Attaining the goal
of a college education
Johnson-Williams (left), listens to her teacher, Virginia
Mosser, who taught "Love, Marriage and Other Western
Delusions" in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
circumstances of time, money, family, health or other reasons
kept a person from completing a college degree earlier, the Bachelor
of Interdisciplinary Studies program could provide the stepping
stones for those who want to reach that goal now.
by U.Va.'s School of Continuing
and Professional Studies last year, the part-time undergraduate
degree program offers five areas of academic study. Students can
choose to concentrate in business, humanities, information technology
or social sciences, or they have the option of designing their
own curriculum that combines courses from more than one area.
Through the last option, students can prepare for alternate teaching
deadlines for 2001
16 and Oct. 14, 10 a.m.
28 and Oct. 26, 7 p.m.
program, which requires two years of college credit to enter,
holds classes during evenings and weekends to accommodate working
adults. U.Va. employees have the benefit of getting tuition waived
for one course per semester.
"We're still finding that people don't necessarily know about
the program," said Donna Plasket, BIS program director. She'd
like to get the word out to supervisors, too, so they can encourage
their staff to take the opportunity, she said.
"There's a real 'second-chance' spirit and point of view
among the students," Plasket said. Individual attention is
a hallmark of the program. Students enter as third-year undergraduates
and work with a faculty adviser who assists with course selection
and academic planning. They must complete 20 three-credit courses
at the University to earn a bonafide U.Va. degree.
BIS program provides an opportunity for working adults to complete
their baccaulaureate degree, taking rigorous and challenging interdisciplinary
courses drawn from a wide range of intellectual strengths at the
University," said Plasket. Where the program really stands
out is in having a supportive environment and being specifically
designed for the needs of the working adult, she said.
"This is a unique creation and a new venture for the University,"
said history professor Thomas Noble, who continues to serve on
the advisory committee that recommended and designed the program.
Now the committee advises the BIS staff, approves faculty appointments
and course proposals, and acts as liaison with the schools of
does not compare in a precise way with any existing U.Va. programs.
Therefore we had to be sure, in creating the program, that it
was as rigorous and solid as other University programs without
actually replicating any of them," he said.
who has taught Western civilization at U.Va. for 25 years, will
be teaching the 300-level humanities course in the program this
semester for the first time.
Potential applicants must have 60 transferable credits and any
relevant prerequisites for a specific concentration, be at least
six years past high school graduation and hold no previous degree
from a four-year college or university. People can apply at three
different times during the year.
Miller Ferneyhough of the Darden School Foundation signed up right
away. "This program offers an incredibly rich and priceless
opportunity for working adults," she said. Thrilled with
the idea of walking down the Lawn, Ferneyhough said her reasons
for going back to school include "of course, earning power,
but mainly for self-edification. I've always enjoyed learning
and being challenged." She'll concentrate either in business
or information technology.
"I am so happy that U.Va. finally has a program for people
like me," said Anne Gaulding, a law library assistant who
is one of the first students in the program. "I have always
wanted to finish my degree and teach. This program and my job
at U.Va. enable me to do this." Gaulding is in the Social
Science program and may want to pursue a master's degree after
teaching for a while.
a teacher, it's wonderful," said Mark Shields, associate
professor in the Engineering School's Technology, Culture and
Communication Division, who taught "Case Studies in Technology
Management and Policy" this summer. The BIS students "understand
what life is about beyond the classroom. Many of them work full-time
and are parents. They've made sacrifices to be here, and they
really want to learn. They have an intrinsic motivation to enhance
their intellectual growth and development."
interested in the program should attend one of the information
sessions and call to set up a pre-application meeting. The purpose
of such a meeting is to analyze academic transcripts and get some
educational counseling, Plasket said.