Personalized Majors

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Kari Nelson has a major in Media Ministry, but you won't find that on the list of traditional programs at Southern. Here she lets us know how she made that happen through Southern's interdisciplinary study program. 

What is an interdisciplinary major?

An interdisciplinary major is a degree crafted by a student who feels that the university doesn’t offer a degree that suits his or her future career path. Classes can be taken from up to four different academic departments. In summary, it’s a personalized degree.

How do you get one?

Personally, I was directed to the Academic Administrator. I also worked very closely with Joni Zier in Record and Advisement. I hand-picked my classes and sent the list to Mrs. Zier. She would respond with changes I should make and made sure I was meeting the requirements I need to graduate. Then, I presented my plan to a committee of five, which was made up of my three advisors, Mrs. Zier, and the Academic Administrator. They gave me a chance to defend certain class choices and describe why I thought I needed to create my major. Then I left while they discussed and decided whether to approve my major or not (probably some of the most intense minutes of my life).

Who would you recommend an interdisciplinary major to?

Interdisciplinary degrees are a lot of work. There’s preparation and research to do outside of classes, and you need to have pretty good grades in order to be eligible. I would say it’s for people who are interested in a field that isn’t offered on campus and are dedicated to working in that field in the future.

Why did you choose an interdisciplinary major?

I chose an interdisciplinary degree because God opened the doors for it. In my previously declared major, I was taking a lot of classes that I felt weren’t necessary for what I wanted to do in the future. Then I started to form this idea of a multifaceted ministry that utilized media of all types. So, I’ve designed my degree in order to prepare myself for my future in co-leading that ministry.

What is your self-made program, and what are you hoping to do with it?

My major is Media Ministry. I’ve taken classes from the Religion, Visual Art and Design, and Journalism and Communication schools in order to craft it. My dream and calling is to start my own ministry (with the help of peers with similar passions or callings). I want to reach people outside of the church with Biblically-based media: from short films, to magazine articles, to apps. I’ve seen a lot of Christian media and a large portion of it is focused on people already in our churches, which is 100% a necessity, and I appreciate their work. But, I feel we could be doing more with media in terms of reaching those outside of our church. That’s what I want to do.

How has an interdisciplinary major enriched your experience at Southern?

It’s been a little strange actually. I’m going to be completely honest here, but I don’t want anyone to misunderstand, so I’ll try and be as clear as I can. I feel a lack of community in my major because I’m the only one with a Media Ministry major, and it’s rare to run into someone else who’s doing an Interdisciplinary degree. I don’t feel as if I’m not valued, however. In fact, because of my choice of major, I have the chance to tell more people about what I plan to do and have, in turn, met a lot of people with potential for helping this ministry grow in the future. I’ve also become more aware that everyone has a dream that they feel is impossible. Like, right now, I have no idea how I’m going to start this, but I’m not the only one working towards it. God has brought me this far, and I’m learning to continue trusting Him.

Southern's interdisciplinary studies program is an amazing opportunity for people with a unique idea that doesn't quite fit into one academic department. Like Kari said, planning and approving an interdisciplinary major is a lot of work! If you are starting college undecided or feel like you have multiple areas of interest, try taking a year to do generals or a double major. Then, once you refine your plans and interests, you can pursue an interdisciplinary program if you still feel that's where God is leading you.  

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Kari Nelson Story by Kari Nelson Published: Last Edited:

The views and opinions of campus guests do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Southern Adventist University. An individual's or group's invitation to speak or present on campus should not be regarded as a university endorsement of their philosophies and beliefs.