Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies

Individually-Designed Interdisciplinary Program (IDIP)

Rachel Freedman Creates Her Own Major To Study Global Activism and Advocacy

Rachel Freedman develops a deeper understanding of how social structures evolved after creating her own major in global activism and advocacy. (Filmed and edited by Emerson students.)

Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Program (IDIP)

At Emerson College, students are encouraged to follow their interests and goals—wherever they may lead. Even with the multitude of arts and communications majors and minors from which to choose, students occasionally have a vision that cannot be adequately realized within these offerings. The Individually Designed Interdisciplinary Studies Program (IDIP) allows students to design their own major by combining courses from two or more departments, or a department and the Institute, around an anchoring concept or theme.

Students designing their own majors have the opportunity to create an advising team of two faculty members from different academic departments or the Institute that will help shape their program of study and provide support and guidance through to graduation. Examples of past IDIP foci include:

  • Global Activism and Advocacy;
  • Media Production and Management;
  • Effective Marketing through Digital Media Design;
  • Politics, Performance and Social Advocacy;
  • Investigative Theater for Social Change.

This exciting program offered through the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies provides a home for students who desire to create a unique and dynamic space for their academic and career goals.


An individually designed interdisciplinary program (IDIP) is a major program of study in a well-defined area of interest consisting of courses from two or more academic departments or from a department and the Institute. Students design an interdisciplinary major program in consultation with faculty members from the different departments where the coursework is based. The student’s course plan for the major must include a minimum of 40 credits for the BA or the BS. Because IDIPs usually involve the completion of prerequisites in more than one department, a typical IDIP requires between 48 and 56 credits to complete. To be eligible, students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of application, and they must complete a petition for an interdisciplinary major program and have it approved by the IDIP faculty committee before beginning their junior year. Students pursuing an IDIP must complete applicable departmental prerequisites for all their coursework and should include these prerequisites in their course plan.

Application & Deadlines

Applications for an IDIP should be submitted no later than the second semester of a student’s sophomore year. Students may request special consideration for a petition to be considered during the junior year. In no case, however, will a petition for an IDIP be considered during the student’s senior year.

Application forms can be obtained from, and completed applications should be returned to: the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, Walker Building, Room 505, 617-824-8756.

To receive consideration, fully and properly completed applications must be received by the Institute’s office by:

  • October 15: For IDIP program beginning in spring semester
  • February 15: For IDIP program beginning in fall semester


Please follow the steps below when completing an IDIP proposal and application.

  1. Make an appointment with Nigel C. Gibson, director of the Honors program (, to get an overview of the program and to obtain the application forms.
  2. Meet with the chairs and the faculty advisors from the departments where your IDIP will be based to discuss your plan and to obtain recommendations for courses in those departments. (NOTE: In most circumstances, IDIP advisors should be full-time faculty members).
  3. Using the application forms found at the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies as a guide, write a preliminary draft of your proposal. This preliminary proposal should include:
    • A coherent, thoughtfully conceived, typed statement that addresses: i) the specific educational and professional objectives of your program; ii) how the courses you are proposing to take will fulfill these objectives; and iii) your personal qualifications, background, or work experience that is relevant to or will help you successfully complete this program.
    • A draft of your course plan setting out the proposed courses and timetable for your IDIP. (Courses should be sensibly sequenced and should reflect a balance of theory and practice).
    • A copy of your unofficial transcript. (Unofficial transcripts can be obtained from the Advising Center, the Registrar's Office, or online through student interactive services).
    • A copy of your degree audit (Degree audits can be obtained from the Advising Center, the Registrar's Office, or online through student interactive services).
  1. Discuss the draft of the proposal, courses, and timetable with your faculty advisors and make any suggested changes.
  2. Fill out the official petition page. Attach the final draft of your proposal, your transcript, and your degree audit, and present these materials to your faculty advisors for their approval and signatures. Faculty advisors must also write a brief letter of recommendation for the proposal addressing its appropriateness and educational validity. (NOTE: Please be aware of all prerequisites that connect with your selected courses. Students must complete required prerequisites before registering for their IDIP courses.)
  3. Obtain the signatures of the department chairs where your IDIP will be based to ensure that the courses you want to take will in fact be available.
  4. Submit the completed proposal, including the proposal checklist, to Colleen Heffernan, Program Coordinator (, on or before the October 15 or February 15 deadline.


  1. Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of application
  2. Proposed program of study cannot be met within existing majors at Emerson
  3. IDIP petitions must be submitted no later than the 2nd semester of the sophomore year

Program Changes

Like other major programs, the IDIP represents a curriculum plan that must be followed in all of its specifics in order for a student to graduate. In cases where an IDIP has been approved and a student encounters problems obtaining a recommended course or courses, specific changes to the program may be approved provided that the substituted course(s) meet(s) the intent of the original IDIP. In such cases, the student must submit a written request, including an explanation of the reasons for the change(s), to Colleen Heffernan (

Requests for changes must also include signatures of approval from the student’s faculty advisors. Minor changes that are consistent with the original program design may be approved by the IDIP coordinator. Changes that substantially alter the structure of a student’s overall program will be submitted to the Interdisciplinary Committee for review and approval. This Committee may, at its discretion, request further information concerning the impact of changes upon a student’s program before considering the request for approval.

“I found myself stuck between two very different majors and knew I would need both to embark on a very specific career path. My IDIP allows me to learn not only the nuances of making great films, but also how to bring them to the masses.”

Carly Cazer