The disappearance of the inter-departmental major

Posted by The Editorial Board

The number of interdepartmental majors offered at Skidmore College is rapidly decreasing. The College previously offered 13 interdepartmental majors and, according to the 2013-2014 College Catalogue, the Curriculum Committee has approved two of these degree programs for phase-out. Furthermore, the Curriculum Committee and the New York State Department of Education have approved four additional degree programs for phase-out.
 The interdepartmental major allows a student to pursue two majors by completing, on average, a 15-class workload that draws from courses in both departments. However, as has been the reasoning behind many of the departments' decisions to phase out the interdepartmental degree program, this option essentially requires the workload of two minors (the average minor program consists of six to eight courses), and little guidance is offered on how student can best build their knowledge in ways that span across these courses and departments.
The Editorial Board finds the decision to slowly phase-out the interdepartmental major programs offered at the College in the best interest of the students. While Skidmore is a liberal arts college that encourages interdisciplinary learning across the departments, the purpose of a college degree is to demonstrate that a student has achieved an in-depth specialization in a certain field of study. When a student delves deep into a specific subject, it allows them to master it, building up the knowledge obtained through the numerous previous courses taken.,.It is not how many subjects one student "masters" during their undergraduate that will prepare them for a successful future, but the mastery of a subject itself that is important, something that an interdepartmental major just can't achieve with its low course-load standards.
The College also boasts a slew of interdisciplinary programs, which pull from five or six different departments to create a single major. The difference between the interdisciplinary major and the interdepartmental major is the inherently diverse nature of the interdisciplinary major. While interdepartmental majors can be split up so that students focus on the individual subjects but with half the work load for each, interdisciplinary majors require the inclusion of courses from different departments under a full course load.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact purpose of a liberal arts education, which is undoubtedly a highly individualized experience for each student. There is certainly a large difference between a liberal arts education and the education a student would receive at a trade school or a technical institute. At a liberal arts school, students should be able to study as many fields of knowledge they wish, and the interdepartmental majors facilitated that goal, but at the cost of disadvantaging the students by teaching more subjects but less of each. In the Board's opinion, the strength of Skidmore College is that it allows students to both specialize in an area while giving them the freedom to explore other departments and subjects of study. This way they are prepared for the careers that apply to their specialized fields of study, but still receive the well-rounded education they desire.

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