Zachary M. Hilpert, Ph.D.
Interim director
(804) 827-8167

Martha Harper
B.I.S. adviser
(804) 828-1110

Marcie J. Walsh, Ph.D.
Assistant professor

The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies is an individualized and interdisciplinary program for students who wish to create an individualized curriculum not available in traditional curricular pathways within existing VCU degree programs. Students in this undergraduate degree program are able to design an individualized degree compatible with academic, career or personal goals.

The B.I.S. declaration process

To apply to the B.I.S. program, students should:

  • Have learning goals that are suited to an interdisciplinary program of study
  • Meet with the B.I.S. adviser  
  • Complete the B.I.S. application documents, including the detailed proposed curricular plan and rationale for interdisciplinary study, in consultation with the B.I.S. adviser, and submit the application for review  

Students interested in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies design their own curricula in consultation with the B.I.S. adviser. The B.I.S. adviser and faculty work closely with students to develop an appropriate curricular program and provide guidance on the application process. Each student’s plan must define a specific focus area that combines two or more areas of study and define their educational goals by designing their interdisciplinary curricula from a variety of course offerings. 

The proposed interdisciplinary curriculum plan will be evaluated by the B.I.S. adviser and program administrators before final approval by the director. Each application will be evaluated based on compliance with university degree requirements as well as B.I.S. curriculum and individualized program requirements. After admission to the B.I.S. program, students will follow an approved individualized curriculum plan. The finalized curriculum plan is the official record of the student’s degree requirements. This document records all transfer credits applicable to the B.I.S. degree and lists the courses required to complete the degree. 

Individualized program requirements

Core education requirements

  1. Writing and research
    Six credit hours: UNIV 111, UNIV 112 – This two-semester sequence is required of all first-year students and provides the foundation of the Core Education Program. Students begin their Core shared experiences through the summer reading program with follow-through in the FI sequence as they engage in similar assignments and projects both in and out of class.

    Three credit hours: a research and academic writing course that emphasizes academic argument, information retrieval, analysis and documentation. UNIV 200 may be used to fill this requirement or an equivalent course designed by the department/school.
  2. Quantitative literacy
    Three credit hours (minimum) selected from following list of approved courses:
    MATH 131Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics3
    MATH 141Algebra with Applications4
    MATH 151Precalculus Mathematics4
    MATH 200Calculus with Analytic Geometry I4
    SCMA 171Mathematical Applications for Business3
    SCMA 212Differential Calculus and Optimization for Business3
    SCMA 301Business Statistics I3
    STAT 208Statistical Thinking3
  3. Core general education
    Nine to 11 credits, including one course from each of the following areas:
    1. Natural/physical sciences
      BIOL 101Biological Concepts3
      BIOL 103Environmental Science4
      CHEM 110Chemistry and Society3
      ENVS 201Earth System Science3
      FRSC 202Crime and Science3
      INSC 201Energy!3
      PHYS 103Elementary Astronomy3
    2. Humanities/fine arts
      AFAM 111 Play VideoPlay course video for Introduction to Africana Studies [View Image]
      Introduction to Africana Studies3
      ENGL 215Reading Literature3
      ENGL 250Reading Film3
      HIST 201The Art of Historical Detection: ____3
      MASC/INTL 151Global Communications3
      PHIL 201Introduction to Ethics3
      PHIL 250Thinking About Thinking3
      RELS 108Human Spirituality3
      UNIV 213 Play VideoPlay course video for The Truth About Lying [View Image]
      The Truth About Lying3
      UNIV 217Finding Your Voice in Contemporary Society3
      UNIV 299What's the Big Idea?3
      WRLD/INTL 203Cultural Texts and Contexts: ____3
      WRLD 230Introduction to World Cinema3
    3. Social/behavioral sciences
      ANTH/INTL 103Introduction to Anthropology3
      ECON 101/INTL 102Introduction to Political Economy3
      GSWS 201Introduction to Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies3
      HUMS 300Great Questions of the Social Sciences3
      INTL 101Human Societies and Globalization3
      POLI 103U.S. Government3
      POLI/INTL 105International Relations3
      PSYC 101 Play VideoPlay course video for Introduction to Psychology [View Image]
      Introduction to Psychology4
      SCTS 200Science in Society: Values, Ethics and Politics3
      SLWK 200Building a Just Society3
      SOCY 101 Play VideoPlay course video for Introduction to Sociology [View Image]
      Introduction to Sociology3
      UNIV 211Food for Thought3
      UNIV 222Pseudoscience3
  4. Additional general education requirements
    Nine credit hours: Select at least three courses offered by the College of Humanities and Sciences that are not required in the focus area.

Focus area

The individually designed interdisciplinary focus area requires a minimum of 39 semester credits, 24 of which must be upper-level credit. The focus area has to combine at least two areas of study; one way to accomplish this is to complete the requirements for two minors as designated in the Undergraduate Bulletin. All interdisciplinary studies focus areas must include the interdisciplinary theory course (UNIV 301) and the senior capstone course (UNIV 499). UNIV 301 is the pre- or corequisite for UNIV 499. Students are expected to take UNIV 499 during their final semester of study, except under special circumstances. 

UNIV 301Interdisciplinary Theory and Practice3
UNIV 499BIS Senior Capstone3
Approved relevant upper-level courses18
Approved relevant courses, any level15-21
Total Hours39-45


Maximum of 51 credits

Other requirements

The curriculum plan must also meet the following university policies and degree requirements:

  • At least 12 credits must be taken in the focus area after acceptance into the program.
  • Interdisciplinary studies majors are required to participate in assessment activities (e.g., focus groups and exit surveys) as determined by the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. Assessment information is used to assist faculty in evaluating program effectiveness.
  • Students have a variety of credit options, including CLEP examinations, credit for formal military training and credits for certain professional certifications when they do not duplicate college course work.