Interdisciplinary studies


What is a graduate interdisciplinary degree?

Interdisciplinary degrees meet  the increasing societal needs for research to address complex problems that involve multiple disciplines. Interdisciplinary students conduct their research in a variety of ways; multidisciplinary (drawing on multiple disciplines), interdisciplinary (investigating the interactions between multiple disciplines), and transdisciplinary (engaging stakeholders outside the university as collaborators).

The graduate interdisciplinary program leverages resources by drawing on faculty and their expertise from across the university. Students identify faculty and two or more disciplines that they want to combine (e.g., geosciences and Indigenous studies, psychology and business, linguistics and education, science and communication).

Designing an interdisciplinary program

Prospective students first identify the disciplines they want to combine by reviewing the available graduate degree programs at UAF. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the graduate school to discuss their plan before contacting a faculty member. Prospective students then contact the faculty member to discuss the proposed program of study, determine if it is viable, and if the faculty member can serve as their advisor. The prospective student and faculty member can then identify other faculty members they might wish to work with as part of their advisory committee.

Once the prospective student and faculty member have agreed to work together, they can design a rigorous graduate study plan that will meet the academic standards of the university.

The prospective student should develop a program that complies with the general university requirements. The basic elements of the program are: the graduate advisory committee; the graduate study plan; and the research prospectus. The committee should include faculty and courses from at least two graduate programs. The graduate study plan should have no more than half of the course credits taken from a single existing graduate program.

Applicants to the PhD program must have an earned Master’s degree.

Application process

Once they have designed their program, the prospective  student then submits their admissions application with application fee to the Admissions Office. The application is then reviewed by the Interdisciplinary Council, who serve as the admissions committee, and the department of the students advisor.  If accepted the student is admitted to the interdisciplinary studies program and housed in the academic college/school of their advisor. The student then proceeds through their degree following the university guidelines.

For the Master's degree, students are required to earn 30 credits. This includes 6-12 credits of thesis (F699). The remaining credits are coursework. At least 21 credits must be at the 600-level.

For the  PhD, students are required to earn 36 credits. This includes 18-27 credits of thesis (F699). The remaining credits are coursework, usually at the 600-level.

Comprehensive exams

Master's students are required to take a single comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination may be an oral examination that is combined with the thesis defense.

PhD students are required to take both a written and an oral comprehensive examination. The form of the written examination is determined by the graduate advisory committee in consultation with the student. The written exam may include an oral follow-up which is part of the written examination. The oral examination is a formal defense of the PhD research proposal. An external examiner selected by the graduate school is required to attend the PhD oral comprehensive examination.