New Integrative Studies Program Allows Students To Design Own Major
Nebraska Wesleyan University sophomore Cole Gebhardt was raised on a farm near Aurora, Neb., and plans to one day own a self-sustained farm of his own.
Last fall he entered Nebraska Wesleyan knowing the university does not offer agriculture-related courses or majors.
That didn’t stop him from pursuing his interest here.
Gebhardt will be among the first group of students to declare a major in Integrative Studies. The new major will give students the opportunity to build their own majors based on courses and experiences.
Justin Skirry, associate professor of philosophy and advisor to the Integrative Studies Program, is excited about the broad range of learning experiences that integrative studies majors can use to pursue their goals.
“Experiences don’t need to be just in classrooms at Nebraska Wesleyan but can be classes from other institutions, service learning, internships, work experience, or study abroad,” said Skirry. “Since learning can occur anywhere and be connected in such a way to form a whole, then a student designed major utilizing all these ways of learning is a natural conclusion.”
To build their curriculum, students will work closely with professors in multiple departments, and learn how to set and reach their own goals to get the most out of their experience at Nebraska Wesleyan.
And, as Skirry indicated, not all of the learning will be done in a classroom.
Gebhardt is spending part of the summer working at an organic farm in Aurora and building experience toward his integrative studies major that will focus on organic farming.
Gebhardt was drawn to organic farming after developing concerns with pesticide use. He is also interested in renewable energy. For his integrative studies major, Gebhardt will have Skirry as an advisor, as well as professors in the Biology and Business, Accounting and Economics departments, and a representative from The Grain Place, the organic farm he is working at in Aurora.
Sophomore Amy Christensen is taking a different route with her integrative studies major. This fall, she will work with Skirry and other advisors to build a curriculum in speech pathology.
Christensen has been speaking competitively since the first grade, and came to NWU because she loved the campus and the family atmosphere. The goal of her undergraduate experience was to get accepted to the University of Nebraska’s speech pathology master’s degree program.
She learned that some of her NWU credits would be difficult to transfer, and acceptance into the program at UNL without certain undergraduate classes was unlikely. She struggled with the idea of transferring.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was eleven,” she said.
With the new integrative studies major, however, transferring to another college is no longer a concern for Christensen. For now, she is completing all of her general education requirements, and will soon select classes that will best help her reach her goal of graduate school.
Eventually, she hopes to open a “one stop shop” therapy building for children with all types of backgrounds and therapeutic needs, from physical therapy, to speech therapy, to chiropractic help.
“The student’s imagination and drive are the only boundaries to designing a major topic,” said Skirry.
Others planning to pursue the new major are studying pre-optometry and computer science.