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Frequently Asked Questions
What do Interdisciplinary Self-Designed Program students major in?
All our students major in customized individual graduate study. This means that if you are only interested in communication, business or philosophy, this program probably is not the right graduate program for you. But, if you want to study combinations of communication and business or computer science, telecommunications and information systems and public policy, then this is the place for you.
The Interdisciplinary Self-Designed Program offers three self-designed graduate degree tracks:
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies
The classes taken over the course of the self-designed degree determine which of the above degrees the student ultimately earns.
Who can apply to the program?
Any student who has completed a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university can apply for admission into the ISD program.
Can I apply for admission at any time?
Yes, admission is on a continuous basis and you can apply for any quarter. It takes at least five weeks to process your application after all the materials have been submitted.
Is there a limitation to the courses I can take?
There are a few. Since the program is interdisciplinary in nature, no more than six courses may be taken in any one department or program and no more than five courses can be taken in the College of Commerce (Kellstadt Graduate School of Business). The five-course limit in the graduate school of business includes the thesis in a traditional business subject (as opposed to an interdisciplinary thesis which addresses business issues. You many take no more than two approved 300-level courses (upper division undergraduate courses). Students in the program may not take courses from the College of Law or certain performance-based courses in the schools of Music and Theatre. Please see Questions on Course Selection, Registration, Transfers, and Changes of Program for a more detailed explanation.
How will my proposed list of courses be evaluated?
The director of the program will evaluate and assess your proposed List of Courses (LOC) in terms of the goals as indicated in your Statement of Academic Purpose (SAP). The Director of the Program will consult the Chairperson or Program Director of every department and program in which you intend to take courses. Your admission will be approved only after the director of the program has approved your entire program.
Can I take an independent study course?
Yes. An independent study is usually a course designed by you and a professor in a subject area you’re interested in. Through independent study, you can design your own project and work one-to-one with a professor who is an expert in the field. You can also design the independent study to engage in various forms of experiential learning by doing an internship with countless institutions in Chicago. You cannot take more than one course as an independent study.
Is there a possibility of doing a thesis or culminating project as part of a self-designed program?
The program has a 12-course option that includes a thesis or thesis-like capstone, and a 13-course option that includes other capstone options. The thesis option provides students with a chance to pull together the many various strands of their program in a coherent and original piece of scholarly or professional work. It can be especially valuable for those considering career change or further advanced academic work. If you choose this option, your thesis project will be under the guidance of a faculty supervisor and a committee of two other faculty members drawn from the university.
Can I transfer graduate courses taken elsewhere?
Yes, under some circumstances. A limited number, usually the equivalent of 12 quarter hours or 3 courses, may be transferred only after you have been admitted to the program. You must provide appropriate evidence of transfer courses with your application.
Are there other forms of financial assistance?
We offer a partial tuition scholarship awarded on a competitive basis. Any student may apply for this assistance after completing one quarter of study in the program. The university also offers a number of loan packages. To view more details visit our Financial Aid section.
How much assistance will I get designing my program?
Advisement is one of the hallmarks of the program. Whether your advisor is the director, associate director or other faculty, you will receive guidance at every stage in your academic career. The program endeavors to help students form community through thoughtful course scheduling and social events.
How long do students typically take to complete their degrees?
Programs usually consists of twelve or thirteen courses including the Capstone Project. Most students who work full-time find that a single course per quarter is a reasonable load, but some take more. Our own courses are usually not offered in the summer, but there are courses in other divisions of the university which students can take for credit, thus accelerating progress toward the degree. If you are not working at a full-time job it is possible to complete the program in a little more than two years, but most students take longer. Many students say they enjoy the program so much they are reluctant to bring it to a conclusion.
If I do a capstone project, how do I choose the topic?
Since students know that eventually they will be creating a thesis or other Capstone Project, they generally begin to think about a topic in their first or second year. Students work closely with a Program Advisor and their academic advisors to help shape a Capstone, and to select the particular Capstone option that is best for them. Past Capstones have dealt with an astonishing variety of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, public affairs, business and management issues, the arts, and issues of contemporary life, all from an interdisciplinary perspective. Sometimes students use the Capstone to explore a topic that engaged them in one or several of their courses. Often an issue that relates to the personal or professional life of the student becomes the topic of investigation. The average thesis-style Capstone Project is between 35 and 50 pages, though some are longer. Besides the thesis-type project, students can also do a Practicum--a Capstone in which a creative or community project is the main activity, but accompanied by an essay describing and analyzing the project. Students can also choose the Exit Course or Enhanced Portfolio Essay Capstones. Copies of all Capstone Projects are deposited and catalogued in the DePaul Library, as well as in the offices of the Program. Some Capstones go on to further life in publication, or distribution via the web and other media.