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American Today



New Degrees, Courses Follow Interdisciplinary Path

By Mike Unger

A menu of intriguing new academic offerings, many of them interdisciplinary courses and majors offered by schools and colleges working in concert, greets students for the 2008–09 academic year.

According to dean of academic affairs Haig Mardirosian, academic enhancements realize “the instincts and direction that the university has had in mind for some time . . . The trained political economists, lawyers, journalists, sociologists attached to the faculties of multiple schools and colleges [create] natural discourse communities built around common intellectual instincts.”

Among the attractive new degrees being offered are a BS in business and music, MS in finance, and MS in finance and real estate. These degrees are housed in the Kogod School of Business, with the BS in business and music being offered with the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We started getting feedback from alumni and donors who were saying the music industry is huge, and all these kids graduate as music majors but they don’t have any business backgrounds,” said Jesse Boeding, Kogod’s director of undergraduate programs. “The intention of this degree is for students to be prepared for for-profit music industry positions. It’s not the music major curriculum. It’s a revised curriculum to give students a foundation and appreciation for music. There’s no performance requirement at all. It’s one of the only programs on campus that requires two internships. We really have no competition in the U.S. for this.”

Seventeen students are now enrolled in the program.

“Students love the idea,” Boeding said. “We’re really high on interdisciplinary education, and this is a classic example of that.”

The MS in finance and MS in finance and real estate are two distinct degrees.

“Even though real estate students will take a huge amount of finance, we saw a demand for people who wanted formal education in real estate,” said Phil English, director of the programs. “We have a number of world class experts in real estate.”

The interdisciplinary concept also can be seen at the School of Communication, which is offering Unseen and Unheard: Documentary Storytelling in the Other Washington in conjunction with CAS’s anthropology department.

“Unseen and Unheard represents SOC’s focus on community media and a renewed commitment to working in Washington,” SOC dean Larry Kirkman said. “It builds on Race, Ethnic and Community Reporting—introduced last year by journalism professor Angie Chuang—and Communication and Social Change, an interdisciplinary course for students from all three SOC academic programs that has undertaken projects on D.C. education reform and the impact of the new Nationals’ stadium on its neighbors.

“SOC has taught courses with anthropology before, reflecting our strengths in documentary, but the joint appointment of Nina Shapiro Perl is the building block for an SOC-CAS program linking social documentary and public anthropology. Nina’s appointment reflects SOC’s commitment to interdisciplinary partnerships and to creating strong minors and double majors for our students.”

The School of Public Affairs has joined forces with the Washington College of Law to offer four new degrees:

  1. Law and Public Administration: JD/MPA
  2. Law and Public Policy: JD/MPP
  3. Master of Laws and Master of Public Administration: LLM/MPA
  4. Master of Laws and Master of Public Policy: LLM/MPP

In addition, WCL is offering a new lawyer reentry program, a six-day program with follow-up one-on-one coaching sessions with faculty and professional coaches.

Within CAS, the School of Education, Teaching and Health (SETH) now offers graduate certificates in a new track in the MAT in early childhood, and in nutrition education.

“Because of the rising epidemic in obesity, there is a need for more professionals who have a basis in nutrition education,” SETH interim dean Stacey Snelling said. “I think society benefits from having students who are interested in nutrition education as an aspect of their career because people are then exposed to a more reliable nutrition education.”

There’s also a new certification area for secondary education in health and physical education and studio art and music.

“AU has a lot of opportunities for students who want to major in those areas, so we thought it made sense to offer a certification for those students interested in the educational aspects of those areas,” said Karen DiGiovanni, director of teacher education.