My Semester in Intro to Interdisciplinary Studies

When I enrolled at Plymouth State, my first thought of a major was Business Administration.  I thought that related to my prior career in the military, and would be a sure fit for my experience and the best way to utilize my transfer credits effectively.  It was during a meeting with Admissions, that I first heard of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS).  After that meeting, I scheduled an appointment with Program Director, Dr. Robin DeRosa to learn more about IDS.

I have to admit, that first meeting with Dr. DeRosa left me so excited my head was spinning.  Mostly because I had no idea (or a very vague one at best) what she was talking about.  She looked over my transfer credits, gave me a very positive endorsement, “YES, this is a good path for you”;  she even gave me an override to allow me to enroll in her upcoming Fall semester.   I was on my way to an IDS major… woo hoo!

I did not know what to expect in Interdisciplinary Studies, as this was my first time in a classroom in YEARS.   I thought perhaps it would be more independent learning, but I really wasn’t sure.  I did know that my heart was in it 100%, and this was something I really wanted to do, I was fully committed and I was ready!

There were many steps throughout the semester, but one thing I can say is I got constant support and feedback from Dr. DeRosa.  Her guidance included recommendations for advisors, feedback on my writing (mostly good, with some additional suggestions), and an excellent course that challenged me outside my comfort zone.  I gained a wealth of knowledge, and my technology skills grew tenfold.

photo by Zack Lee Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The class is a learning and networking experience, utilizing our fellow peers, establishing a Personal Learning Network, and best of all it’s all Open-Ed.  There are no printed textbooks, everything is online, which we take part in writing, editing and giving feedback on.   This is Interdisciplinary Studies at its finest.

The class dynamics is a great mix of students pursuing studies in a myriad of different fields.  In our class, we had students with health and wellness, sports, social services, graphic design, science, and administration backgrounds.  When peer to peer review was at work, that brought interdisciplinary skills instantly to the equation.  Using the analogy from “The Big Terms” we were a fruit bowl of skills (multidisciplinary) and experience which came together to offer a fruit smoothie (interdisciplinary) in group dynamics.  The opportunity for each of us to pursue an education that was relevant to our interests, our experiences, and put the control of our education on us, is powerful.

We must also help students gain knowledge of multiple disciplines and their interconnectedness. Team teaching is one obvious way to do that. “……”Within disciplines, of course, teaching should encourage students to draw knowledge together from many sources.”    Vartan Gregorian, Colleges Should Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge.

While the semester progressed, and more of my own friends and family asked me about school and my major, I was surprised to hear how many of them have an Interdisciplinary Studies major themselves.  I guess when a program has been around since 1974, you should realize that it’s had a broad reach on people.  I’m happy to hear that IDS is growing and gaining popularity here on campus too.  Enrollments have increased the past few years, specifically noting a change from an average of 10.1 enrolled majors from 1974-2014, to currently having 123 enrollments in IDS majors.  Clearly, Interdisciplinary Studies is a valuable route to education that invests in people and their future; and is beneficial for PSU and universities as a whole.

My goal of completing my undergrad is getting close.  I have approximately 9 classes remaining until graduation, which I anticipate Fall 2018.  I plan to use my skills through volunteerism and community support.  I’m enjoying school so much, I’m actually considering going for grad school; but I will cross that bridge when I get over this one….(smile)…  my very own “Charlie’s Bridge”.   (Charlie’s Bridge is the name of my eport, and a very special place within my community / home).

Reflecting on my Personal Learning Network

At the beginning of the semester, Dr. DeRosa tells us that we should establish a Personal Learning Network (PLN) via Twitter.  I was like, NOOOOOO!!!!  I was reluctant to add another social media form to my life;    but after considering the options, Twitter sign up page, here I come!

Following that introduction, I now had to become familiar with what is a tweet, a retweet, a quoted tweet, a hashtag, etc.  There was a serious learning curve.  But after a few rookie tweets, I started to navigate my way.

Now comes establishing my PLN and connecting my major, Organizational Administration.  I was a little puzzled at where to start looking.  Who would contribute to my PLN, who should I be “following” via Twitter, what is my focus, and where do I want to take this PLN?

In the past, my PLN was very clear for me.  When I served in the Coast Guard my fellow peers, mentors, and network had been established over 26 years of transfers, advancements, supervisors, leadership, and trends.  I was starting over, and on the ground floor now.  What I had known for so long, doesn’t apply.  I’m retired from the Coast Guard after all; who is going to be my PLN now?

Sandwich Fair Flower Exhibit 2017
The Over the Hill Hikers. Read or listen to their story at

I chose to follow the NY Times Education & Business sections, Forbes, Business Week, National Public Radio, and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).   I did find these sources helpful.  They keep current on the news and trends of today.  My future will not be in the mainstream workforce, but contributing to my community through volunteerism.  I currently serve on the Sandwich Conservation Commission, am Chairman for the Sandwich Fair Flower Exhibit, am active in my church, and am the group organizer for the Over the Hill Hikers.   I also am a member of the tri-town Democrats.  Following graduation from PSU, I will expand my network of Twitter to include people from these groups.  I can see how the format of Twitter is beneficial for professionals, students and community service.

To see a story of my Twitter use this past semester, please check out my Twitter story using Storify.