Frequently Asked Questions about Integrated Studies

If I take three courses on one topic, isn’t that kind of narrow?

Absolutely not. In fact, the opposite is true. Cluster topics are focused, but broad. And once you are making connections between different courses, the subject will become even broader, not more narrow.

If I am taking three classes with the same sixteen students, will I be socially isolated?

This has never been a problem. Students meet new friends in their fourth class, in their dorms, and through all kinds of activities, including athletic teams, clubs, musical groups, and volunteer organizations. Students in the clusters get to know each other well, which creates a very positive, relaxed learning environment.

Shouldn’t I just be getting started on my major right away?

Actually, no. Colby’s area distribution requirements are designed to provide students with a broad introduction to knowledge in many fields, and you should complete these in your first two years. Integrated Studies clusters typically fulfill three or four requirements, so they advance your progress as a liberally educated person. In addition, the clusters allow you to fulfill requirements in a focused way that helps you to make big connections between ideas; many students find this more interesting and enjoyable than simply taking four unrelated courses to fulfill requirements. Who knows? You might find a new subject that really interests you!

But I want to major in science and there are a lot of requirements.

You’ll have no problem completing a science major if you simply take Chemistry as your fourth course in the first semester. Colby’s liberal arts curriculum is designed with the expectation that you will complete most of the work in your major in your last two years. Focusing on one area too soon defeats the purpose of pursuing a liberal arts education.

This sounds great. But I’m focused on things that will help me get a good job in a few years. What will I gain from Integrated Studies?

Integrated Studies will teach you how to think critically and solve problems creatively, using tools and strategies from several different disciplines. It will also teach you how to master a large body of knowledge, and analyze it from varied perspectives. Working closely with three faculty members means that you will received sustain, focused attention as you develop important intellectual skills like writing well and presenting your ideas effectively in discussions. Building these key intellectual capacities will enable you to be successful in any major and in any profession. These are the skills and abilities that employers are looking for, and that the liberal arts experience is really good at fostering. The three-course structure ensures that you can also pursue other interests, such as language study or a foundational course in a potential major.

Is Integrated Studies only for first-year students?

No! Although the clusters are designed primarily for first-years, more advanced students have sometimes enrolled in clusters and have had very positive experiences. Faculty members can accommodate advanced students by designing different assignments or evaluating work at a higher standard, to ensure that students are being challenged at the appropriate level.

Integrated Studies has also sponsored senior level, team-taught seminars on significant topics in the humanities, and we will offer more advanced seminars in the next few years. These seminars provide a context in which students can return to interdisciplinary study of a carefully focused topic at the end of their college careers, engaging that topic with the greater intellectual sophistication and rigor that their studies have enabled. These courses are team-taught by two faculty members, and explore the kinds of important moral, political, aesthetic, spiritual and cultural questions that well-educated citizens must engage in our increasingly complex, mobile, and diverse world.

If I sign up and I don’t like it, will I be unable to change to different classes?

This has never been a problem. It rarely happens that students decide not to continue with a cluster after the first few weeks. But in the rare cases when it has happened, those students have had no problem switching into other courses during the add-drop period.