Multidisciplinary Studies

Multidisciplinary Studies

The only student-designed major at Penn State! Multidisciplinary Studies is a multi-disciplinary, theme-oriented, and student-designed Liberal Arts major leading to a bachelor of arts degree. Students can formulate a unique theme—a topic, idea, or issue you wish to explore. After thorough research and consultation with the Multidisciplinary Studies academic adviser, you can design a program of study that investigates that theme from the viewpoint of at least three different subject areas. The program you design will create intellectual depth in an area of study that is unique to your interests but also aligns with the theoretical foundation of a liberal arts degree, emphasizing a broad education that can prepare you for the complex social, cultural, and organizational issues that you may face in most leadership positions.

Degree Types: Bachelor of Arts

About Multidisciplinary Studies

If you have thoroughly investigated the many majors at Penn State and believe that none of them address your particular academic interests, you may wish to design an individualized plan of study that consists of courses offered by various departments. To be a Multidisciplinary Studies student, you must have an interest in several fields rather than only one, and you must make a commitment in time and effort to design your own coherent plan of study. Liberal Arts advisers are available to assist you as you explore the many options available to you in the college. If, after your investigation of majors in the standard disciplines, you find that none can adequately meet your academic goals, you may be a candidate for Multidisciplinary Studies.

  • Multidisciplinary Studies is not designed to accommodate students who have been unsuccessful at meeting their academics goals in another major, such as failing to meet entrance-to-major requirements.
  • Similarly, Multidisciplinary Studies is not designed to provide a major for students who have changed majors several times and in doing so have accumulated many credits in unrelated disciplines.
  • As a Multidisciplinary Studies student, you are required to think about your goals and plan more thoroughly and thoughtfully than you would in most other majors. Since the Multidisciplinary Studies major is not prescriptive in terms of course selection, you will be called upon to engage in a continual process of evaluation that will lead you to make informed decisions. Unless you are prepared to assume these responsibilities, you should not consider entering the Multidisciplinary Studies major.

We recommend that you first read through the rest of this page to familiarize yourself with the program requirements and the process for applying to the major. After that, you may schedule an appointment in Starfish with Julianna Chaszar, the academic adviser for Multidisciplinary Studies.

Program Requirements

To earn a bachelor of arts degree in Multidisciplinary Studies, a minimum of 120 credits is required:

  • General Education: 45 credits
  • B.A. Degree Requirements: 12–24 credits
  • Major Requirements: 36 credits (All major courses must be completed with a “C” or above.)
  • Electives: 15–27 credits

Major "Core" Requirements

3 credits in a course that involves research methodology or that focuses on a research project relevant to your plan of study. Types of included courses:

  • all courses numbered 294/494
  • all laboratory courses
  • all statistical analysis courses
  • all research methodology courses

3 credits in a course that focuses on evaluation, synthesis, and analysis. An independent study course designed to be a capstone course for your plan of study is recommended (more information below). Other types of included courses:

  • criticism
  • comparative studies
  • policy analysis

3 credits in a course that focuses on verbal, written, or symbolic expression. Types of included courses:

  • speaking
  • writing
  • action
  • production of fine arts
  • signing
  • symbolic logic

3 credits in a course that focuses on theory, principle, central concepts, or fundamental issues in a disciplinary group. Types of included courses:

  • Theory
  • major figures
  • basic problems
  • base principles

As part of your 15 credits of 400-level work, you must complete a capstone course or experience that will help you reflectively consider what you have learned in your individual courses related to your overall theme and apply your knowledge and skills in a unified manner. Options for the capstone may include:  

  • a lecture or seminar course that meets the goals of a capstone and relates to your theme 
  • undergraduate research credits culminating in a project 
  • internship credits when the internship is appropriately centered on your theme 
  • thesis credits 
  • independent study credits 
  • education abroad credits when the global experience is central to your theme 

Major "Option" Requirements

24 credits chosen to further develop your major theme

  • Each of these courses must relate to your stated theme.
  • At least three subject areas must be represented.
  • A minimum of 15 credits must be at the 400-level; 3 of the 15 credits are reserved for the Multidisciplinary Studies capstone course.
  • A minimum of 9 credits must be in the social sciences and humanities.


Courses that fulfill minor requirements may be double-counted without restriction in Multidisciplinary Studies core and option.

Transfer Credits

A maximum of 3 credits of transferred coursework may be counted as a 400-level selection in the option; students must provide documentation of the upper-division nature of that work.

Cumulative Use of Generically Numbered Courses

Students may use a maximum of 6 credits of generically numbered credits in the option (i.e. any combination of x94, x95, x96, x97). Specific limits are outlined below:

  • Special Topics: maximum 6 credits
  • Independent Study: maximum 6 credits
  • Internship: maximum 3 credits
  • Research: maximum 6 credits

Independent Learning

No student may complete the Multidisciplinary Studies option primarily through independent learning.

Entrance-to-Major Requirements

To be eligible to enter the Multidisciplinary Studies major, students must have:

  • An approved Multidisciplinary Studies proposal on file prior to completion of 60 credits;
  • A 2.00 cumulative grade point average;
  • An average of “C” or high in courses already taken for the major;
  • A minimum of 27.5 credits completed.

Graduation Standards

Multidisciplinary Studies students are subject to the same graduation standards as all other baccalaureate degree candidates in the College of the Liberal Arts.

You are undertaking an enormous responsibility by choosing Multidisciplinary Studies as your major. In an established major, faculty within their departments have already determined the courses students must complete to develop competency in a discipline; the major curriculum is then reviewed and approved by the University Faculty Senate. As a Multidisciplinary Studies student, however, you must do the work to design a program with academic integrity worthy of a bachelor of arts degree. To be eligible for entrance to the major, you must then submit a thoughtful and well-written proposal to the college’s Multidisciplinary Studies committee for review. You may not duplicate existing majors from an academic area. Your proposal must be submitted and approved prior to completion of 60 credits; therefore, it is important to begin work on your proposal before the spring of your second year. If your proposal is denied, you will not be eligible to major in Multidisciplinary Studies.

  1. Before you write your proposal

Thoroughly explore other majors, both in the College of the Liberal Arts and in other colleges, to make certain there is no other major or major/minor combination that will accommodate your needs. Develop a clear understanding of your theme of study, narrowing it down as much as possible. Avoid vagueness and generalities in your writing. Consult the Multidisciplinary Studies academic adviser to ensure that you understand the major, then take the following steps before you begin to write your proposal:

  • Using the current University Bulletin as a guide, make a list of courses you would like to take in support of your theme.
  • Obtain syllabi of the courses on your list, or consult instructors who teach those courses. Consider if those courses will provide the knowledge you seek.
  • Ask departments how often courses are offered and during what semesters. Some courses may or may not be viable choices. You need to know this before you include them in your proposal.
  • Investigate academic or enrollment controls. Alternates must be listed for any controlled course.
  • Check on prerequisites: Make sure you build prerequisites into your academic plan as general education or elective courses.
  • Make sure that at least three subject areas are represented in your selection of your “option” courses. (If your list reflects a majority of courses in one subject area, you should consider majoring in that discipline.)
  • Using a Multidisciplinary Studies audit, plan your courses semester-by-semester to verify that you will meet all general education, bachelor of arts, elective, and major requirements.
  1. Writing Your Proposal

Your proposal must follow the format below:

  1. Proposal Cover Sheet: Fill out this coversheet; be sure to include a brief statement of your theme. (Please note, the coversheet says “Letters, Arts, and Sciences,” which was, until recently, the name of this major. It is still okay to use this coversheet.)
  2. Statement of Theme: This is an in-depth essay in which you a) clearly and precisely articulate your theme of study, and b) explain why you are not able to accomplish your goals in a standard major.
  3. Academic Plan: This is a detailed justification of your selection of each of the twelve courses selected to complete the core and option areas. In the core, you must justify how each course relates to your theme, as well as how each course leads to the development of skills in the prescribed categories (research, critical analysis, communication, and theory/application). In the option, you must justify how each course relates to your theme and how the courses are related to one another. This section should not simply reiterate course descriptions or informational content; rather, it should address your specific curricular expectations.
  4. Statement of Educational and Career Expectations: This is a paragraph (at minimum) in which you summarize your educational and career goals.
  5. Summary of Related Activities: This is a paragraph (at minimum) in which you summarize any activities (extracurricular, employment, internship, etc.) that contribute to or are enhanced by your academic plan.
  1. Submit Your Proposal

Submit your proposal via email to Julianna Chaszar , the academic adviser for Multidisciplinary Studies. Note that your proposal must be completed and approved prior to completion of 60 credits, so plan to allow enough time for any suggested revisions. Your academic adviser will contact you when your proposal has been reviewed.

  1. Declare Your Major

Approval of a proposal does not automatically admit one into the Multidisciplinary Studies major. If approved, you will work with your academic adviser to request the major through LionPATH.

  1. Continuous Assessment

Your plans may change as you progress through your education. Similarly, you should plan to participate in a continuous assessment of your academic plan to make sure that it accurately reflects any changes in your educational or career goals. You may find that courses other than those on your proposal would be more appropriate choices. If you determine that your academic plan should be amended to include different course selections, complete the Proposal Amendment Form and submit it to Julianna Chaszar for approval.

Have questions about this program?

Current students, contact your academic adviser

This program is housed 

in the Multidisciplinary Studies program 
at Penn State University Park and Penn State World Campus.
KiaraSmith2 (1)
Enrichment FundingGermanMultidisciplinary StudiesPaterno Fellows

Kiara Smith

Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Nutritional Sciences
German minor
Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Nutritional Sciences
German minor
Kiara spent a summer in Berlin earning credits towards her German minor. “The Paterno Fellows Program and the College of the Liberal Arts helped to fund my trip, which meant that while I was in Berlin I was able to focus more on my experiences and learning than on calculating and worrying about the cost of everything. Instead of staying in my room to save money, I went out and took day trips to places just outside of Berlin and a weekend trip out of Poland; I went to museums and cafes and bars where I got to meet Germans and make German friends.”
Brianna Clemente
Letters Arts and SciencesMultidisciplinary Studies

Brianna Clemente

Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Letters, Arts, and Sciences
I was able to create a major that catered to my educational goals. I selected all of my classes that would best benefit my future and prepare me with the knowledge I need for my future business.
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