Meet Tess McRae

INDS B.A.: Civic Renewal and Creative Expression

A young lady stand outside in the sun

Spring 2022 Capstone

My INDS Degree

I made the choice to switch to INDS during my junior year after feeling increasingly constricted in my pre-defined major. I was studying English on the Communication & Technology track, analyzing the rhetorical objectives of various kinds of “texts” (i.e. genres of communication). In the gateway courses for the major, my peers, instructors, and I explored a broad array of texts including board games, poems, and music… but as we progressed into upper-level classes, we focused predominantly on the texts of scholarly books and papers. The rhetorical study of multimedia texts (and, notably, art) was something that deeply fascinated me, and I was distressed to be moving away from it when it was the thing that had drawn me to the track in the first place. In addition, I felt like my academics were insufficiently aligned with my growing sense of purpose in community engagement work, which I was exploring through extracurricular activities. When I shared with each of them that my frustration was reaching a breaking point, David Hoffman, Romy Hübler, and Lia Purpura—dear supervisors and professors of mine who went on to become my degree mentors—recommended that I consider the INDS program, so I signed up for INDS 330: Ways of Knowing. My instructors and peers seemed to be asking the right questions: challenging our conceptions of student-hood and academia as a whole; encouraging us to leap off of paved paths and “claim our education.” I learned quickly and profoundly that the unique exploration I wanted to take was not only possible but within reach. Once I discovered that the winged sandals of agency had been on my feet all along, there was no going back. I took flight as an INDS major… and I have only continued to soar.

Degree Mentors

  • David Hoffman, Center for Democracy and Civic Life
  • Romy Hübler, Center for Democracy and Civic Life
  • Lia Purpura, English
  • Steven McAlpine, Individualized Study

Post Graduation Plans

During my time as a UMBC undergraduate student, I have blossomed into a facilitator and designer of spaces in which people gain awareness of the roles they can and do play in fostering a thriving democracy at any scale and in any setting. Following my graduation in May 2022, I intend to continue co-creating an ethos of agency, self confidence, and communion felt deeply by people around the world. I hope to be able to do this work in ways that allow me to indulge and draw from my identity as a poet, visual artist, musician, and aspiring theater-maker. I can see myself facilitating creative expression workshops and programs for community groups and/or working as an organizer to help create a collaborative piece of art such as a literary magazine or a performance piece.

Courses In My INDS Degree

Democracy and Civic Life: In these courses I will learn about the components of thriving communities and democracies, with a particular emphasis on those in the United States. The insights I will gain from these classes will help me to understand and evaluate the many forums in which civic life can and does occur. (HIST 201/HONR 300/POLI 210, 240/PSYC 216)

Artistic Expression and Analysis: These courses will equip me with a basic understanding of the functions and methodologies of multiple modes of art – visual, literary, kinetic, and sonic. I will gain valuable experience in both the creation and the consumption of the arts. (ART 210/ENGL 273, 301, 303, 373, THTR 220/VPA 225)

Applied Communication: These interdisciplinary courses will position me to explore the intersection between communication — particularly creative expression — and civic life. I will accomplish this by studying both historical and contemporary examples of the partnership (or lack thereof) between the arts and a thriving democracy in local, state, and national contexts. (ENGL 342/HONR 200/ MLL 301/ MUSC 252/PUBH 200)

Individualized Study: The courses in this section will supplement my learning in my other areas of concentration by supplying me with the skills and perspectives I need to integrate them into a cohesive individualized degree. They will also help me to further the development of this degree in the creation of a capstone project. (INDS 330, 335, 410, 480, 490)