The Center for Integrative Studies
The Center for Integrative Studies (CIS) is a part of the Interdisciplinary and General Studies (IGS) Faculty, in company with well-established interdisciplinary programs such as Gender and Sexuality Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies, Environmental Studies, Africa and the Americas, and Asian Studies. Unlike those programs, the CIS has no set curriculum or subject matter. Instead, its primary role is to provide administrative and pedagogical structure to students who choose to design individual majors.
Established in 1999, the CIS continues St. Olaf’s long-standing commitment to providing opportunities for students to make meaningful connections among the various parts of their college careers, emphasizing the synergies between students’ academic studies and other experiences on campus and in other communities. Relying on and encouraging student initiative, the CIS allows the college to be open to emerging areas of interdisciplinary and integrative studies. Students can undertake curricular experiments that might give rise to the next generation of conversations, concentrations, or even interdisciplinary programs.
In a sense, all learning is integrative, since all learning blends new experiences, information, or perspectives into the learner’s total understanding of his or her world. In some ways, this integration happens naturally over the course of four years of undergraduate study.
However, in the CIS, Integrative Studies refers to the intentional combination of diverse subject matters, resources, methodologies, approaches to learning, research and applied experiences. Students who develop individual majors are able to be both intentional and reflective about their learning –to plan how they will integrate their diverse educational experiences in pursuit of their educational goals and to be explicit about the connections they have made among those experiences.
Integrative study is an intellectual opportunity, drawing on the methodologies of different disciplines for study of a single subject, recognizing and articulating relationships and distinctions. It can also be experiential in nature, blending classroom learning with laboratories, studios, internships, and/or study abroad, and applying knowledge and understanding gained in one context to another. And, it can potentially be a civic opportunity, building bridges between academic learning and the public conversations, using and contributing to connections among the college campus and business communities, schools, farms, government bodies, churches, arts programs, and other organizations.
The Individual Major
Any student in good academic standing may, after their first year, and with the support of CIS staff and a faculty advisor, develop and propose an individual, integrative major that satisfies their educational goals. Individual Majors must articulate a central, organizing idea that integrates the proposed sequence of courses, seminars, independent studies, internships, culminating an a senior project and web portfolio. Individual Majors may not duplicate any existing program at the college. Proposals are submitted to the Curriculum Committee for approval.