Our History

Interdisciplinary Studies (INDS) at UMBC is one of the longest-standing individualized degree majors in the country.  Founded in 1969 as Option II (The traditional 13 majors at the time were known as Option I), the major was created to:

            Afford highly motivated, intellectually mature students the opportunity to construct their own academic programs, with the hope that these students might       

           better profit from the experience than from the traditional major programs… (Rosental, Alan.  Evaluation of the Option II Program at UMBC.  1972.)

The Option II brochure also stated, “many kinds of programs are possible, limited only by imagination and ingenuity.” 

In 1979, Option II was renamed Interdisciplinary Studies, to better reflect the nature of the major and to respond to the growing national movement toward multidisciplinary and integrative approaches to learning and problem solving.  One of the first directors of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. Thomas Benson, served as president of the Association for Integrative Studies (AIS), and authored “Five Arguments Against Interdisciplinary Studies” (Issues in Integrative Studies 1 (1982) 38-48). The article produced a flurry of responses and helped to advance the national dialogue about interdisciplinarity and its role in academe.  UMBC continued its presence on the national scene in 1987 when Director Slobodan Petrovich was elected to the AIS Board and then as president in 1991-1992.

In 2002, Patricia La Noue was appointed director and has led the department in raising its visibility on campus through such university wide programming as the Mosaic Roundtables, the Petrovich Lectures, the I-Team, the International and Global Studies initiative, and the Capstone Research Presentations required of all graduating seniors.   The Program has also incorporated a core curriculum of courses to accompany each individualized major.

Director La Noue has also played a major leadership role on campus through her participation in a wide range of environmental and sustainable design initiatives, including the INDS student creation of the Herbert Run Greenway and the establishment of the environmental science and environmental studies concentrations in INDS.   These concentrations grew and became part of the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems.  Over the years several majors, minors, and certificates have had their origins in Interdisciplinary Studies.   Most recent examples include new majors in Gender and Women’s Studies and Media and Communication Studies.  New tracks include Public Health in Health Administration and Public Policy, Game Development in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, and Animation and Interactive Media in Visual Arts.