Interdisciplinary Studies

3018 Steele Building, CB# 3504

JAMES THOMPSON, Program Director


Students interested in an interdisciplinary degree program not covered by any degree-granting department or curriculum should apply to the program director for interdisciplinary studies.

An IDST major has more focus than many of the more traditional majors and therefore should not be seen as a default major for someone undecided about his or her course of study. The IDST major must be well conceived but substantially different from majors that students pursue through traditional departments, schools, and curricula. Students must have a grade point average of at least 2.75 and at least 45 hours left before graduation. All IDST students must identify a faculty sponsor who will serve as their mentor on course selections, career planning, graduate work, and advanced study. Students are strongly encouraged to meet all of the General Education Foundations and Approaches requirements before pursuing the interdisciplinary studies major.

In the past, students have designed their own majors in such varied fields as medieval studies, food studies, arts management, medical geography, and urban studies.

Interdisciplinary Studies Major, B.A.

The interdisciplinary studies major, designed by the student and the student's faculty sponsor, is for students who wish to develop a major outside those offered by the departments and curricula belonging to the College of Arts and Sciences. The degree program consists of eight courses, which must be chosen from at least three departments (with a maximum of four courses from any one department) and which must be appropriate for juniors and seniors majoring in those departments. The courses should form a coherent major to which the student is able to assign a title. Additionally, students are encouraged to select electives and General Education courses that complement the eight courses chosen for the major.

With the permission of the relevant professional school, a student may use up to 12 hours of professional courses (e.g., in business administration, media and journalism, information and library science, public health, education) in the IDST major. This can be advantageous to students who want some concentration in these areas but who also want a degree in arts and sciences.


Appointments may be made with James Thompson. Inquiries may be made through e-mail at Students should come prepared with a draft of their major proposal. Students are strongly encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor and review their Tar Heel Tracker each semester.

Special Opportunities in Interdisciplinary Studies

Qualified students may pursue honors through one of the departments or curricula included in their major core.

IDST students may participate in the undergraduate research opportunities available in the departments and curricula that constitute their program of study, and they sometimes complete an internship either in the summer or during the academic year.

Graduate School and Career Opportunities

Since IDST can provide a broad background in the liberal arts, graduate study in a number of academic disciplines is possible. Students are encouraged to contact the graduate or professional school to which they wish to gain admission to determine the specific undergraduate academic requirements necessary for admission. An IDST major is generally not recommended for students planning graduate study in the sciences.

Career opportunities for IDST are as varied as the reasons students give for selecting the major.

Contact Information

Professor James Thompson, Program Director,


IDST–Interdisciplinary Studies

IDST 89 First-Year Seminar: Special Topics (3). Content varies each semester.

IDST 101 Topics in Teaching: The Sciences (1). Teaching as an intellectual discipline, including its impact on society. Students experience teaching, study how people learn, reflect upon their own learning, and discuss the role of education in society. Pass/Fail only.

IDST 110 It Only Looks Easy: The Art and Science of Teaching (1). Teaching as an intellectual discipline, including its impact on society. Students experience teaching, study how people learn, reflect upon their own learning, and discuss the role of education in society. Pass/Fail only.

IDST 184 Research beyond Academia (1). Researchers from the Triangle region and beyond will discuss their research to provide students with exposure to research opportunities and careers outside academia. This course meets a requirement for the Carolina Research Scholars Program.

IDST 190 Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies (1–3). Special topics course. Content varies each semester.

IDST 194 Modes of Inquiry (1). A seminar in which faculty discuss their own work. Students will learn how topics are defined and investigated and how undergraduates can engage in discovery. Pass/Fail only.

IDST 295 Introduction to Research (1). The work must involve at least four hours per week of mentored research in a campus research laboratory. Does not count as a course in the major. Pass/Fail only.

IDST 296 Course Correspondent Project (1). Permission of the instructor and the instructor's department. Learning contract required. Students participating in UNC-led study abroad programs develop activities to supplement instruction in on-campus courses. Supervised by the on-campus instructor, students file reports on the sites, language, and culture of the country in which they are studying. Pass/Fail only.

IDST 301 American Colleges and Universities: Junior Transfer Seminar (3). This course will examine American colleges and universities from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the individual student's experience to the role of higher education in larger social systems. The course will survey diverse institutions in American higher education. Students will compare the unique needs of these institutions as well as the populations they serve.

IDST 396 Independent Study (1–3). Independent project to be arranged with an instructor.

IDST 496 Independent Study (1–6). Permission of the department. Special reading and research for graduate and undergraduate students on a specific interdisciplinary topic under the direction of a faculty member.

IDST 691H Senior Honors Thesis (3). Permission of the instructor. Required of all senior honors candidates.

IDST 692H Senior Honors Thesis (3). Permission of the instructor. Second semester of senior honors thesis; required of all senior honors candidates.