Interdisciplinary Studies has a long history at the University of Central Florida. In 1969, the year after the Institution, then known as Florida Technological University (FTU), welcomed its first students, the Bachelor of General Studies degree (BGS) in General Studies was established. By 1972, the BGS degree was discontinued and the General Studies program began offering Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees in General Studies. In 1978, by an act of the Florida Legislature, FTU underwent a name change and became the University of Central Florida. A few years later the General Studies program also underwent a name change and became the Liberal Studies program.
Between 1981 and 2006 the Liberal Studies program offered students BA and BS degrees with a major in Liberal Studies. While the program evolved a great deal across its quarter century, the foundation of the program was always to offer academic flexibility to students. The Liberal Studies program “recognize[d] that… there [were] many combinations of courses which [could] be structured into meaningful programs to meet the needs of individual students” (1989-90 Undergraduate Catalog. University of Central Florida. 1989. 22(1). P 72.) As such, a Liberal Studies degree allowed students, whose academic interests or career plans could not be met by another academic discipline, to build a major that suited their needs.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, the Liberal Studies program underwent its first independent program review. A consultant from outside the University was brought to campus to perform a thorough examination of the program. While the consultant was impressed with the Liberal Studies program, she brought fresh ideas to improve the program. These ideas, built upon the existing foundation of the Liberal Studies program, were meant to strengthen the academic experience of students pursuing the major. These suggestions included changing the program’s name to more aptly reflect its curriculum, developing foundation courses to help students better understand the interdisciplinarity of their degree, creating a common academic experience, and developing a stronger community amongst the students pursuing the major. The University chose to implement a number of the suggestions brought forth. By 2007, the new Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies program was ready to replace the Liberal Studies degree program.
Because the Liberal Studies program provided the foundation for the Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies program, there are a number of similarities between the two. However, the Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies program offers students an improved academic experience. While the program still focuses on providing academic flexibility to help students meet their individual needs, the Cornerstone (IDS 3933) and Capstone (IDS 4934) courses provide a common academic experience to all students pursuing a track within the degree. These courses also add to the curriculum a basis for interdisciplinary study, career development, and graduate school preparation, and provide a solid base upon which the Interdisciplinary Studies community can grow.
In 2017-2018 Interdisciplinary Studies welcomed some new programs, including a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Additionally, we introduced the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, which prior to 2017-2018, was a track within the Interdisciplinary Studies degree. The Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies – Women’s Studies Track was also replaced by the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies – Transnational Gender Race and Sexuality Studies (TransGRaSS) Track.
Numerous researchers have found that the number and distribution of interdisciplinary undergraduate programs have increased substantially in the past 25 years, outpacing the growth rate of student enrollments. The Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies program at UCF is an example of this exceptional growth. Almost 9,000 degrees in general studies, liberal studies, and interdisciplinary studies have been awarded at UCF since 1971. The number of degrees awarded in General Studies in 1974-1975 was 37 compared to 564 degrees awarded in 2008-2009, a 1,424% increase in degrees conferred in a 34-year period, nearly triple the growth rate of bachelor’s degrees conferred university-wide in the same time-frame.