Director’s Welcome

Stephen FreelandWelcome to this website for the interdisciplinary studies program (INDS) at UMBC!

“Change” is the word that best captures our program as I write, deep in this deceptively sleepy summer heatwave of July 2013.
If you have been here before, then you will have already noticed one obvious change: this is a new letter from a new face: On June 17th 2013 I was privileged to become the new Director of INDS (you can learn more here). You may also have noticed that our entire website has undergone a complete overhaul. It will continue to evolve rapidly now, as the new system allows all INDS team members to contribute regular updates – so please check back often, and let us know if you have something for us to add or communicate!

More change is occurring behind the scenes. As I write, each member of the INDS staff is hard at work on diverse projects that revisit different aspects of our teaching, advising and administration. They are developing new courses, new events, new links with other elements of UMBC and (above all) new ways to prepare our students for success.

Why all this change? First I must emphasize that as I arrived, nothing about INDS needed “fixing”. Quite the reverse. It has been a great privilege for me to inherit the program developed by my predecessor, Patricia LaNoue. INDS is populated by exceptional staff and students working together with passion and enthusiasm to produce some of the very best, innovative scholarship to be found at UMBC (or in any other undergraduate population). Those are not just my impressions: In 2011, two nationally recognized leaders of interdisciplinary scholarship described INDS as “a vital part of the UMBC community. Its ability to establish strong connections between students and faculty is considerable, and its capacity to support and share cutting edge research that crosses disciplinary boundaries is substantial.” Supporting evidence for these views included our continued exceptional graduation rate (>90%), with almost 40% of graduating seniors receiving Summa, Magna or Cum Laude honors. Our students go on to diverse careers – from medical school and graduate school to starting their own businesses and non-profit organizations, to entering careers in industry, government and academe. The report concluded that “The time is ripe for UMBC to become known as a center of interdisciplinary excellence.” As if to demonstrate the truth of this, in 2013 UMBC chose Asif Majid, an INDS scholar, as Class Valedictorian .

So why change? Precisely because Director LaNoue set out an ambitious program of growth and development – and then worked with the program staff to achieve those goals before I arrived. As a result, I was handed a vibrant, successful program that was ready and eager to start the next chapter in its story. A new chapter is called for simply because the world keeps changing. Every year witnesses the birth and growth of new types of scholarship, new careers, new challenges and new opportunities. I am proud and excited to meet this changing world with a team of staff who settle for nothing less than excellence in their commitment to stay at the forefront of thinking, teaching and mentoring.

Let me conclude, then, with a simple message: Now is an exciting time to make a connection with INDS, to become a part of our next chapter – whether you are a considering taking our major, or whether you have an idea for a new connection that adds something to our program, we would like to hear from you. Welcome to INDS!

Stephen Freeland
Director, Interdisciplinary Studies