/UM’s “Hidden Gem”: The Interdisciplinary Studies Program

UM’s “Hidden Gem”: The Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Former IDS major Cocoa Laney is a testament to the program’s success. Photo by Caleb Jones

Picking a major is one of the most important things a new student does when they come to college and can also be one of the most stressful. Some people arrive at their new university already knowing what they want to do, some have no clue and others believe they do only to discover they were sadly mistaken. And of course, we all know that one person who changes majors all the time. To be fair, it can be difficult choosing something so important; how is one to decide correctly? 

While UM offers several great majors and courses, some students feel that focusing in one area of study may not prepare them for their unique path regarding what they want to be in life. They may enjoy and wish to incorporate elements of many majors; that’s where the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (IDS) comes in. 

IDS is a unique program that has been at UM for seven years now. It allows students, with faculty advising, to pick and choose courses from various majors, two or more, so they can tailor-make their own unique major, which they even have the opportunity to name. 

To become an IDS major, a student must first apply, and that application then goes through the IDS Oversight Committee chaired by Dr. Steve Forrester, who serves as UM’s IDS coordinator. He’s the person who helps advise IDS majors and helps bring the ideas they have to fruition. 

The beauty of the IDS program is its flexibility and versatility. It’s quite unlike anything else on campus; art professor Karen Graffeo likes to say, “Whereas other majors sort of sort laundry, IDS is where the plaid laundry goes.” When you look at current IDS majors, this metaphor is quite accurate. 

Senior Alex Coleman is a student in the IDS program. He was originally a kinesiology major, but now, through IDS, his course of study incorporates elements of kinesiology, business and psychology all wrapped into one. 

IDS can be a good choice for non-traditional students as well. Senior Danielle Parks worked for ten years, then came to UM and enrolled in the IDS program. She knew she wanted to major in business, but felt like incorporating qualities from other disciplines, such as psychology, would help her to better relate to people in the business world. With IDS, she shaped her own major, which she named human relations and management. 

There are also examples of IDS graduates from UM who have done really well for themselves. One such alumni is Cocoa Laney, who graduated in 2016 as a commercial photography major.  

Laney described IDS as having been perfect for her, as her interests were “widespread,” and she had a strong desire to “broaden the scope” of what she could do. She now does a lot of commercial photography as well as documentary work.  

Last year, Laney produced a documentary while in Italy about a migrant camp, and the daily life of its inhabitants, ultimately publishing a book about the experience entitled, “Attessa”. She also has an additional book about diversity and community in Montevallo called, “The Montevallo Project.” 

In the words of Forrester, “The IDS major is a hidden gem in Montevallo’s curriculum. When people find it and utilize it, they can make something special.” 

If IDS sounds interesting to you, and you would like to learn more or get involved, contact Dr. Forrester at forrstersb@montevallo.edu. 

+ posts

Caleb Jones is a graduate of the University of Montevallo. He has a major in Communication Studies, and minored in Multimedia Journalism and Spanish. He is a former news beat reporter with The Alabamian, and plans on pursuing a career in investigative reporting after graduation. Have a tip? You can reach him at cjones31@forum.monetvallo.edu