An individualized studies major and interdisciplinary studies minor have been added to Miami University’s academic roster this semester.
The two areas of study are a result of the revamped Western Program approved by university senate in April 2010 that is now fully embedded within the College of Arts and Science.
“Western is the bright light on Miami University Oxford campus,” said director of the program Nicholas P. Money.
Money was a faculty member within the department of botany at Miami for the last 14 years and now also serves as the program’s director.
A month underway, the Western Program has more than 20 majors and students, according to Money.
Students take the core Western courses and the Miami Plan courses, but the majority of credits are in other areas of study that match their diverse interests, according to Money.
“(There is) lots of flexibility,” Money said. “That’s what I love about this.”
The interdisciplinary studies minor is 18 hours, while the major is 26 hours with an additional 24 hours outside the major.
“It’s an exciting path, but it’s not an easy path for the students,” Money said. “They’re going to have to work very hard to meet the requirements of the major or the minor.”
Money said those students who are considering majoring in more than one field or those who don’t find a major at Miami that totally suits them are ideal candidates for the program.
“The beauty of this is they can complete their bachelor of arts in four years and need not meet all the requirements (of each major),” Money said of students with multiple interests.
Junior Brittany Dove transferred to Miami in fall 2009. A graduate student who helped with her advising suggested she look into the Western Program because Dove wanted to study how fashion shapes different cultures.
“There’s really nothing else I’m that interested in that I wanted to focus my time on,” Dove said. “You basically pick and choose the subject areas that are most relevant to what you’re trying to study.”
Most Western classes are taught in Peabody Hall, which is home to the Western Program living learning community. All but two Western service-learning classes are taught in Peabody this semester, according to Money.
“(Western gives) a small college experience on a larger campus,” Money said. “I think the Western students have an added sense of community by being a part of the activities here in Peabody.”
The Western Program is reaching out to as many students as possible, according to Money.
“We’re continuing to develop our website and first-year advisers (are speaking with first-year students),” Money said.
The Western Program is hosting a number of events through the Inquiry Center (located in 22 Peabody) to recruit students, including a canoe trip planned for Sept. 26 in Indiana.
But the program isn’t just recruiting first-year students. Assistant director Kim Ernsting is finding ways for sophomores, and some juniors, to join the program, according to Money.
Money hopes to see about 25 incoming students each year for the Western Program.
“I’d love to see Western Program within the next few years grow so that we had perhaps as many as 100 or more majors,” Money said.
With more students, Money knows there will need to be a larger number of faculty.
“We’re going to have to (have more staff) because of the interest,” Money said.
Money said employers are looking for someone that can work as part of a team and bring knowledge from different areas.
“Western reflects a new trend in education moving away from some of the traditional,” he said. “Students that graduated have gone on and done all kinds of things.”
Emily Orians, a 2008 Western graduate, works as a research associate at MarketVision, a marketing research firm in Cincinnati.
“Western seemed like the best fit for me to do the most I could with my major,” Orians said. “It also allowed me to change my mind a million times and graduate in three years and a summer.”
Being a Western graduate made Orians attractive to her prospective employers.
“I was told that because I had the same qualities in my degree (as other candidates) and a little more (with the Western Program), I had a leg up over the competition when it came to getting the job,” Orians said.
Orians said it takes a certain type of student to choose the Western Program.
“It’s not for everybody, but if you’re the right fit for it, it can take you places that other majors can’t,” Orians said.