New Interdisciplinary Studies major to replace IDIP


Hongyu Liu

Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

By Alec Klusza, Assistant News Editor

The newly created Interdisciplinary Studies major is set to supplant the Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Program in the Marlboro Institute beginning this fall, according to a college official.

The new IDS program is distinct from the IDIP major, which was also housed within the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. The IDIP major allowed students to create a self-designed major by “combining courses from two or more academic departments, or a department and the Institute, around a well-defined area of interest” during their sophomore year, according to the college’s website

Conversely, the revamped IDS major allows students to design a program “around a coherent idea or set of questions” with a combination of liberal arts, professional, and studies courses, and culminates in a year-long senior capstone project. 

About 20 to 25 incoming students are expected to enter the program for the fall semester—an increase from the 14 students who enrolled in the major in fall 2020 when the program was created—Dean of the Malboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies Amy Ansell said. 

The design for the major was based on the former Marlboro College’s distinctive educational approach of self-designed learning and student-led inquiry, Ansell said, and incorporates more faculty oversight and structure than was available in the IDIP major. At Marlboro College, which finalized its merger with Emerson in July, students pursued “fields of study” that allowed students to take a variety of classes, as opposed to traditional majors.

The 55 Marlboro College students who transferred to the college this year were placed into the IDIP major, Ansell said. The 14 first-year students currently enrolled in the IDS major had no relation to Marlboro, Ansell added, and as of next year, any Emerson student can transfer into the IDS program as well.

The IDS major was built to attract first year students to the college, compared to IDIP which students could only apply for after attending the college for a year or more.

“Once we knew we were positioning this major to bring in new first-year students, we worked with faculty and with admissions and with enrollment to position it in the right way to attract new first-year students,” Ansell said. “So that’s where we retitled it as the Marlboro Interdisciplinary Studies major.”

Each student in the IDS program represents a single major, Ansell said. IDS majors are required to take a first-year seminar course, and then begin more project-based group learning as sophomores and juniors.

“All students are together in the senior year doing a capstone project that integrates the different fields into one culminating project,” Ansell said. “It’s not so [many] students working together on similar ideas. It’s more individual students working with a kind of interdisciplinary and project-based, student-led approach to education, working together with similarly oriented students.”

The major was devised to support students who want freedom over their educational curriculum, but sought more guidance than was available in the typical IDIP major.

“It’s really a revised IDIP to provide more structure of faculty support, and more rigor with a capstone and support courses that thread through the student experience so there’s a seminar each year,” Ansell said.

There is limited information about enrollment at the moment, Ansell said, though more information about the application process will become available when officials finalize details. 

“Emerson students can transfer into IDS, I don’t want to get ahead of processes, though,” Ansell said. “Everything will be stated on the website re process and timeline once all the approvals are obtained.”