Interdisciplinary Studies are academic programs or processes seeking to synthesize broad perspectives, knowledge, skills, interconnections, and epistemology in an educational setting.

The Howard University Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) provides the University’s students with opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary study and to graduate in an Interdisciplinary Studies Major Concentration encompassing the contents of multiple traditional disciplines and the integration and interconnection of their knowledge, perspectives, and approaches.

The Interdisciplinary Studies Major at Howard University may be pursued in two distinct ways.  There are existing, organized interdisciplinary major programs, called Programmatic Interdisciplinary Major Concentrations, which the interested student may seek to join in order to study within that Major Concentration’s established interdisciplinary curriculum. Our current degree awarding Interdisciplinary Major Concentrations are listed below with links to each IDS Major Concentration’s pages for additional information (program descriptions, requirements, curriculum and courses, and opportunities and etc.). Note that faculty members interested in proposing other IDS programmatic major concentrations may contact the IDS Departmental Office for details and for guidance in initiating new proposals.

The second pathway to earning a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies is the Individualized Interdisciplinary Major Concentration called an IIC. In the IIC pathway, the individual student gathers a committee which helps the student create a more unique proposed interdisciplinary major program and a unique curriculum of coursework and experiences. Contact the IDS Departmental Office to determine whether the IIC pathway is available at this time.


Objectives, Rationale & Impact

This proposal is intended to create an interdisciplinary major concentrations program as well as a Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) in the College of Arts and Sciences. IDS and its Interdisciplinary Studies Major Concentrations are intended as a mechanism to provide new academic pathways desired by students, educators, or the college to meet personal, institutional, national, and international needs.

The IDS Department and its Programmatic IDS Major-Concentrations are flexible and the Individual Interdisciplinary Major Concentration (IIM) opportunity allows students to go further in creating and designing unique major and minor areas of concentration. Students petition for admission to both the Programmatic and the IIM program. Departments and programs contribute all of our faculty advisors and instructors. This interdisciplinary studies program expands the curriculum offerings in innovative ways by adding increased interdisciplinary flexibility to existing BA/BS programs (e.g., in ethics, in various interconnected sciences, etc.) in order to allow for topical innovation and for employment in yet unfulfilled or future interdisciplinary career areas. This new department and its new major-concentrations are evidence that the College of Arts and Sciences has embraced the challenge of expanding the curriculum in innovative ways.

History & Renewed Emphasis

Howard has moved toward interdisciplinary programs for some time. Certificate programs and interdisciplinary courses and training grant programs may be seen as intermediate steps toward full interdisciplinary majors. The Provost’s Office has shown ongoing support for the development of thoughtfully selected interdisciplinary majors for several beneficial reasons, chiefly, expanding University offerings without incurring excessive expense.

Responding directly to the Board-approved PCAR recommendations for new interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students, the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS), with the support of the Offices of the Provost and the President, moved forward to implement a process and structure for interdisciplinary majors through the COAS Interdisciplinary Studies Program Task Force. This Task Force met from August 2012 to April 2013 and the Program Subcommittee selected a model for the structure of interdisciplinary majors.

The initial proposal to create a Department of Interdisciplinary Studies within COAS and a process for creating subordinate programmatic interdisciplinary majors within the proposed Department of Interdisciplinary Studies were initially approved by the COAS Interdisciplinary Studies Task Force on March 26, 2013. The Dean’s Advisory Council comprised of Departmental Chairs and Directors endorsed the proposal on April 2, 2013. The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences endorsed the proposal on September 12, 2013. The Howard University Board of Trustees approved the new Department and its initial major concentrations September 27, 2014.

Utility & Economy Intent

The interdisciplinary majors concept serves to satisfy current and future learning and career needs with minimized resource demand. Nearly all personnel, faculty advising-mentoring, interdisciplinary major student participation, training opportunities, supplies, space, and administration needs are intended to be met, at least at a minimal level, from the resources of the home departments of the participating faculty members of different interdisciplinary majors.

There are two general pathways through which a student may pursue an interdisciplinary major. In an established Programmatic Interdisciplinary Major Concentration, a qualified student may enter that established programmatic interdisciplinary major program and follow its scheme and course options to graduation.

The second option is for the student to propose, first with the guidance of a primary faculty advisor and second, with the approval of a committee of advisors in the relevant fields, an individualized interdisciplinary major.

Each pathway falls within the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the scheme for proposing Interdisciplinary Major Concentrations is outlined in a proposal rubric approved by the faculty. The rubrics provide guidance to applicants proposing to create an interdisciplinary major at either the programmatic level or at the individualized level.

Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Structure

The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies contains all the programmatic interdisciplinary majors and the individualized interdisciplinary majors within it. Faculty members from across relevant and related disciplines at Howard University have formally proposed the four interdisciplinary majors attached to this proposal.  These proposed interdisciplinary majors involve some Howard University faculty members in disciplines or departments outside of COAS though the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies is located academically within COAS, which is where the degree is achieved.

In terms of its administrative structure, the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies is an abbreviated but independent department. It has no budgeted instructional faculty of its own. It has a chair drawn from the cooperating faculty members from traditional COAS departments. It has a fulltime Administrative Assistant. It will have the substantial student records, outcomes assessment and departmental reporting requirements shared by departments.  All faculty reporting, promotions, records, assignments, and faculty support would come from a faculty member’s traditional home department. The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies will have at least one Academic Committee to review and approve programmatic interdisciplinary majors and individualized majors. Other committees may be added as needed.

Approvals of New Programmatic Interdisciplinary Major Concentrations

Faculty initiated proposals for new programmatic interdisciplinary major concentrations would be recommended for approval by the Academic Committee of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, by its chairperson, and by COAS faculty. The programmatic interdisciplinary major concentration would carry a unique, specific interdisciplinary sub-specialty name on the University transcript (e.g., BS in Interdisciplinary Studies: Bioethics). Individualized interdisciplinary majors fall under the “Interdisciplinary Studies” major without a named sub-specialty, and so would need approval only by the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies Academic Committee and the chairperson.