Integrating work and life in the online classroom: AU’s Master of Arts – Integrated Studies

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One of the largest Master of Arts programs in interdisciplinary studies in Canada, AU’s MA Program in Integrated Studies includes courses across the full spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, from literature to anthropology, and from global studies to education studies.  The MA-IS Program combines disciplines to form 11 interdisciplinary concentrations, or focus areas, in such fields as Work, Organization, and Leadership, Cultural Studies, Writing and New Media, and Equity Studies:

  1. Global Studies
  2. Equity Studies
  3. Heritage and Social History
  4. Cultural Studies
  5. Education Studies
  6. Adult Education
  7. Literary Studies
  8. Community Studies
  9. Work, Organization, and Leadership
  10. Writing and New Media
  11. Independent Track

(You can find a full description of focus areas here.)

Athabasca University‘s Master of Arts in Integrated Studies (MA-IS) degree offers students a unique opportunity to engage in a program of study that spans the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The degree is comprehensive in scope but specific in focus, requiring students to select at least one focus area from among the 11 areas of inquiry. Students are taught to think holistically, critically, and reflectively, and to focus on the articulations and points of overlap between specialized and generalized knowledge. Exposure to a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary methods prepares students to envisage and pursue innovative approaches to local, national, and global issues. The degree teaches students to situate and contextualize knowledge and practice on a broad intellectual continuum that integrates theories, methods, and practices from the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Opened in 2000 with 25 students, MA-IS now numbers over 700 students and 600 graduates.  Students study part-time, usually while in full-time employment in fields as diverse as teaching, the civil service, the non-profit sector, and community organizations.  Employers often make substantial contributions to the cost and time needed.  Students realize they need to be more valuable to their organizations, and develop in their careers through broadening of the scope and range of their specific and general knowledge.  All professions now require both expertise specific to the fields of specialization, but also wide and deep knowledge of national and global conditions, and of social, cultural, historical, economic, and political patterns.

Either by combining two focus areas or presenting a plan to the Program Director for Independent Track studies, choosing from the more 80 courses available, MA-IS students speak eloquently of the quality, range, and depth of their studies in the program.  The MA Program in Integrated Studies promotes the integration of diverse knowledge focused on real-world problems across disciplines, exploring innovative disciplinary combinations to find fresh approaches and perspectives suited to the complexity of global conditions.

The “integration” in Integrated Studies expresses the goal of innovative disciplinary combinations, as well as the bringing together of work, study, and life experience in the online classroom, enabling students to make key choices in how they follow their interests and achieve the all-important balance that enables personal, professional, and academic growth and development.  MA-IS students have enjoyed distinguished success in national scholarship competitions and in gaining admittance to doctoral programs in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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