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New multidisciplinary studies degree made for students with varied interests

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On the Commencement stage, Brianna Roberts (center) is congratulated by Richard Diem (left), dean of the UTSA Honors College. Roberts was hooded on the stage by her mother, Kimberly Kline (right), UTSA associate professor of communication. (Photo by Mark McClendon)

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(June 14, 2012) -- On Oct. 13, 2008, San Antonio College freshman Brianna Roberts '12 decided that she didn't want to go into journalism after all. That was the day that Alan Godin fatally shot a fellow librarian at Northeast Lakeview College.

"I was there to cover the shooting for Ranger, the newspaper at San Antonio College, and I was the first reporter on the scene," Roberts recalls. "People were grieving. I realized that I couldn't get up in people's faces during a bad time; journalists have to do that."

But, Roberts was an exceptional writer, following in the footsteps of her mother, Kimberly Kline, a UTSA associate professor of communication and assistant vice provost for assessment. And, Roberts was good with people. So, she made the jump and transferred to UTSA, where she began taking sociology classes.

The sophomore settled in quickly at UTSA, joining both the Honors College and the university's nationally ranked debate team.

In summer 2010, Roberts competitively earned a spot in UTSA's Summer Law School Preparation Academy. The experience intrigued her, and she began taking legal studies courses shortly thereafter.

In spring 2011, she nabbed an internship with state Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio). Later that year, she put theory into practice when she worked in the Education Department of the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C., as part of the Archer Fellowship Program offered by the UTSA Honors College. She earned honors studies credit for the experience at Capitol Hill.

By the time Roberts was a junior, she had racked up courses in sociology, legal studies and honors studies. Yet, none of it was enough to keep her on a four-year timeline for graduation.

She found her solution in fall 2011, when UTSA introduced the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Multidisciplinary Studies. The program allows undergraduates to combine courses from three subject areas to create a customized degree. Six courses are required in the first focus areas while five courses each are required from the two subsequent areas. Students may choose any three focus areas as long as one is offered through the College of Liberal and Fine Arts or College of Sciences.

Roberts chose to pursue a multidisciplinary studies degree with concentrations in sociology, legal studies and honors studies. The combination allowed her to use all of the academic credits she'd earned at both UTSA and San Antonio College. And, the icing on the cake? She would still graduate in four years.

"If Brianna had pursued a major in sociology or legal studies, it would have taken her two extra semesters -- about 10 more courses-- to graduate," said Kline.

But the new alumna cautions that the degree program shouldn't be treated as a catchall.

"You need to know exactly what you want to do; you need to be focused," she says. "You can't just throw three things together because you like them. You need to know why you're picking each focus area and what you plan to do with each one."

Gabriel Acevedo, a UTSA associate professor of sociology, agrees. He serves as the faculty adviser to students majoring in multidisciplinary studies. The program, which began with 14 students, has already outpaced faculty expectations and now serves more than 140 declared majors.

UTSA has found that many of the students interested in declaring a multidisciplinary major are transfer students who are eager to graduate on time but have accrued a lot of credits in differing subject areas. Others are among the 3.5 million adults who report "some college" and want to return to school to complete their degrees. Others are incoming freshmen and sophomores who have unique skills sets and are intrigued by the idea of a customized academic plan that allows them to take full advantage of the varied opportunities UTSA offers.

Acevedo notes that the program has grown much larger than UTSA anticipated.

"We're at a point now where we are being assigned office space and discussing ways to make student advising more convenient and straightforward for students," he says.

He adds that in just a year, advisers are already seeing baseline trends.

"We're seeing a lot of students like Brianna, who are choosing sociology as a focus area," Acevedo says. "Once you take Introduction to Sociology, you have a wide variety of courses available that you can take in a timely manner. Students have quite a bit of flexibility in scheduling sociology courses, and the courses offer useful, marketable skills from data management, statistical analysis, to managing focus groups and carrying out in-depth interviews."

Acevedo also sees a lot of multidisciplinary studies majors choosing business as a focus area.

This spring, Roberts returned to Senator Van de Putte's office to extend her internship and polish her skill set. And, in May, just four years after she started, she crossed the UTSA commencement stage.

Ultimately, Roberts would like to work as the chief-of-staff for an elected leader. Until then, however, she's keeping her options open. The alumna has applied to the Annie's List Campaign School. She's also looking for job openings in preparation for the 2013 Legislative Session.

But one thing's for certain.

"The multidisciplinary studies degree was a lifesaver," she says. "If it weren't for the multidisciplinary studies degree, I would not have graduated on time."

 

 

Events
Feb. 5, 6:15 p.m.

First Friday Stargazing

The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy's Curtis Vaughan Observatory will offer free stargazing for the public beginning on top of the 4th floor of the Flawn Science Building. Experienced astronomers will be on hand to show a variety of astronomical objects and answer any questions. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to invite friends and family.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory

Feb. 6, All Day

10th annual San Antonio Writing Project Teachers' Conference

This year's keynote speaker is Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisper. The event will feature breakout sessions and a presentation by the Creative Writers from North East School of the Arts. The event is free and open to all teachers from Pre-K through university level. Attendees can earn a certificate for 3 hours of Professional Development Credit.
Riklin Auditorium (FS1.406), Downtown Campus

Feb. 9, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. & 6 - 9 p.m.

Rowdy Gras 2016

The UTSA community is invited to attend the 3rd annual Rowdy Gras celebration! This year Rowdy Gras includes a daytime event from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. with a free food tasting and music on the UC Paseo. The main event takes place from 6 - 9 p.m. in the UC Lawn. The event includes free food, live jazz music, activities and giveaways.
University Center Paseo & Lawn, UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 10, 5:30 p.m.

UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning 2015-16 Speaker Series

The UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning’s 2015-16 Speaker Series continues with Dana Cuff, Ph.D., a professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her talk, Cuff will discuss new forms of “studio” and new types of practices. Free and open to the public.
Aula Canaria Lecture Hall (BV 1.328), UTSA Downtown Campus

Feb. 13, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

29th annual Asian Festival - Year of the Monkey

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures invites Texas and Texans to the Asian Festival. What began as a traditional family reunion for the Chinese New Year has expanded to include other Asian communities and participants, showcasing their unique culture and traditions.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

Feb. 13, 1 p.m.

2016 Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium

Join the UTSA Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching in celebrating interdisciplinary inquiry at the 2016  Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium.  The colloquium will include a panel of faculty and recent doctoral graduate and a showcase of the best IDS undergraduate inquiry projects of the year 2015. The event is free and open to the public.
Business Building (BB 2.06.04), UTSA Main Campus

Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m.

African-American Social Welfare Pioneers Responding to Community Needs

The UTSA College of Public Policy presents the Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series featuring Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey, Professor of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Iris Carlton LaNey will speak to the UTSA community about the role and impact of African-Americans in the social work profession.
Buena Vista Theater (BV 1.326), Downtown Campus

Feb. 23, 7 p.m.

Presentation and Book Signing with Luis Carlos Montalvan

Please join us for a presentation and book signing by Luis Carlos Montalván (Fmr. Capt., USA), author of the New York Times Bestseller Until Tuesday and the international award-winning childrens book Tuesday Tucks Me In. His books will be available for purchase at the UTSA Bookstore. This event is free and open to the public.
Southwest Room (DB 1.124), Downtown Campus

Feb. 25, 6 p.m.

12th Annual Black Heritage Gala

The 12th Annual Black Heritage Gala is a formal event which includes a student performance, keynote remarks by Michael Brown, an award presentation, dinner and dancing. Tickets are $10 for UTSA students and $15 for all other guests. Tickets are on sale now at Roadrunner Express. Contact (210) 458-4770 for more information.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus

Feb. 27, 9 a.m.

Cultural Contrasts in Latin America

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will host a free workshop focusing on teaching Latin American culture and geography for students seeking their teacher certification. The workshop includes free resources for teaching Latin American subject matter as well as presentations on language, identity, music, geography, and political and developmental history, and a special educators’ tour of the museum’s Los Tejanos exhibit. Free with registration.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC 3.01.02)


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