What is Integrative Studies?

What is “integrative studies”? One meaning of integrate is “to blend into a whole.” In that 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. In the CIS, however, 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 in this context refers both to an intellectual and a civic opportunity; it recognizes and articulates relationships among subject matters, and applies learning from one context to another. It also involves building bridges between academic learning and the wider world, between personal experience and public issues. As a civic opportunity, integrative learning relies on connections built between distinct communities. It uses, and contributes to, links between the college campus and business communities, schools, farms, government bodies, churches, arts programs, and community organizations.

Integrative learning can take different forms: for example, the integration of methods drawn from different disciplines for study of a single subject; of different kinds of experiences in classrooms, laboratories, studios, internships, or study abroad; or of academic approaches into wider public conversations.

Many departments and programs at the college, as well as many individual courses listed in the catalog, are already integrative. Many faculty approach their subject matters in an integrative manner. The college also already offers rich opportunities for learning outside the classroom in individualized, experiential settings. By helping to nurture and promoting existing options, and by offering students the opportunity to realize intentionally integrative programs of study and experience in individual majors, the CIS seeks to multiply the meaningful connections students might make among different parts of their academic careers. 

The 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 for students who choose to design individual majors. The CIS supports and evaluates student proposals for individual majors, and certifies the successful completion of approved majors..

Relying on and encouraging student initiative, the CIS allows the college to be open to emerging areas of interdisciplinary and integrative studies. Under the auspices of the CIS, students can undertake curricular experiments that might give rise to the next generation of fruitful interdisciplinary programs. What we learn from successful individual majors may ultimately suggest future concentrations, clusters of general education courses, or even interdisciplinary programs.