Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS)

The Idea of the Major

The undergraduate major in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science (IDS) recognizes that many students do not wish to limit their studies to the specialization of a single disciplinary department or professional school. Rather, these students seek a well-rounded bachelor's degree program that will provide broad exposure to several of the social sciences, even as it prepares them to enter the career market or undertake advanced studies. The IDS major offers students the opportunity to make full use of both the commonality and diversity inherent in the social sciences and to construct from them a well-integrated, multifaceted liberal arts education.

Many important and rewarding topics in the study of human beings, their social organizations and behavior, and their physical and biological environments do not fall exclusively within the boundaries of any single social science discipline. While individually distinctive, the social, behavioral, and economic science disciplines from which students in this major construct their programs collectively form a closely interlocking set of disciplines with many basic concepts and points of origin in common. Each discipline complements and modifies the theoretical perspectives and findings of the others. Because of the overlapping boundaries of the social sciences, many faculty in the College of Social Science participate in instruction, research and public outreach projects with colleagues in related disciplines within the college, across the campus, and around the world. For these reasons, the college offers a broadly based, multi-departmental undergraduate major in interdisciplinary social science.


The Structure of the Major

The major in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science requires a minimum of 40 credits, with at least 15 credits included in an interdisciplinary concentration (Community Governance and Advocacy, Health and Society, or Liberal Studies) and at least 12 credits included in a disciplinary cognate selected from one of the following departments: Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, Psychology, or Sociology. The course work in the interdisciplinary concentrations establishes the basis for students to pursue the integrated study of complex social issues and phenomena. The course work in the disciplinary cognates develops more specialized skills in problem analysis, research methodology, and critical thinking. Together, the two complementary parts of this major combine breadth and depth in imaginative ways that have multiple applications to both professional careers and advanced study. 

IDS T Shaped Major

Liberal Studies students design an interdisciplinary program of at least 27 credits in the departments and professional schools in the College of Social Science, combining a customized concentration and cognate.

The Business Emphasis: IDS students may complete a Business Emphasis, composed of a group of courses offered in the Eli Broad College of Business. The Business Emphasis can be a valuable complement to the student's interdisciplinary program of study. Many employers in the public and private sectors and many graduate programs in public policy, law, or business are especially interested in students who have included a significant portion of business-oriented course work in their undergraduate degree programs.

Teacher Certification: The IDS major is designated as a major in which students may pursue teacher certification (secondary school level). Students must be accepted into the College of Education, and are required to complete specified course work in four academic disciplines - economics, geography, history, and political science.  


Points of Pride

A tradition of excellence and innovation: For nearly 75 years, IDS has offered students the opportunity to discover effective ways of combining varieties of academic interests into individually tailored, coherent programs of study. The major — first known as the Social Science Divisional Major, later as the Multidisciplinary Program (MDP), and since 1992 as IDS—has been available at MSU since 1944.

A popular major: IDS is one of the largest interdisciplinary undergraduate degree programs in the country. At present, approximately 325 students are enrolled.

Topical/Thematic Focus: IDS is unique. It differs from many interdisciplinary or interdepartmental degree programs in that it offers students the opportunity to select a specific focus (e.g., Health and Society). In the course of their studies, students gain both a strong, liberal arts foundation and in-depth knowledge in the selected topical or thematic area.

IDS offers a wide range of options. Each student selects and completes the requirements of one of these interdisciplinary concentrations:

  • Community Governance and Advocacy
  • Health and Society
  • Liberal Studies

Student Accomplishments: Over the years, IDS students have received a number of prestigious academic awards and citations. Two graduates have won Mellon Fellowships for graduate study, the first recipients of this award in the history of Michigan State University. During the past five-year period, IDS students have received sixteen College of Social Science Undergraduate Distinguished Scholarships, one Richard Lee Featherstone Endowed Prizes, awarded each year to outstanding graduating seniors at MSU who possess an unusually well articulated combination of academic interests, along with a record of service that reflects those interests. In addition, three recent IDS students have received Board of Trustee Awards for graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Alumni Accomplishments: IDS alumni pursue a wide range of career interests. IDS graduates are exploring new frontiers in a variety of interrelated and overlapping fields. Alumni of the major number in the thousands and include a U.S. Senator, a former governor of the State of Michigan and ambassador to Canada, a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement, the former U.S. ambassador to Brazil, a past president of the MSU Board of Trustees, three university presidents, the former Vice President of the Corporate Trust Department of one of America's largest banks, a professional photographer who has been in the forefront of developments in computer imaging, a large number of men and women who have served the public in various capacities at the local, State, and national levels, and corporate and community leaders across the country and around the world.

Alumni pursuing graduate-professional schools: In recent years, a large number of IDS alumni have pursued graduate-professional programs of study. These include schools of law, medicine, public health, social work, human resources/labor relations, health care administration, public policy, public administration, urban planning, and business. Graduates in the past few years have attended a wide range of colleges and universities, including many major research institutions.

Academic advising: The IDS program continues to place strong emphasis upon the quality of its academic advising. IDS advisors assist students in developing imaginative and intellectually stimulating programs of study. IDS advisors have in-depth knowledge and understanding of courses and course content in the various departments/schools within the College of Social Science and elsewhere in the university.