responsibility and a thoughtful approach to modern issues. These programs frequently incorporate experiential learning to supplement classroom time, including internships, study abroad programs, field placements, community engagement and service learning.

The faculty at Johnston Center for Integrative Studies were integral to the creation of this list of the top schools for integrative studies, not only by sparking the idea, but also by informing the methodology.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Accredited Integrative Studies Programs

Best Integrative Studies Programs

  1. Emory University
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $44008

    At Emory, students seeking an innovative program may consider the Interdisciplinary Studies degree with an emphasis in Society and Culture. To earn a bachelor of arts, students must complete 44 credit hours, comprised of frame and concentration courses. The former are meant to frame the student's experience within the degree, focusing on the development of writing skills and an understanding of liberal studies. Concentration courses are focused on individualized study and are traditionally chosen by students and the Director of Undergraduate studies.

    The concentration courses prepare students for a culminating senior project, which is designed to showcase their ability to understand and present complex ideas originating from at least two different disciplines. While many projects are research-based, some may take the form of artistic expression or public engagement.

  2. Wheaton College
    Location

    Wheaton, IL

    Tuition

    $45074

    The Interdisciplinary Studies major at Wheaton provides a liberal arts education for students looking to combine courses from two to three academic disciplines. The program also encourages cross-cultural experience through study abroad opportunities and a service-learning internship in Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR). Students develop a "guiding directive" to inform the overall purpose of the degree; this involves selecting a question, problem and theme to explore. Once this directive has been identified and established, students work with their advisors to create an individualized curriculum incorporating the knowledge and skill sets needed to begin research. This research culminates in a final project that is presented to peers during the senior year.

    The IDS major also offers two preset academic programs in Asian Studies and Biotechnology. Prospective students considering this selective program must complete a comprehensive application, which includes essays of intent and an interview by the IDS director.

  3. New College of Florida
    Location

    Sarasota, FL

    Tuition

    $29894

    The curriculum offered at New College provides an out-of-the-box education individually matched to the needs and goals of each student. Rather than credit hours, students undertake seven contracts to graduate, which are written between the student and their advisor at the start of each semester. These contracts typically include three to five academic activities, such as classes, tutorials, internships or independent reading assignments to further educational goals.

    Rather than grades, the college favors providing narrative evaluations reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of individual projects and assignments. Students also work with their teachers to design independent study projects and conduct hands-on research. Abundant modes of experiential learning are available, and students regularly take part in cross cultural and activist-based learning opportunities. This model serves as the baseline for the areas of concentration (AOC) offered by the school and serves as an alternative to the core curriculum employed by most postsecondary institutions.

  4. Seattle University
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $36465

    At Seattle University, students can undertake an Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies degree. In this program, students learn how to be thoughtful professionals who utilize the knowledge of cross-discipline study. The program requires 60 credits, making it an attractive option for those who wish to pair the degree with a second major or a minor. With other program requirements factored in, the degree totals 180 credits.

    Core classes comprise 25 credits in subjects such as community engagement, methods of research and inquiry and liberal studies. Students also complete a senior-level synthesis project as a culmination of their studies. The remaining 35 credits are made up of four areas, including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and an elective drawn from math, statistics, computer graphics or computer science.

    The university notes that many students planning to work within education choose this degree, since it consists of project-centered coursework, leadership seminars and youth development, as well as a consortium of interdisciplinary scholars and electronic portfolios.

  5. University of Scranton
    Location

    Scranton, PA

    Tuition

    $38754

    At the University of Scranton, students can participate in an Individualized Major program if their plan of study proposal is approved. Once accepted into the program, students receive a faculty mentor to guide them through the process of creating a curriculum. The program generally consists of at least 36 credits, with approximately 15 to 18 required from a single academic department. In addition to these credit hours, students also undertake a three to six credit capstone project that integrates subject material from various disciplines. The program totals 126 credits.

    Students within this program receive one-on-one mentorship from their assigned faculty members, who meet with them at the end of every semester to review their progress.

  6. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $33750

    The Integrative Studies in Social Science program at MSU is designed to outfit students with an understanding of the social sciences and a deeper awareness of the human condition.

    Once enrolled, students take two specific integrative studies courses, though not concurrently. In order to provide graduates with multicultural and global understandings of human behavior, students are asked to qualify their personal ideas and beliefs through an analytical lens. This allows them to develop an understanding of patterns and trends found in how we interact with each other and our world. In addition to the core classes, students have many ISS class options to choose from, depending on their area of focus.

    In an effort to provide multiple experiential learning opportunities, the department encourages internships and study abroad programs. Current study abroad programs are located in Washington, D.C., Hawaii and New Orleans.

  7. Bennington College
    Location

    Bennington, VT

    Tuition

    $45080

    At Bennington, every undergraduate student takes part in "The Plan Process," an integrative, four-year framework used to create and analyze their education. Bennington is also unique in that students are required, every year, to get work experience--a job, internship, or entrepreneurial experience--that is then integrated into their academic pursuits. From the beginning, students are asked to think about what they want to know and how they want to pursue learning it. Experiential learning is a key component; many opportunities are offered outside of the classroom, including field-work, out-of-school projects, tutorials, internships and more.

    Academic advisors and plan committees are in place to guide and mentor students throughout the program. The plan is divided into yearly requirements, with the sophomore and junior years reserved for deep immersion in one or more disciplines, or for answering a specific and in-depth question. The final year is reserved for taking what they've learned and exploring how their work relates to others. This often culminates in a senior project or thesis.

    While The Plan Process is a significant component of a Bennington degree, the school also offers a variety of majors and programs for students to concentrate their studies. The majority of programs require 128 credit hours in total.

  8. George Mason University
    Location

    Fairfax, VA

    Tuition

    $28592

    The New Century College at GMU oversees the Integrative Studies program for the university. Within this degree, students can select a preexisting concentration or create their own curriculum based on academic goals as approved by a faculty advisor.

    Outside of traditional classroom-based learning, experiential opportunities include studying abroad, service learning projects, internships or an alternative break.

    Credits required to complete the IS program vary, but the minimum is 66 credits of academic coursework. Credits are grouped into a variety of learning blocks, such as learning communities. This is a 24 credit block comprised of interdisciplinary courses that help students explore multiple ways of understanding a topic via team teaching, collaborative projects, writing and critical thinking and independent study. The experiential learning block is 12-24 credits and includes opportunities for internships, study abroad, service learning, field trips and field study options. The concentration block accounts for 30-57 credits and is considered the equivalent of a major at other colleges. While the program has 11 preexisting concentrations, students may also create their own.

  9. North Central College
    Location

    Naperville, IL

    Tuition

    $32613

    At North Central College, the Interdisciplinary Studies program has several existing majors and minors, including East Asian studies, environmental studies, gender and women's studies, history of ideas and global studies. Preexisting programs incorporate different learning styles, such as team teaching and international course clusters. Additionally, students take a cluster of intercultural seminar courses intended to expand their worldview.

  10. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Tuition

    $23950

    The New College at the University of Alabama administers the Integrative Studies program at the school, ensuring students complete their core requirements and College of Arts & Sciences classes in addition to the unique New College curriculum. All students within this program create a "depth study," their own map for an individualized program of study. Customized degrees incorporate classes from across disciplines and bring in experiential methods of learning such as internships and study abroad programs.

    In addition to core and program requirements, students must learn a foreign language to the level of ‘proficient' while enrolled in the New College. During their final year, students undertake a senior project to be presented at the department's Senior Research Symposium. In addition to theses, other projects have included community development initiatives or creative arts.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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