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The Center for Multidisciplinary Studies

February 24, 2014

At a university as complex as RIT, it is extraordinarily challenging to be aware of the various gems we have scattered across campus. One such gem is the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies (CMS). For this posting, I thought I'd spend some time discussing the Center and provide three important updates.

The Center is RIT’s academic unit for individualized degrees. Individualized degrees are custom-designed to best meet students’ ideas, interests, and career goals through careful consideration of all courses RIT has to offer, including CMS’ portfolio of multidisciplinary courses. The CMS professionals are committed to helping students be innovative and having a voice in their degree curriculum. They do this by developing and offering undergraduate and graduate-level credentials with one-on-one advisement, on-campus and on-line courses, credit for prior and competency-based learning, and customized study plans while incorporating a multidisciplinary curriculum.

The Center serves over 800 full-time equivalent domestic undergraduate and graduate students and provides academic programs to over 400 full-time equivalent students at the American University in Kosovo (A.U.K.) CMS offers three undergraduate credentials in applied arts and science; an MS degree in professional studies; and several advanced, professional certificate programs. All credentials have a strong career focus and employ a multidisciplinary approach to learning. CMS is the largest provider of on-line courses at RIT and its credentials can be obtained completely on-campus or online.

The Center for Multidisciplinary Studies is also home to Outreach Education and Training (OET). OET provides multidisciplinary, educational opportunities to corporate cohorts or fields of professionals. Additionally, OET supports the PrometricTM Computer-based Testing Center and the OSHA® Education Center.

As you can see, the Center is quite a special academic unit on campus and it has faithfully served many RIT students over the years. But the potential for the Center is vast and RIT needs to tap into this potential to position the university as a leader in competency-based learning. So the following updates are important in determining how the CMS potential can be realized. 

For the past two years, the Center has been led by Mary Boyd, who is retiring at the end of this academic year. Mary was instrumental in creating a project management track in the M.S. Professional Studies degree and has been the dynamic force for leading the center in competency-based learning. We will most certainly miss her leadership and presence after June 30th. A search for a new director is underway and we hope to fill this position before Mary officially retires. If you have any questions about the search, please contact the search chair …. Mary Boyd! Mary can be reached by email at

In order to help the new director onboard in their role, a thorough assessment of the program is underway. This assessment, when finished, will provide a great deal of information that the new director can use to chart a course for the future. We are in the process of framing the questions that the review will answer and we have invited external professionals to come to RIT, make a site visit, and then provide their insights to the program with a focus on quality. The site visit will be in the fall and the report will be completed by November 2014.

Finally, I have decided to formally decouple CMS from the Innovative Learning Institute (ILI) by having the director report to me. Of course, CMS will remain a true partner to the efforts of the ILI since online education is an important part of the CMS curriculum. I make these changes so that the ILI can focus on the RIT online presence and on supporting our faculty with superior teaching and learning service and so that I can assist the new director as we map out an exciting new direction for the Center.