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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