When you order at Chipotle, they ask you if you want a burrito or bowl, white or brown rice, black or pinto beans, for here or to go. With the line out the door and anxiety perched on my shoulder, I would often just pick one or the other for the sake of getting it over with, not consciously thinking through either choice. I was never truly satisfied with whatever I chose, and I began to research “Chipotle Hacks” online to help me navigate my choices upon consumption. Through a little research, I found that you can actually order half and half portions that would allow me to get a little of each item instead of deciding on just one. Like the passionate burrito eater that I am, I discovered Interdisciplinary Studies through a similar method.

Photo by Kayleigh.

No one in college tells you that you can build your own major. No one tells you that your specific career goals can be combined into one major that would allow for the most success in your field.  But, like Chipotle Hacks, through a little digging I discovered opportunities for a perfect major can be achieved if you know how to ask for them correctly- and in the right order. Through Interdisciplinary Studies I was able to build the program of Marketing and Creative Services that combined my passion for visual arts with my appreciation for business.

In my applied project titled, “Marketing for a Creative Service“, I was able to put use my skills of public relations and marketing to help a fellow visual artist exhibit a body of her installed work. My background in visual design helped me to understand the artists perspective on the show and create material that would best advertise her installation. I stayed in touch with my client though email and in person meetings to assist her in whatever needs she had in regards to the show. Without the visual arts component in my program, I would not have been as successful in my efforts to advertise and market her show.

As a traditional marketing student, I was exposed to different varieties of marketing strategies that lead to the ideation of my research article, “Marketing Strategies of Cult-Brands“. In my business classes, I continued to hear the names of popular brands over and over again through text, research, and in class discussion. This lead me to wonder why these brands held such a high precedent over others, especially in an era that seems to reject modern advertising. Over the course of the semester, I researched the strategies and tactics these brands implement to make themselves so well known throughout the world, and emphasized on the emotional resonance that the brands created within consumers.

Building a major can be a lot like ordering a burrito: stressful but delicious. You’ll find that when you stop being unafraid to ask for fajita veggies in lieu of pinto beans, or bargaining with your server for a little extra guac, your burrito becomes even more delicious. Despite the line behind you and the hurried server in your face, it’s important to remember that this burrito is yours and you should customize it how you like. Like my major, my burrito tastes much better with half brown rice and half white rice instead of one or the other. Sometimes the best choice isn’t a choice at all, until you make it an option.

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Networking events have multiple purposes: making connections, personal exposure, finding a job. As a full-time student that has multiple commitments within my university, it becomes challenging to make time to leave campus to attend events like this. In the way that a true interdisciplinary would, Dr. Robin DeRosa helped her students to create what she calls a “PLN”. This personal learning network is formed on Twitter by finding and following academic professionals that exist within your field or disciplines. Through following, favoriting, retweeting, and replying, a network begins to grow around your fingertips.

Photo by Kayleigh.

The constant flow of real time information proved itself to be useful as I was aware of current trends and happenings in my field. I followed multiple accounts that spanned across all my disciplines, each offering their own unique voice to the subject matter. When a question arises or when information is needed you can reach out to your network and they will provide you with the appropriate resources. I spent most of my time building my PLN through listening and reading what my network was tweeting about, enjoying that I built a community who shared the same passions and interests as me.

My Storify tells of how I further developed my PLN outside of just my interdisciplinary community but into all of my fields. The greatest networking comes from helping others. It’s connecting the dots across all fields, disciplines and interests that creates the bigger picture.

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“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinctions between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

 François Auguste René Chateaubriand

A special thanks,

To the Interdisciplinary Studies program here at Plymouth State who allow their students opportunities for independently fueled research around topics that relate to not just their fields, but their specific interests within those fields. The collaboration with my peers, advisors, faculty, and staff that has developed inside and outside of the classroom have helped me to grow as a writer, thinker and person.

Hard sources used for the creation of the research article, Marketing Strategies of Cult-Brands:

Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Beverland, Michael. Building Brand Authenticity: 7 Habits of Iconic Brands. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing. Vivalda, 2009.

Eyal, Nir, and Ryan Hoover. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Portfolio Penguin, 2014.

Kim, W. Chan., and Renée Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Harvard Bus Review Press, 2016.

Lashinsky, Adam. Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works. Business Plus, 2013.

Ragas, Matthew W., and B. J. Bueno. The Power of Cult Branding: How 9 Magnetic Brands Turned Customers into Loyal Followers (and Yours Can, Too). Crown Business, 2002.

Ross, Rick Alan. Cults inside out: How People Get in and Can Get Out. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.

Smith, Shaun, and Andy Milligan. Bold: How to Be Brave in Business and Win. Kogan Page, 2011

Zablocki, Benjamin, and Thomas Robbins. Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field. University of Toronto Press, 2001.

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While I was home for this past Thanksgiving break, I found a journal I had kept from my freshman and sophomore years of college. In black ink, I had written:


 13 days left of school. Just under two weeks.

The entry before that was about leaving school. The ones to follow began a count down until I was away from college.

Reading these now as a senior, it amazes me that I persisted this far when I think back to the initial experiences I had with higher education. At my first school, nothing felt genuine. The professors didn’t care about the quality of their learning materials, the instruction was poor, and the institution lacked a sincerity for their students.

When I transferred, the community improved and my feelings began to change. As a traditional marketing student, I was appreciative of the quality education I was learning, but still wasn’t satisfied. I began to feel the same disappointment I had initially felt about higher education coil itself back up on my shoulders.

Now, as a Marketing and Creative Services student through an Interdisciplinary Studies program, I’m grateful for my original disappointment with higher education. I transformed my moments of discontent into moments of clarity, realizing that in my disappointment I understood what matters most. I found that I deeply cared about my education and valued the learning opportunities that came my way. I used my passions as a compass to guide me in creating a program that held a natural distinction among my peers into something personal.

During the 2017 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, the American Marketing Association was using the hashtag #AMAHigherEd to tweet highlights from the event. In a thread of tweets that began with a quote from Jaime Casap, one read,

 “And 72% of them want to design their own education…which they can do now, but we aren’t telling them they can”. 

This amazes me, that we don’t market these immensely powerful learning opportunities to students who want to have the liberty to design their own education. The landscape of secondary education is beginning to change and it’s from students like those in Interdisciplinary Studies programs who demand more from their schooling than just four years and a degree. Marketing and communication teams at colleges and universities have an obligation to advertise these programs to students instead of solely promoting single discipline programs.

Interdisciplinary Studies has provided me with so much more than an education, but to a network of individuals who have felt and continue to feel the same way I do about so many elements of the higher education experience. I feel fortunate to have a fantastic group of learners and mentors who I can turn to when education becomes tough and needs a discussion on how to fight through its inadequacies.

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Authentic brands have a kind of magic about them that help them to successfully persist within a commercialized market. While conspicuous brands continue to suffer, authentic brands captivate consumers and make them loyal- some paying homage to their favorite brands in unique ways. On one episode of “LA Ink” tattoo artist Nikko Hurtado tattooed an image of Steve Jobs on a devoted fan.

The ways that followers represent their favorite brands can know no bounds, like the strategies used by brands to attract these loyal customers. In one of the simplest yet oxymoronic ways, authentic brands deny any motives in branding or marketing at all and found great success in doing this. Unlike modern marketers who congest market spaces with commercialization, authentic brands focus on offering great services and products while solving real issues.

A company that had built its brand on authenticity is Patagonia. In Yvon Chouinard’s memoir about being the founder and owner of Patagonia, he writes:

“Patagonia’s image is a human voice. It expresses the joy of people who love the world, who are passionate about their beliefs, and who want to influence the future. It is not processed; it won’t compromise its humanity. This means that it will offend, and it will inspire” (149).

Photo by Kayleigh.

Patagonia chooses to control its consumer perception through actions they take and the products they sell, stripping their marketing strategy nearly to the bone. They opt out from distracting advertisements in search of a deeper experience that doesn’t just capture a consumers undivided attention, but holds it. One component to Patagonia’s image philosophy is strong copy. “Since we’ve always been different, it’s been even more important that we tell our own story clearly” (154) Chouinard writes. In creative ways, the copy has started conversations about the environment, the outdoor experience, and the clothes. The human voice as Patagonia’s image was so successful that society became co-authors of the company, writing in about their experiences in a segment called, “Capture a Patagoniac”.

Because we exist within an era where everything is marketable, it has produced a disinterest in conventional advertisements and marketing strategies. From an authentic marketing standpoint, it’s not about exploiting your products or services, it’s about learning new ways to capture your audience to leave them interested and engaged. When conventional brands begin to tell a sideways story about where they came from, authentic brands offer a gesture of reinvention about how they made their way into new lands.


Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing: the Education of a Reluctant Businessman: Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual. Penguin Books, 2016.

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In the fall of 2015 when I had moved home from Boston, my mom told me our very close family friend was sick.

Photo by Kayleigh.

“Sick with what” I asked

“Just sick” she responded.


He was our neighbor growing up, the father of my childhood best friends. Our families became inseparable, where all of us kids would eat, swim, and breathe together in the summer months. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” – this was the village and we were the children. He was the neighbor that walked my crying brother home to my mom when he fell and busted his chin open at six years old. He helped me to install shelves into my room when I was eleven and needed to “reinvent my room”. He was the neighbor that gave out full-size candy bars on Halloween and always gave my brother and I two instead of one. We were lucky to have him in our lives.

As us kids got older, we all found our independent friend groups but never lost touch, our parents all remained especially close. His son and I had a joint high school graduation party at their house because it made sense: we were family.

We didn’t know it at the time, but he was sick with Lou Gehrigs disease. Also known as ALS, it’s a rare, nervous system disease that weakens muscles and eliminates physical function. His sickness was devastating to all of us. My mom cut back her hours at work to be one of his full-time caregivers, helping him to live his most comfortable life and assist in his everyday activities.

After a day of being with him, my mom came home crying. I sat with her and tried to gently figure out what happened.

“I tried to shave his face today,” she began. “It was… so hard. I felt like I was hurting him, I think I may have accidentally cut him a little” she cried again. This everyday activity that used to be easy for him now became a pain point.


Earlier last week I saw a tweet that left me breathless. It was from Gillette, and it showed a razor that was specifically designed to shave someone else. The Gillette Treo read,

“Together we can provide a great shave for those in need”.

The Treo razor has unique features like a disposable blade after one use to reduce infection, a safe shave head to prevent cuts, and shave gel built right into the handle. Simple improvements built into a universal product to change someone’s life, and it was designed through empathy.

It’s become common for brands to utilize empathy to enhance marketing and product development. Instead of buying into a brand, the brand buys into you, taking a special interest to recognize what your need states are, pain points, and where your moments of joy come from. When companies work through empathy, they create meaningful products that positively exist within consumers lives. While sympathy looks at your shoes and feels sorry for you, empathy looks at your shoes, tries them on, and walks miles in them to understand how you feel. Empathy doesn’t sympathize with you, it identifies with you- it feels you. When marketers understand their consumers to the point where they ache when you ache- the entire tone deviates. Empathy marketing creates a different kind of consumer value, one that changes lives and evokes change.


When you have the privilege to help someone when they need it most, you search for things that make life as normal as possible. Sometimes these things can be a favorite meal after a bad day, a car ride to a familiar destination, and sometimes, it’s a razor. There must be some kind of oxymoron in the idea that a sharp tool used for cutting could provide someone with so much comfort. I think about the Treo razor and how it would have made him feel, how it would have made my mom feel, knowing that he could get the simplicity of a clean shave.

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In Italian, the word sfumato literally means, “going up in smoke” but is recognized to artists as a technique that allows colors to blend without borders.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a master at this technique and displayed his sfumato talents in works like The Virgin of the Rocks, and St. John the Baptist. Besides his artistry, Da Vinci also found an alternative meaning to sfumato. He used sfumato as a principle to help him embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty. In keeping an open mind during times of uncertainty, he found that he had unlocked a free flow of creativity. As an active learner, he began to confront ambiguity in search for contrasting paradoxes.

Photo by Kayleigh.

To better understand beauty, Da Vinci explored ugliness.

To appreciate flowers, he studied rocks.

To recognize youths, he considered the elderly.

Through his awareness, he created the most famous paradox of all: Mona Lisa.

In Michael J. Gelb’s, How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci, he wrote,

“Mona Lisa’s smile lies on the cusp of good and evil, compassion and cruelty, seduction and innocence, the fleeting and the eternal. She is the Western equivalent of the Chinese symbol of yin and yang” (146).

It’s no wonder that it’s the most famous work of art in the world, it’s the popularity of paradoxes.

Gabrielle Chanel had an equally successful time defining herself and the Chanel brand through a series of paradoxes. Before 1920, women were still wearing clothing that was made to enhance curves. Corsets, hoop skirts, and bustles were a part of the everyday female wardrobe. In 1926 Gabrielle created the little black dress, that was picked up by American Vogue and hailed as,

“The Chanel ‘Ford’ Dress, the frock that all the world will wear”.

What made this dress such a paradox was that Gabrielle took garments from men’s wardrobes to enhance the female figure. The simple, straight dress resembled a pair of loose fitting men’s trousers, yet made women look more feminine.

Another paradox that Gabrielle loved to tease with was her relationship between real and fake. Costume jewelry was a trademark for Chanel, layering a dozen strands of fake pearl necklaces with one real gemstone piece. Her simplistic outfits served as a canvas for the different layers of her costume jewelry and suggested that cheap was luxurious. Jewelry had now become a household trend where the fake pearl necklaces now existed within a real, luxurious lifestyle.

Like Da Vinci, Gabrielle found success when she practiced openness in sfumato. She allowed herself to sit with vagueness to create fashions that the world had not yet dreamed of. Like the paradox of gargoyles perched on the walls of cathedrals, they do this to highlight the holiness of saints. One cannot exist without the other, and one would not be appreciated without the other.

The tension of opposites has a unique ability to pull ideas together in ways that may not be so outwardly clear. Sfumato helps to reorganize what is accessible to the human gaze and creates connections through all things despite their unlikeness. It’s about learning new ways to think about our capacity for doubt and how rewarding it can be to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.


Gelb, Michael. How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Every Day Genius. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2004.
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Most people recognize sharks as a fish with large teeth, dorsal fins, and who are scary by nature.

Sharks in the business world are thought of as slick, skilled in their activity, and are often deceptive.

Both these sharks have something in common: they’re carnivorous.

In the way a real shark is hungry for prey, business sharks are hungry for market space. Business sharks are constantly in competition with their rivals for a larger share of a market space. When the market space becomes overcrowded, there are less resources, less demand, and less profits. The ocean that is the market space becomes saturated, bloody, and red.

Photo by Kayleigh.

This called a red ocean.

Blue ocean is significantly different.

The authors of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, wrote:

“Blue oceans, in contrast, are defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth” (4).

They innovate new ways to their own oceans and set their own rules and boundaries. Many products we have today were innovated through blue oceans. An example of this is the automobile. Henry Ford was quoted saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Ford saw an untapped market space for an invention that would change people’s lives forever. He invented his own blue ocean. Companies, businesses, and brands all strive for this. Differentiating yourself to the point where you’re uncontested and you are your own competition.

Strategy makes all the difference when it comes to a business’s approach for finding their way in the blue ocean. The book equates this strategy as value innovation.

“Value innovation is the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy. We call it value innovation because instead of focusing on beating the competition, you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space” (12).

The value innovation focuses on cost saving for the business to afford the customer a higher buying value. The key ingredients are differentiation and low cost.

It hardly seems like a question; would you rather swim in a red ocean or blue ocean? With the success that brands have with their blue ocean strategies you would wonder why more aren’t doing this. Many brands swimming in the red ocean have allowed for confined industry boundaries, stifling their ability to innovate. Despite their saturation, it’s still important to know how to swim through a red ocean. Competition will always be relevant in business, but companies need to begin swimming past their competitors and find ways to revolutionize their brands.

Kim, W. Chan., and Renee Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Harvard Bus Review Press, 2016.
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Karl Lagerfeld believes that analysis kills creativity. Andrew O’Hagan of the New York Times Style Magazine quoted him saying,

‘‘Analysis? What for? To get back to normality? I don’t want to be normal.’’

Fortunately for Karl as the Head of Design and Creative Director of Chanel, he has an entire team to analyze his work for him. While he vacations with his pet cat, Choupette, his team of creatives work diligently to execute his ideas and bring to life his creative process.

Unfortunately for us normal folk, we must take these actions ourselves. Without action, an idea can never be put into motion and exist how you imagined it. Creating specific and attainable guidelines can help when developing the start of a new endeavor.

I’ve created two prospectuses on both my research article and applied project that will act as my creative guidelines to ensure success in my ideas. Read them below.

Marketing For A Creative Service

For my applied project, I’m collaborating with another Interdisciplinary Studies capstone student, Ke Cawley. Ke is a visual artist with a focus in surrealism, her work is vibrant and full of interesting detail. In collaboration with Ke, I’ll be helping her to market her exhibition of curated work.

Photo by Kayleigh.

My focus will be on developing an opening night to begin her installation in Lamson Library. Hosting an opening night would require areas of advertising, communications, and event planning- all of which I fit under the umbrella term of creative marketing.

My goal is to work alongside Ke as if she was a client to my imaginary marketing firm, where every effort I make is made to optimize her potential. In doing this, I gain a better understanding of how to market for different creative industries. Through our planning process, Ke and I will be documenting our individual progress though pictures and notes which will be condensed to fit within our ePorts. Photography of the opening night will be my final visual documentation for the deliverable online piece of this project.

Partnering with Ke will be the real, creative marketing effort that I aspire to have as a career. This project encompasses so much of what I love and what I’m passionate for which makes this collaboration feel like no work at all.

Below is a timeline of deadlines I’ll meet to help guide me through the applied project.


Gather materials for the show including food, music, and any additional items necessary. I’ll be creating signage and content to promote the show.


Print signage and finalize advertisements for the show. Hang posters two weeks before opening and utilize social media for promotion. Help Ke with any installation needs.


Opening night, December 4th. Work on deliverable project proof to upload to ePort.

The Cult Within Culture: Marketing Strategies

We are a generation of followers. We spend hours a day on social media looking at products and lifestyles of the individuals we follow, trying to stay within the mainstream. To differentiate ourselves from the masses, we align with brands and products that we identify with to signal who we are.

You have an iPhone or an Android. You drink Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. You prefer Marvel or DC.

We buy into these brands because it suggests what our personalities are and what our values might be. In doing this, companies amass huge, cult-like followings. The research article I’ll be writing explores how products, brands, and companies have developed their cult-like followings and what tactics they use to keep them successful. How do these companies stand out from their saturated markets to get a consumer to drink their hypothetical Kool-Aid?

Just like an artist would study the masters, a marketer should study the cults. Companies with dedicated followings are wildly successful and are constantly innovating new ways of doing business. Learning how these companies differentiate and reinvent themselves will be valuable knowledge that I can carry into my career. This research will also give readers a chance to better understand how businesses use sociological strategies to transform one time buyers into repeat customers.

The timeline I’m proposing for the article is as follows:

October 8

Finalize a brainstorm of all ideas and interest. Collect sources that stand out in this process. Begin to organize an outline.

October 15

Outline complete. Library resources are being utilized to help source articles, books, and additional materials.

October 22

Imagining that the outline can be broken into fourths, begin working and complete section one.

October 29

Begin working and complete section two.

November 5

Begin working and complete section three.

November 12

Begin working and complete section four.

November 19

Work on opening and closings for the article.

November 26

Begin to finalize article and make an appointment at the Writing Center.

December 3-10

Use this time to make final edits, draft and redraft. If fall behind, this time offers me a cushion to get back on track. Final version uploaded to ePort.

I assembled both my research article and applied project around questions I had within my disciplines. I took this opportunity to use self-directed learning to further stretch my interests and see what specific niches I find myself drawn to in business.

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In visual arts, a thumbnail sketch is a way to lay out multiple ideas quickly- outlining specific elements. This is a good way for artists to decide what their overall composition will look and feel like, before they being working. I’ve thought about this brainstorming process for the research paper and applied project much like an artist would their thumbnails, because by the end of this semester I will have completed a very personal work of art: my program.

When I began to develop ideas for the research paper and applied project I was finding that my topics included disciplines that I didn’t consider myself interested in, like technology. What’s interesting about an interdisciplinary method to learning is that disciplines or ideas you didn’t think could relate to your program blend in so well. Nearly each idea for the research paper included disciplines in marketing, communications, sociology, psychology, technology, and education. The constructed research topics are as follows:

Developing a Business Culture: Marketing Strategies

Marketing for Higher Education

How to Market in a Digital Era

Innovating for Social Marketing

Social Marketing for Social Change

The two ideas that I’m most invested in are Developing a Business Culture: Marketing Strategies, and Marketing for Higher Education. Passion and appreciation of the craft are what push me to work hard and put honest effort into a project. Both ideas would allow me to research companies and institutions that I admire and feel strongly about.

I found that cultivating ideas for the applied project to be more difficult for me, because the sky was no longer the limit. As a student without many financial resources, these ideas had to be within reason and were achievable. Each idea came with their own set of challenges, some being transportation while others were a lack of desire. Below are each of my potential applied projects followed with their unique challenges.

Analyzing High Education: Marketing Strategies

Although this project would be accessible to me as I’m already a student on a college campus surrounded by a network of professionals, I’m trying to shift away from the idea of for-profit schools and their desire to make money off students.

Partnership in Plymouth

I could partner with a business in downtown Plymouth to work with them on their specific marketing strategies, but none of the businesses excited me enough to develop an independent project.

Building a Personal Brand: My e-port

This idea would be a great way for me to learn how to better market myself as a professional but I would rather work with other individuals or an outside business for this project.

Develop a Marketing Plan for a Startup

This could potentially be a project that I would love to do if I knew of a great start up around this area. I do know of startups happening around New England, but when I communicated with them their marketing and communication plans were already being executed.

Lastly, my favorite: Marketing for a Creative Service: The Littleton Studio School

This semester I have the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary approached cluster project that partners with the Littleton Studio School in Littleton, New Hampshire. The Littleton Studio School is an artist’s studio where artists and craftsmen can come

to work individually or take classes with other community members. This is a dynamic public space that can offer its community so much but needs marketing support and revitalization. During this semester-long project, my team and I will be making frequent trips together to visit with the owners, craftsmen and community to make marketing plans to improve business. The biggest challenge I feel that I’ll take on with this project is understanding that the positive changes that my team and I implement will not happen quickly, and this can be a discouraging feeling.

Photo by Kayleigh BennettVery few times have artists found themselves with a stroke of genius creating a masterpiece. Much of their time is spent planning, innovating, and laboring over their craft. Interdisciplinary Studies has taught its students this method of developing new ideas and practicing them before its final execution. Each IDS student has a different style and a different way of approaching challenges in ways that are exclusive to them. The research paper and applied project are both ways students can create unique ways of researching and implementing projects to gain a deeper insight of their craft. Like artists, no two IDS students are the same.





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