Integrative Studies Program Offers Students a Chance to Increase Their Marketability


October 24, 2011

The Integrative Studies program is a unique interdisciplinary curriculum offered by University College that provides students with marketable skills which could enhance their educational and employment opportunities.

As the global marketplace becomes increasingly diverse, employers often seek to hire individuals that possess the ability to adapt to a dynamic environment and the willingness to work across a wide array of disciplines.

“Students have to understand that employers are looking for people that can solve complex problems,” said Dr. Marcus Tanner, program director for the Integrative Studies program. “We live in a global economy and our perspective as employees needs to be more globalized when we start thinking about complex issues and problems.”

Core courses in Integrative Studies can help students develop the integration of multiple perspectives and critical thinking skills needed to solve problems in both academic and practical situations. Particularly, the program focuses on career management skills, broad perspectives, and the application of learning to real world scenarios – all of which are necessary for long-term career success.

The structure of the curriculum culminates with the requirement that students develop a career portfolio showcasing their abilities, education, and samples of their work. The portfolio, along with interviewing skills honed in the classroom, can be used in seeking employment or in applying for graduate studies in a variety of disciplines.

Currently, there are four classes available in Integrative Studies – Perspectives in Integrative Studies, Career and Professional Development, Internship in Integrative Studies, and the Capstone in Integrative Studies. This semester, there are 341 students enrolled among those four courses.

Two additional classes are being developed, and will potentially be available in the Spring 2012 semester: The Interdisciplinary Challenges of a Flat World, and Team Leadership in Interdisciplinary Challenges. These classes will focus on economic globalization perspectives and leadership practices respectively.

“We hope to provide students with exemplary practices of leadership and how to be a successful leader in the organizational setting,” said Tanner. “Also, students need to be able to work in groups, because nothing in the complex global environment gets solved by one person – people need to be able to work together, sometimes over great distances.”

Working together in teams is often necessary for students in Integrative Studies, as all courses are offered completely online. Since students can be located at distant locations from one another, many of the team-based assignments in the curriculum will challenge them to be adaptable to circumstance.

“Students are potentially spaced all over the country so they have to be able to communicate and come together as a group to complete a project,” said Tanner. “And that’s the kind of problem they’ll face in the outside world.”

Some of University College’s students are non-traditional learners – working professionals that find the flexibility of online classes beneficial to continuing their educational and professional development while in the pursuit of a promotion or other form of career advancement.

Traditional students can also find benefit in being able to take an additional class that, because of its online nature, allows them to fit the learning in amongst the less flexible aspects of their personal schedule. By taking Integrative Studies courses as electives, these students can really focus on developing their interviewing and presentation skills in preparation for applying to a postgraduate education program or to a job opportunity.

Dr. Tanner’s goal is to continue adding to the core curriculum in Integrative Studies until the complete program is available as 18 hours of coursework in either the Fall 2013 or the Spring 2014 semester. By that time, the courses will be offered as an academic minor or as an area of concentration in the Bachelor of University Studies degree program, which requires students to choose three areas of concentration.

Until then, both the flexibility of the program and the focus on career management make Integrative Studies a terrific option for students seeking to take one or even multiple classes to enhance their marketability, particularly in the areas of professional development and leadership skills.

“The great thing about Integrative Studies is that it’s a program focused on giving students the skills they’re going to need when they graduate,” said Tanner. “And that might come from one course or that might come from a combination of courses across the program.”

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