Ask the Experts....Q&A with an Individualized Study Graduate
SOIS has been interviewing RIT folks who completed individualized degrees. Josh Owen is the Program Chair and Professor in the Industrial Design program of CIAS.
1. Why did you choose an individualized degree pathway (as opposed to a traditional major)?
At the time I was studying at Cornell University as an undergraduate, there was a “Dual Degree” option in place for Fine Arts majors to take advantage of. This allowed students in a professionally-oriented program (such as mine - Sculpture) who were on track to receive a BFA degree, the ability to spend an additional (5th) year to receive a second, (BA) degree. The additional degree was almost exclusively arranged for Fine Arts students to obtain a BA in Art History. As I understood it, this could provide more context for the major and offer a bit more of a well-rounded, liberal arts concentration for the candidate. I liked the idea but worked around it to integrate an ‘Independent Major’ as my second degree, which I had to craft and apply for with the Dean of the Liberal Arts College. I worked with advisors in Architecture, Anthropology and other areas to craft a “Visual Studies” Independent Major application, which after some work was eventually accepted. At the time, such a concentration did not exist so I had to assemble support from these areas in order to validate the exploration. My hope was to wrap Anthropology, Architecture, Psychology and other Humanities and Social Sciences around my Fine Arts degree in order to give greater depth and breadth to my professionally-focused education.
2. How did your university or college support your ambitions?
I received little support from administrators, but individual faculty were very supportive both while I was applying and during the time I was executing the program of study.
3. What kinds of skills or aptitude do you need to thrive in an individualized program?
I belive that individualized programs are most suited to highly motivated and focused individuals. This should not be confused with individuals that know exactly what they want. The student that will thrive in an open area of study is one who is extremely self-motivated, analytical, enthusiastic, experimental and perhaps entrepreneurial. They must be the sort of person that can pull together a story from many disparate parts.
4. How did your individualized program shape the professional you are today?
By combining my BFA degree in Sculpture with a BA in Visual Studies / Anthropology I essentially crafted a design degree with a deeper knowledge base in Fine Arts and Social Sciences. This approach created a distinct difference in the way in which I approach the field as well as the way I’ve approached leadership and vision.
5. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a student considering an individualized pathway?
Stepping off the grid can be disorienting and sometimes scary but it can also be the most rewarding and deeply fulfilling pathway to success. Doing it in an environment that supports you with amazing assets, like RIT - I can only imagine the amazing possibilities.