Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Major Thoughts: impassioned students should initiate IDIP, the DIY major

Many of my courses creatively challenge me, and push me to think and learn differently than I had before. / Illustration by Ally Rzesa

I knew I wanted to pursue fashion advertising when I started applying to colleges. Fashion had always been a passion of mine and pursuing advertising alongside it would give me a flexible business background within the fashion industry. After visiting Emerson, I fell in love with the school and the opportunities it presented, but its lack of fashion-related curriculum left me anxious. It wasn’t until I met with an admissions advisor, and discovered the interdisciplinary major, that I knew Emerson was the perfect fit.

The individually designed interdisciplinary program, or IDIP, “allows students to design their own major by combining courses from two or more departments… around an anchoring concept,” according to the Emerson website. I think of it as a do-it-yourself, or DIY major.

Creating a major is a very hands-on process for students. Before even filling out an application, students must schedule a meeting with their academic advisor to review the necessary steps for creating their personalized program.

What follows is an involved process of meeting with the administration, advisors, and department heads. The application itself requires signatures of approval from the department advisors for the majors students plan to combine—I went to the advisors of marketing and publishing. The application also requires a three-page paper justifying the selection of each class with a description of the gap in Emerson’s education that the IDIP will fill.

Despite all of the work required to apply, the IDIP is part of the reason why I chose Emerson—it gives students a unique opportunity to take control of their education and tailor it to their specific interests. Through the program’s existence, Emerson seemingly admits its major curriculums don’t cover everything. Because it is nearly impossible for students to be a double major, the interdisciplinary program seems like a better compromise.

Navigating Emerson’s hypercompetitive environment can foster a great learning experience, both in classes and on-campus organizations. But this environment also puts extra pressure on students who feel uncertain about their major or intended career path—especially as a freshman, when it feels like the majority of students already know exactly what they want to study.

As an IDIP major, uncertainty is not an option. It takes complete certainty to even consider the program.

I entered Emerson as a marketing communication major, but because of my interest in fashion. I crafted my curriculum by compiling creative marketing classes and magazine-related publishing classes.

Looking at my required courses when I register each semester is a strange yet satisfying experience. I have no right to complain about major requirements or how a class I’m taking is pointless—like so many of my Emerson peers—because I hand-selected everything.

I wanted my curriculum to set me up for success after Emerson, so a lot of subjects I study—like photography and magazine writing—are outside of my comfort zone. Many of my courses creatively challenge me and push me to think and learn differently than I had before. I constructed my major so that I could build skills, not get easy As. As a result, I’m spending more time on classwork with little flexibility in my schedule.

I could count all of the other IDIP majors I know on one hand. Since IDIP students don’t have an established platform to connect—not even a Facebook page—other students have a limited knowledge of the IDIP experience.

Not everybody gets accepted, and for some it takes multiple rounds of applications. It takes a lot of work to create a major, and I constantly second-guess whether or not the classes I chose will set me up for success in the future, or if I would have been better off sticking to the predetermined marketing curriculum. However, the program allows me to take control of my education and tailor it to my interests and career needs, while building skills that will help me adjust to any workplace or position.

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