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Interdisciplinary Studies

Program Description

The interdisciplinary studies programs allow students to work with faculty in the design of a graduate curriculum tailored to their unique academic, creative and professional needs. Because of the unusual nature of these programs, they carry a number of special admission and programmatic limitations that are described in this section. These degrees are not offered online.

Degrees Offered - (M.I.S and Ph.D)

Program   Degree Offered
Interdisciplinary Studies M.I.S.
Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program Ph.D.

Master's of Interdisciplinary Studies (M.I.S.)

The M.I.S. program allows students, in consultation with faculty, to combine the curricula of two or more programs from this university to produce a hybrid program. Students need to demonstrate how the disciplines would work together to form an interdisciplinary approach. This degree has a different application process than other degrees at the university; prospective students must schedule an appointment with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs before beginning the application process. Please contact Isa Atkinson at the Graduate School at 406.243.2572 to schedule this appointment. This is not an online degree.

1)    Master’s program requirements (for student admitted after Spring 2014)

Prospective students must choose from the following options:

30 credit Thesis option

Students must complete 30 credits of G- and UG- coursework; students must do the graduate increment of the UG- classes. Students will complete thesis proposal (format to be determined by the student’s graduate committee) approximately one year after beginning the program. The final stage will be an oral defense of the thesis.

36 credit non-Thesis option

Students must complete 36 credits of G- and UG- coursework; students must do the graduate increment of the UG- classes. Students will satisfactorily complete:

a)    Comprehensive exam, format to be determined by the student’s graduate committee; AND

b)    One of three options:

i)     Professional paper – a publishable quality paper, which shall consists of an article-length, monographic study, based substantially on primary sources.

ii)    Three short critical papers or products that show creative work – merit to be judged by your graduate committee.

iii)   A paper submitted to a nationally recognized journal

2)    Admissions requirements

a)     Deadline: the M.I.S. deadline is three weeks prior to the beginning of the semester the prospective student is applying to. Applications received after this date will be considered on a space available basis.

b)    How to apply: Instructions for applying to the Graduate School are in the Applying for Admission section on this website. An overview of the application process for the M.I.S. is found in the Programs section on this website. 

i)      Specific instructions for M.I.S. application are in the section 3 on this page.

c)     Expectations for admission:

i)      GRE score with a test date that is within the past five years OR verifiable GRE scores if the test date is over five years old.

ii)    The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB are also required of international applicants and may substitute for the GRE upon approval of prospective graduate committe.

iii)   After consultation with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, the student must develop a plan of study in consultation with their prospective graduate committee. Details of such plan of study are found in section 5.

3)    Application requirements

Prospective students are required to seek out and identify a prospective graduate committee of at least three university faculty who are willing to serve, after consulting with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs. Eligibility for membership can be found at the Qualifications of Graduate Committee Members on this website. Instructions for establishing a graduate committee are in section 4 on this page. A full description of application requirements are in the Programs section on this website and in the instruction pages of the M.I.S. Program Form

4)    Establishing a graduate committee for the M.I.S. program

a)     After the initial consultation with the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs, seek out and identify at least three university faculty who are willing to work with you to develop a hybrid program. Each discipline in the proposed interdisciplinary program will be represented in the committee.

b)    It is highly recommended that the applicant spend at least a term of enrollment at the University of Montana either as a non-degree graduate student or as a student admitted to an existing graduate degree program. Experience has shown that it is nearly impossible for a student to find members of a committee and negotiate a program of study from a distance.

i)      It allows students to get to know professors and the departments of the disciplines he or she wishes to combine for the M.I.S. degree, thus building their academic network.

ii)    Financially, if students would be paying out-of-state tuition, and wish for in-state tuition, they can start the Montana Residency process. Please go to New Students for information on Montana residency. Note that registering for more than 6 credits per semester (including summer school) creates a strong presumption the student is here for educational purposes and will likely disqualify them from achieving in-state status.

iii)   The graduate non-degree status allows students to receive graduate credit for course work. Up to nine non-degree credits may be applied toward a subsequent degree program upon approval by the student’s graduate committee's Chair. You can find more information about this at Apply

(1)  Please note that applicants admitted as graduate non-degree students are NOT ELIGIBLE for financial aid. Graduate non-degree students are assessed the graduate level tuition and fees at the master's level rate for all credits taken.

c)     In consultation with the full committee, the applicant will articulate a clear set of goals for the program and a curriculum plan, listing each course the student will take in the degree and a timeline for degree completion. This hybrid program plan should strike a balance of work among the various disciplines represented.

i)      Half of the credits (excluding up to 10 semester credits for thesis or research courses) must be at the 500 or 600 level.

5)    Additional Information

a)     At least one meeting between the applicant and all prospective graduate committee members should happen before the application deadline.

b)    A complete application packet will include (1) the M.I.S. Program form,  (2) a resume, (3) a letter of intent, (4) the official standardized test scores, (5) the official transcripts, and (3) recommendation letters from prospective committee members.

i)      All required information for applying to the M.I.S. constitutes the applicant’s admission file and must be made available to all prospective graduate committee members before submission, with the exception of the recommendation letters. The prospective graduate committee will meet and discuss the student’s application materials before writing their recommendation letters. Prospective members will receive a request for letters of recommendation after the applicant completes the online application. Recommendation letters will be submitted electronically.

ii)    Each prospective graduate committee member will share the M.I.S. Program form and letter of intent with their department chair for their endorsement of the student’s curriculum. Department chairs have to send a memo to interdisciplinary@mso.umt.edu verifying that they are aware of and endorse the student’s plan of study.

c)     Plan of Study: Prospective student and prospective graduate committee will develop an integrative coursework comprised of classes from the identified disciplines; a balance of work among those disciplines should be represented in the plan of study. A timeline showing the logical progression of the degree must be evident. Please use the M.I.S. Program form to create your plan of study.

d)    The prospective committee members will become the de facto department for the student's M.I.S. degree. The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs is the chair of the de facto department. Once admitted, the student and his or her committee should meet regularly; any changes to the plan of study should be communicated to the Director via a memo from the committee’s chair/co-chairs upon agreement from the whole committee.

For a chart describing the steps for applying to the degree, please download the M.I.S. Flowchart.

Note: The information on this website was updated May 2014.

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Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program (IIP)

The I.I.P. is not focused on combining disciplines as the M.I.S. program, but in allowing the student to bring forward a problem or series of problems to research. This degree has a different application process than other degrees at the university; prospective students must schedule an appointment with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs before beginning the application process. Then, the student must seek out faculty with the resources and expertise to assist them in defining and executing the research goals, and designing a curriculum to acquire the skills and competencies needed to reach those goals. The I.I.P. requires a student who is highly motivated, has a focused goal/research project in mind, and is able to actively participate in his or her educational process. Please contact Isa Atkinson at the Graduate School at 406.243.2572 and provide her with your email address to receive the I.I.P. initial email. This is not an online degree. 

1)    Doctoral program requirements

Prospective students will need 45 credits of G- and UG- coursework beyond the master’s degree; UG- classes have to be taken with the graduate increment; and some of the coursework might be in the form of independent study, internship and seminar credits; and at least 10 of these credits will be dissertation research. Prospective students will also need a

a)     Comprehensive exam, format to be determined by the student’s graduate committee, AND

b)    A dissertation

2)    Admissions requirements

a)     Deadlines: Complete application packet must be received in the Graduate School by April 1st for Fall semester deadline, and by November 15th for Spring semester deadline.

b)    How to apply: Instructions for applying to the Graduate School are in the Applying for Admission section on this website. An overview of the application process for the I.I.P. is found in the Programs section on this website. Please note the two meeting taking place a month prior to deadline and two weeks prior to deadline.

i)      Specific instructions for I.I.P. application are in the section 3 on this page.

c)     Expectations for admission:

i)      Applicants must have a master’s degree or equivalent degree program of study that includes at least 30 credit hours of graduate work and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

ii)    GRE score with a test date that is within the past five years OR verifiable GRE scores if the test date is over five years old.

iii)   The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB are also required of international applicants whose native language is not English and who are not graduates from an English-speaking university.

iv)   After consultation with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, the student must develop a plan of study in consultation with their prospective graduate committee. Details of such plan of study is found in sections 5 and 6.

3)    Application requirements

Prospective students are required to seek out and identify a prospective graduate committee of at least five university faculty who are willing to serve, after consulting with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs. Please contact Isa Atkinson at the Graduate School at 406.243.2572 and provide her with your email address to receive the I.I.P. initial email in preparation for an appointment with the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs. Eligibility for membership can be found at the Qualifications of Graduate Committee Members on this website. Instructions for establishing a graduate committee are in section 4 on this page. You can download the I.I.P. checklist here.

4)    Establishing a graduate committee for the I.I.P. program

a)     After the initial consultation with the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs, seek out and identify at least five university faculty who are willing to work with you to develop a unique plan of study. Each discipline in the proposed interdisciplinary program will be represented in the committee.

b)    Faculty do not officially become members of the student’s graduate committee until the Graduate School admits the student.

c)     All members of the I.I.P. graduate committee must hold a doctoral degree or the equivalent of the terminal degree in their fields; one member must be from a doctoral granting department from UM. The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs or the director’s designee will serve as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the committee.

d)    The prospective chair/co-chairs of the student’s graduate committee will be the principal advisor(s) throughout the program, and must be from a discipline that offers a graduate degree. Chairs must be proactive in keeping the collaborative function of the committee together, they serve as a student advocate and must clearly understand the I.I.P. process.

e)     It is highly recommended that the applicant spend at least a term of enrollment at the University of Montana either as a non-degree graduate student or as a student admitted to an existing graduate degree program. Experience has shown that it is nearly impossible for a student to find members of a committee and negotiate a program of study from a distance.

i)      It allows students to get to know professors and the departments of the disciplines he or she wishes to combine for the I.I.P. degree, thus building their academic network.

ii)    Financially, if students would be paying out-of-state tuition, and wish for in-state tuition, they can start the Montana Residency process. Please go to New Students for information on Montana residency. Note that registering for more than 6 credits per semester (including summer school) creates a strong presumption the student is here for educational purposes and will likely disqualify them from achieving in-state status.

iii)   The graduate non-degree status allows students to receive graduate credit for course work. Up to nine non-degree credits may be applied toward a subsequent degree program upon approval by the student’s graduate committee's Chair. You can find more information about this at Apply

(1)  Please note that applicants admitted as graduate non-degree students are NOT ELIGIBLE for financial aid. Graduate non-degree students are assessed the graduate level tuition and fees at the master's level rate for all credits taken.

5)    Creating an I.I.P. proposal for the admission packet

a)     In consultation with the full committee, the applicant will articulate a clear set of goals for the programs and a curriculum plan, listing each course the student will take in the degree, their relevancy to the I.I.P., a timeline for degree completion, and a research proposal. The curriculum plan will likely contain enrollment in existing courses, independent studies, internship, and research credits.

i)      Half of the credits (excluding at least 10 semester credits for dissertation or research courses) must be at the 500 or 600 level.

ii)    The prospective committee will work with the applicant to develop a list of objectives, that is, skills and competencies needed to meet the research or professional goals of the student, and the assessment plan that will have the indicators of achieving those objectives.

iii)   The research plan will have PhD level research questions, brief review of literature, and methodology.

iv)   Prospective committee will help the applicant develop a comprehensive exam format appropriate to the prospective student’s goals and plan of study.

v)    The curriculum plan must include two seminars that may not be taken in the same semester:

(1)  I.I.P. Seminar (2 credits) – Topical subjects selected by I.I.P. students and faculty, to build an I.I.P. cohort

(2)  Campus seminar (2 credits) – Offered by any graduate program on the UM – Missoula Campus

b)    Each prospective graduate committee member must write a letter of commitment agreeing to serve on the student’s graduate committee. The letters include a statement about the value and rigor of the student’s proposal, their willingness to participate in the collaborative effort and their specific areas of expertise and how this strengthens the students I.I.P. program of stud and dissertation project.

6)    Additional Information

a)     Meetings: Prospective students should have as many meetings as necessary with all prospective graduate committee members (individually and as a group) to craft the proposal before the application deadline.

i)      One month before the application deadline, a meeting between the prospective student, the full prospective graduate committee and the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs must occur with a final or near final draft of the proposal.

ii)    Two weeks before the application deadline, a meeting between the applicant, the prospective graduate committee chair/co-chairs, the I.I.P. Admissions chair, and the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs must occur with the final draft of the proposal.

b)    Submitting an application: A complete application packet will include submission of the I.I.P. checklist, Curriculum Vitae, letter of intent, official standardized test scores, official transcripts, recommendation letters, letters of commitment and the I.I.P. proposal.

i)      All required information for applying to the I.I.P. constitutes the applicant’s admission file and must be made available to all prospective graduate committee members before submission, with the exception of the commitment letters and the third page of the I.I.P. checklist. The prospective graduate committee will meet and discuss the student’s application materials before writing their commitment letters; they must meet with the student and the IGP director before filling out the third page of the I.I.P. checklist.  

ii)    The prospective graduate committee chair or one of the co-chairs will submit the complete packet to the Graduate School by the deadline.

c)     Plan of Study/I.I.P. proposal: Prospective student and prospective graduate committee will develop a plan of study and I.I.P. proposal. An I.I.P. proposal will include Academic and Professional goals with articulation of skills and competencies that match the stated goals; relevant research plan with a statement of the research problem(s), review of literature, and methodology; curriculum plan with proposed courses, their description and relevancy to the I.I.P.; assessment plan with a timeline of completion stages and the description of the student’s comprehensive exam.

i)      The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs will make available different formats regarding comprehensive exams upon request.

d)    The prospective committee members will become the de facto department for the student's I.I.P. degree. The Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs is the chair of the de facto department. Once admitted, the student and his or her committee should meet regularly; any changes to the plan of study should be communicated to the Director via a memo from the committee’s chair/co-chairs upon agreement from the whole committee.

e)     An applicant is not eligible for the I.I.P. if the applicant tried and failed to achieve admission or has been dismissed from a regular doctoral department or program at this university. Students wishing to transfer from an existing UM graduate program will be considered on an individual basis, taking into account the spirit of this rule.

f)     The I.I.P. Admissions committee will review the application and make a recommendation for admission to the Dean of the Graduate School. During the review of an application, the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs will be present to answer questions regarding the application. The chair/co-chairs of a student’s proposed I.I.P. graduate committee must be available to meet with the I.I.P. Admissions Committee to discuss details of the student’s research problem(s) and academic plan if necessary.

For a chart describing the steps for applying to the degree, please download the I.I.P. Flowchart.

Note: The information on this website was updated May 2014.

Financial Assistance

Students in the interdisciplinary programs may apply for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship from the Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs at the Graduate School. Preference will be given to MIS and IIP students who have teaching as one of their goals.

For additional information about financial assistance, see the Financial Information section on this web site.

Program Limitations

  • More recognizable traditional degree programs may provide the opportunity to bridge over into other disciplines through electives.
  • There may be interdisciplinary areas where the expertise and resource support is not available.
  • The IIP is not a substitute for a disciplinary doctoral program not available at UM.
Interdisciplinary Studies

Campus Location
Graduate School - Lommasson Center Room 224

Inquiries
Please send inquiries and questions to interdisciplinary@mso.umt.edu 
or call (406) 243-2572