Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Center for Integrative Studies

Director, 2011-12: Steve McKelvey (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science), operations research, wildlife modeling

Program Coordinator, 2011-12: Susan Carlson

Faculty teaching seminars in 2011-12: Richard Brown (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science), parallel systems, software-supported pedagogy; Mary Carlsen (Social Work), social policy, professional ethics, cross-cultural practice, family practice; Jason Engbrecht (Physics) positron physics; Justin Merritt (Music), composition, theory, instrumentation; Solveig Zempel (Norwegian), Norwegian literature and language

Faculty advisers of individual majors 2011-12 include: Guido Alvarez (Art and Art History); Doug Beussman (Chemistry); Maggie Broner (Spanish) (on leave); Heather Campbell (Education); Laurel Carrington (History); Doug Casson (Political Science); Christopher Chiappari (Sociology/Anthropology); Todd Edwards (Theater); James Farrell (History); John Giannini (Biology); Richard Goedde (Management Studies); Tony Lott (Political Science and Environmental Studies); Sian Muir (Management Studies); Minda Oriña (Psychology); Xun Pomponio (Economics); John Saurer (Art and Art History); Doug Schuurman (Religion); Steve Soderlind (Economics); Bill Sonnega (Theater and Film and Media Studies)

In the Center for Integrative Studies (CIS), “integrative studies” refers to learning that intentionally combines diverse methods, experiences, learning styles, subject matters, and on- or off-campus resources. The college has a long-standing commitment to integrative studies, evident in its many successful interdisciplinary majors and concentrations, in the 30-year history of the St. Olaf Paracollege, and in the faculty’s ability to combine diverse approaches to course subjects. The CIS's principal activity is to support students who plan and carry out individual, integrative majors and help students to identify and pursue opportunities for integrative learning on and off campus. In all these activities, the CIS's goal is to enhance the coherence of students’ academic careers by encouraging them to make meaningful connections among the many parts of their educational experience and by helping them build bridges between the college and other communities. The CIS also offers a small curriculum of topical seminars that exemplify integrative learning.



The CIS is the academic home for students pursuing self-designed, integrative majors. Students propose a sequence of courses, seminars, independent studies, or experiential learning as the means of pursuing an individual major. Proposals must include (1) a description of the proposed subject matter; (2) a list of 10 or more proposed courses and other learning experiences and an explanation of how each contributes to the major; (3) an initial proposal for a two-semester senior integrative project; and (4) a summary of the student’s preparation to carry out the proposed major. Each proposal must have the support of a faculty academic advisor. The coherence, depth, and feasibility of each proposal are evaluated and approved by a faculty review committee convened by the CIS. At the end of the senior year, the student’s work in the major is presented to a faculty certification committee for review. Proposals for individual majors may be submitted any time during the sophomore year and the first part of the junior year. Recent individual majors include: Architecture and Design, Human Resource Psychology; International Relations and Ethics; Multimedia and Software Design; Intercultural Medical Practice; Multilingualism and Multiculturalism; Social Innovation and Community Development; Christian Worship and the Visual Arts; Neuroscience; Studies of Conscience; Criminalistics; Social Marketing and the Environment; Writing for Performance; Political Communication; Ecology of Wellness.

The Web Portfolio

Students with individual majors create and maintain a web portfolio. A web portfolio preserves important learning experiences and academic work. Its web-based structure allows students to make explicit links within their own work and to the work of other students or other sites of public discussion. The web portfolio is presented to the faculty certification committee with the senior project at the end of the major.

For specific requirements for the individual major or for information about other activities of the Center for Integrative Studies, please contact the director or program coordinator.


Information about the criteria and application process for awarding distinction in the individual major is available on the CIS web site.



Faculty teaching in the CIS offer integrative seminars on selected topics, open to students in the sophomore year or later. These seminars model the integration of tools and resources from various disciplines in new approaches to their subjects. CIS seminars are normally repeated over two successive years and then retired, but later may find a “home” in another department or program.

Seminars Offered in 2011-12

201 Power Computing in All Disciplines

Computing is an integral component of academic pursuits and personal lives on college campuses. Developments in computing now provide opportunities to apply powerful computing techniques in any discipline. But few faculty outside computer science (CS) know about opportunities for large scale computing, and few CS students have experienced interdisciplinary, user-centered computing. This seminar brings together equal numbers of CS students and students in (non-CS) target disciplines to create interdisciplinary software applications for high-performance computing useful for teaching and/or research in those disciplines. Offered in spring 2012 and 2013.

204 Ethics and Global Service

Orphans, HIV/AIDS, abuse, poverty: many students want to address these global issues directly. Students study and apply ethical reasoning to decisions about serving abroad. Vocations of service invite the examination of motivation, values, needs, faith stances, and privilege. Through the lenses of Christian, multicultural, and feminist ethics and concepts of vocation, students sharpen their thinking about "helping" in another cultural context. Designed particularly for students interested in global careers in health, ministry, social welfare, education, and community development. Offered in Fall 2011 and 2012. Prerequisite: Completion of BTS-T, or permission of instructor.

214 Music in Film

The composer Igor Stravinsky said of film music that it should have "the same relationship to the film drama that somebody's piano playing in my living room has on the book I am reading." Students encounter the ambiguity of an art that has such devastating emotional impact while often remaining unnoticed. They engage in both analysis of historical film scores and the creation of new film music in team-based collaborations. Offered in Spring 2012 and 2013.

218 Chronicles of the American Immigrant Experience

In this seminar, students will consider how immigrants work through their national, ethnic, or racial heritage to contribute to the creative and spiritual life of their new nation, and ways in which this collection of voices creates harmony and/or dissonance. We will read novels, short stories, and poems, and study private writings (letters and diaries), films, artworks, and other artifacts, in the context of the history of American immigration and of issues facing current immigrant groups. Offered in Spring 2012.

219 Collaborative Design

Students in this seminar will use design process as a technique to creatively and efficiently tackle large projects in a group setting. We will focus on the construction of a working Rube Goldberg Machine, a whimsical and creative yet complicated and demanding task, using the design process. Students will examine formal techniques for identifying goals, brainstorming ideas, establishing timelines,
prototyping ideas, and creating formal presentations. Hands-on skills will also be taught and utilized throughout the construction process.
A background in science is not necessary; it is in fact one goal of this seminar to bring together science and non-science majors in
creative collaboration. Offered in Interim 2012.


Students with individual majors register for their senior integrative projects in each semester of the senior year. The first semester, generally used for research and other preparation in consultation with the student's advisor, receives a P/N evaluation; the second semester, and final presentation of the project, receives a grade. A brief description of the student's major and senior project appears on the official transcript.

391 Senior Project I

392 Senior Project II