Sept. 8-14, 2000
Back Issues
Project aims to preserve lessons taught by civil rights figures
Attaining the goal of a college education
Historic maps of Charlottesville online

Coin-fed foundation to promote exchanges between U.S., Iceland

Nursing student group serves Salvadorans and migrant workers
Miller Center awards scholars
Training commences for researchers whose work involves human subjects
Take Our Advice ... Beat the heat, with efficiency
Hot Links -- Guide to University and community
Crime Statistics
Jerusalem Trio to perform
Ryan ready to coach
Off the Shelf -- books by U.Va. faculty and staff
Student Activities Fair Day -- photo

Attaining the goal of a college education

By Anne Bromley

Tom Cogill
Vickie Johnson-Williams (left), listens to her teacher, Virginia Mosser, who taught "Love, Marriage and Other Western Delusions" in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program.

Whether 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.

Launched 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 licensure.

Application deadlines for 2001

Dec. 1

Spring session
April 1 Summer session
July 15 Fall session

Information meetings

Saturdays Sept. 16 and Oct. 14, 10 a.m.
Thursdays Sept. 28 and Oct. 26, 7 p.m.

The 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.

"The 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 the University.

"It 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.

Noble, 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.

Fay 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.

"For 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."

Individuals 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.


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