Many graduate students at UBC’s Okanagan campus are taking the road less travelled by pursuing their master’s or doctoral degrees in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies (IGS).
While the majority of universities across the country see about 1 or 2 per cent of their graduate students choosing IGS programs, about 30 per cent of graduate programming at UBC’s Okanagan campus consists of IGS students. Currently, the campus has about 573 graduate students, 159 of whom are in IGS (72 in PhD programs and 87 in master’s programs).
“Our smaller campus fosters an interweaving of faculty and student connections,” says Daniel Keyes, Interim Director of IGS. “That enables students to branch out of their specific disciplinary area of study and explore classes, concepts and projects that relate to their academic pursuits, but also bring a different perspective.
“They really can push the boundaries of their educational experience,” he says.
More than 40 UBC graduate students will participate in a major research conference at UBC’s Okanagan campus May 3 and 4, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Graduate Students Association. The conference, entitled “Borders and Border Crossings,” offers the public an opportunity to hear students talk about their master’s- and doctoral-level research in health and culture, international relations, gender and sexuality, pop culture and a wide variety of other topics in the humanities and social sciences.
The scope of topics illustrates the power of interdisciplinary studies — IGS offers students the opportunity to pursue graduate studies across disciplinary boundaries and to tailor their course of study to suit their particular needs. For example, a student can pursue a master’s degree in Indigenous Studies, while incorporating classes and working with faculty in history, sociology or psychology.
Joani Mortenson, who is in her final year of the IGS doctoral program at UBC’s Okanagan campus, says her experience in IGS has been incredible. Her research, which focuses on queer parents who access midwifery services, draws from the humanities discipline to theoretically inform a social science policy.
“Being in IGS has allowed for such a breadth of learning,” she says. “I have felt fully supported in my program by a diverse array of scholars.”
Keyes notes that although students have quite a bit of freedom in choosing how to design their studies, the IGS program does require students to work with a faculty supervisor within their field to carefully define their idea, project and discipline.
“Anchoring is very important — each IGS student has a home and is paired with a faculty supervisor to guide him or her within a fairly fixed discipline,” says Keyes. “But then there is a value-added component, which allows students to question and explore how they practice their discipline by expanding their studies.
“By working with professors from other faculties to enhance, challenge and question the way they view their discipline, students undertake an incredibly valuable intellectual exercise and leave with broader knowledge and more diverse skills than they ever expected.”
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