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BIS degree is customized to students' goals

Thu May 27, 2021 at 03:53 PM

For many Oakland University students, the road to a bachelor’s degree is not a straight line. Whether students struggle to select a single major, come to OU with a variety of credits from another institution or they want to customize their education to reflect their career goals, the Bachelor of Integrated Studies provides the flexibility they need to create a specialized degree and complete all of it online. 

Individualized Approach

Students in the BIS program work with advisers to develop a plan of study that fits their individual situations. This includes custom course selection, which is chosen by the student and approved by the faculty council. The students’ plans factor in their short and long term goals as well as previously completed coursework. The fields of study are interdisciplinary and can involve multiple departments and a variety of topics. 

“The employment field is changing. Employers are looking for people with multiple skill sets with different qualities to offer. The cost of college is becoming really difficult for people, so we are finding a creative way to make college affordable by having students complete three full years at community college and one at the university and still get the university degree,” said Lindsay Zeig, academic counselor in the BIS program. 

Students are active participants in designing the best program for them. They work with the advisers to select the courses and also develop a rationale for their course selections. It gives them the opportunity to reflect on their academic goals and align them with their career goals. Each BIS student has an adviser and faculty mentor, who reviews their rationale and works with the student to ensure they have selected the best courses and path. 

“We have students that go into every field you can imagine. Nursing, medical school, physicians assistant school, you name it. We work with them to find classes that are available fully online if that’s important,” said Zeig. 

BIS also has a fast track option that allows students to take accelerated classes within  leadership (with a minor in human resource development), corporate leadership, healthcare leadership and an individualized interdisciplinary degree. 

“We have students who say, ‘I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a really busy year, but I can see the end,’” said Zeig. “Many of them find their passion for education again and find it’s not a chore. The next thing we know they are asking about grad school.”

Perfect for Transfer Students

While a BIS is available for all students, many transfer students are drawn to the program because of the 3+1 approach. That’s three years at a community college and one at Oakland University. 

“We have students come to us who started college 10, 20, 30 and 40 years ago and they haven’t completed a degree. Education doesn’t expire! We can still use those credits. The beauty of our program is that we help them design their degree to meet their goals. It’s not about taking classes they don’t want to take. We work as a partner to find the most useful classes for them,” said Sarah Jahimiak, assistant director for advising in BIS. 

Zeig said the advisers also look at the cost. If a student can obtain prerequisite credits at a community college before enrolling at Oakland University, the advisers will encourage them to do so. 

“We are super transfer friendly. Students can come into the program with a max of up to 88 credit hours from another school. That means, 32 credits is the minimum that students will need to earn to get a degree,” said Zeig. “I think this program works really well for students who have some college and no degree.”

For many students, the ability to take the classes remotely makes it even more appealing. The online options for the BIS are more plentiful than ever as many departments are finding success in being online for the last year, said Jahimiak. 

Out-of-state students completing the BIS program online will pay in-state tuition. Jahimiak said students from other majors who have been relocated for work or family situations or find it difficult to get to campus have been able to transfer and still complete their Oakland University degrees. 

Creating Student Connections

Unlike other programs where students often have several classes together, BIS students aren’t following the same track. However, the BIS department wants to help them create connections with each other, the department and the university. 

To start, students take two required classes, an introduction to interdisciplinary studies and a capstone course. This helps the students to create relationships with others who are pursuing the BIS. 

“In the Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies, the students are learning about the theories, academic disciplines and methods. They learn about how everything in the world is interdisciplinary. There are 20 students, so this course really encourages interaction between the classmates and the professor,” said Zeig. “In the capstone course, they pull everything together. They work on an interdisciplinary paper and research at the same time.”

The staff makes an effort to get to know the students well, and it starts right at the start of their OU experience.

“When it comes to advising, the advisor is with them from that very first day until the day they graduate. We’re helping them to build their major and apply to the program. We have a lot more interaction with our students than a typical adviser would, so the relationships become stronger,” said Zeig. 

Additionally, the BIS department offers several events throughout the semester for the students to engage with the staff, other BIS students and the university community. While they aren’t required activities, they are a way for students to connect and learn at the same time. There are study skills workshops, a mock LSAT and an opportunity for students to engage with alumni from various industries through an alumni mixer. There is also an honor society for students who have a 3.3 GPA and higher. 

Other activities are for fun and socialization. Jahimiak said they have had online scavenger hunts, trivia contests and more throughout the pandemic. Zeig said several BIS students formed a student organization for non-traditional students, which is open to many students and helps connect BIS students to others in the OU community. 

Explore the Program

“We really encourage students to come to campus, take a tour, look at the university and see what you can access as a student,” said Jahimiak. 

Zeig said students can explore the website and get a lot of questions answered, but a bit of time with an adviser can help them make a truly informed decision. 

For more information on the BIS program, visit the Bachelor of Integrated Studies website