Interdisciplinary Studies Major

Student Learning Outcomes

Disciplinary Knowledge – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Understand and explain the functions and limitations of academic disciplines
  • Examine similarities and differences across disciplinary frameworks and methods
  • Recognize disciplinary insights and perspectives relevant to their program of study

Inquiry and Analysis – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Develop research questions that can require thinking beyond a single discipline
  • Identify multiple disciplinary frameworks relevant to achieving specific research goals
  • Locate scholarly works that address interdisciplinary research questions

Critical Thinking – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Evaluate a variety of source materials and differing disciplinary viewpoints
  • Critique disciplinary assumptions and explain the contexts in those assumptions are developed

Written Communication – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Communicate ideas effectively in writing
  • Compose papers employing analytical writing to convey their disciplinary knowledge and skills

Information literacy – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Locate and evaluate appropriate materials for interdisciplinary research, using book catalogs and article databases
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of published and unpublished materials, including what constitutes plagiarism and how to cite sources

Ethical reasoning and action – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Examine the ethical approaches to studying problems through a variety of perspectives
  • Analyze the ways interdisciplinary critical thinking can be applied to social problems

Integrative and applied learning – Interdisciplinary Studies students will

  • Synthesize evidence representing multiple disciplinary perspectives
  • Combine the theories, methods, and analytical perspectives of a variety of disciplines to answer an interdisciplinary question
  • Explain how to approach a real-world problem in an interdisciplinary manner
  • Understand and articulate the benefits of interdisciplinary study to the larger world

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies Major (ISM) provides students with the opportunity to construct an individualized major that meets their unique needs and interests, and which results in a B.A. This flexible program allows students to follow academic pursuits that transcend traditional department or college boundaries, combining coursework from two, three, or even more academic units to explore a particular theme. An ISM tends to be more focused than traditional majors and should not be considered a default major for students uncertain about their course of study.


Interdisciplinary Coursework (42-48 credit hours)

  • While the ISM requires students to take a minimum of 15 credit hours in each of two disciplines, students can fulfill the remainder of their credit hours by contracting with additional disciplines or by creating a “grab bag”: choosing courses from a variety of disciplines that suit their ISM plan.  Up to 15 credit hours for an ISM can come from outside of CLAS.

ISMA 3100: Learning Across Disciplines (3 credit hours)

  • This course introduces students to interdisciplinary thinking, methods, and writing.  Examining a compelling issue chosen by the instructor (for example, hunger, human trafficking, healthcare reform, or war and PTSD ), students will learn what kinds of questions require thinking beyond a single discipline, how interdisciplinary scholars combine the theories and methods of a variety of fields, and how to approach the challenges of interdisciplinary writing.  The final project for ISMA 3100 requires students to combine the thinking, methods, and writing of at least two disciplines in an interdisciplinary project. Prerequisite: approval of ISM application (permission number). Students may petition the Associate Dean for Planning, Initiatives, and Diversity to fulfill their introduction outside of ISMA 3100.

ISMA 4900: Interdisciplinary Studies Capstone (3 credit hours)

  • ISMA 4900 brings together students who have been working on their individualized majors to share a capstone experience.  The goal of the ISM capstone is for students to put their interdisciplinary learning into action – whether through a traditional research project or an experiential learning project. All ISM students must produce a final project that demonstrates their abilities to pose an interdisciplinary question and synthesize the theories, methods, and analytical perspectives of their chosen disciplines to answer that question.  While working with their Primary Faculty Advisors on their capstone projects, students meet to discuss their experiences and to get feedback from each other as their projects develop. Grades will be determined by the instructor of record in consultation with each student’s Primary Faculty Advisor. Prerequisite: ISMA 3100 and Capstone proposal approved by faculty advisor. Students may petition the Associate Dean for Planning, Initiatives, and Diversity to fulfill their capstones outside of ISMA 4900.


  • ISM students must be in good academic standing, with a GPA of 2.0 or greater overall.
  • Students must achieve a minimum grade of C in all courses to be counted for an ISM.
  • The ISM proposal should be approved before students have taken one-third of the classes listed in their course contracts.
  • Once the ISM course contract is filed, any changes to coursework must be approved by the student’s Primary Faculty Advisor and resubmitted to the Associate Dean for Planning, Initiatives, and Diversity and to the student’s CLAS Academic Advisor.
  • In addition to ISMA 3100 and ISMA 4900, students must take at least 18 upper division credit hours (9 each in Discipline I and Discipline II).
  • A minimum of 24 ISM credit hours must be completed with CU Denver faculty (at least 9 credits in each of your main disciplines).
  • Core Curriculum: ISM students can meet a Knowledge Area of the CU Denver Core Curriculum through their ISM.  The selection of the Knowledge Area must be consistent with disciplines in the ISM Program Plan.  Students are encouraged to seek advice on this process from their CLAS Academic Advisor. 


In order to declare an Interdisciplinary Studies Major, students are required to submit a program plan that includes a proposal and a course contract. Students should aim to complete a program plan before the end of the sophomore year. The proposal should be approved before students have taken one-third of the classes listed in their course contracts. Copies of your completed ISM proposal and course contract must be filed with the Associate Dean for Planning, Initiatives, and Diversity and with your CLAS Academic Advisor. For more information contact BRANDON.S.MILLS@UCDENVER.EDU.