CUNY BA offers students the opportunity to design interdisciplinary (or otherwise unique or specialized) Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degrees in which they are able to integrate different disciplines into single concentrations. It’s not a double major, it’s not a major-minor combination. It is a way of integrating different areas of knowledge into a solid interdisciplinary degree.
One principle behind CUNY BA — and interdisciplinary studies in general — is that the complex problems of today require thinking that is informed by the study of multiple disciplines. A musician, for example, is assisted when she or he has an understanding of mathematics, science, poetry, and of course, music theory. An environmental educator is assisted when she or he has studied not only environmental science, but also educational theory, leadership theory, geography, statistics, etc.
Two oft-asked questions of potential CUNY BA students are:
1) Will I be able to get into graduate school with this degree?
2) Will I be able to get a job with this degree?
Here is some guidance:
Just over half of all CUNY BA graduates have gone on to graduate education (about half of those have attended a CUNY graduate program). Almost 100% of our alumni in graduate studies say their CUNY BA education adequately prepared them for graduate school; in many cases, their specialized areas of concentration coupled with their ability to work independently and with faculty gave them an edge over the competition. The majority report being accepted to all or almost all of the graduate programs to which they applied, often with generous financial assistance and prestigious scholarships.
Note that a 50%+ rate of students going on to graduate education is higher than the national average, where 40% of BA/BS completers go on to graduate school. Here is some feedback from CUNY BA graduates about applying to graduate school:
Laura Kingsley, Mixed Media Sculpture, B.S. 2012: California College of Arts, M.F.A. with annual scholarship support in excess of $18,000. “Having had a broader pool of courses to choose from as a CUNY BA student was greatly advantageous. The master’s level tutorial I took with my faculty mentor, Prof. Mongrain, allowed me to develop the portfolio that led to my acceptance to this M.F.A. program.”
Lakshman Kalasapudi, South Asian Studies/Urban Planning, B.A. 2012: Master’s in Anthropology at the University of Manitoba (with funding by the International Development Research Centre). “My background in interdisciplinary studies really helped me become a viable candidate for this program.”
Cheryl Mazzeo, Molecular Biology, B.A. 2012: Ph.D. at Albert Einstein College of
Medicine, with an annual scholarship in excess of $31,000. She will study cancer genetics and cancer treatment options. “Through CUNY BA, I gained three years of laboratory research experience, and I developed a method to study protein-protein interactions in bacteria involved in many kinds of disease.”
Robert Riggs, Urban Anthropology and Mass Incarceration, B.A. 2012: Ph.D. in Sociology at NYU, with a five-year Henry McCracken Fellowship. “CUNY BA was crucial to my acceptance into graduate school.”
Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, Language, Culture and Society, B.A. 2012: Ph.D. in Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Arizona, with substantial funding. “CUNY BA prepared me for this Ph.D. program by allowing me to collaborate with faculty on unique research projects and by providing me with the opportunity to develop my own research agenda early in my undergraduate career. The joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and Linguistics truly embodies the interdisciplinary nature of my CUNY BA degree.”
Tess Connors-Savery, Food Service Administration for Disaster Relief, B.S. 2012: Tulane
University, Master’s in Disaster Resilience Leadership Science. “I used CUNY BA to pursue my goal of improving public health, food safety and sanitation in emergency food services. My studies will now continue at the graduate level.”
Ella Viola, Zoology, B.S. 2012: M.S. in Biology at the College of Staten Island. “Through CUNY BA, I have advanced and transformed my career as Director of Education at the Staten Island Zoo. I will build on my CUNY BA foundation toward a deeper understanding of the science behind the ecology of endangered species in graduate school.”
Roman Levites, Technology and the Law, B.S. 2012: Cardozo Law School. “I will continue to study of landlord-tenant law and laws surrounding the ever-growing internet and related technologies.”
Sant Mukh Khalsa, Art and Human Culture, B.A. 2011: Ph.D. in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center with an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellowship. “Without CUNY BA, I may have graduated, but I doubt whether I would have gotten so much out of my degree, or whether I would be going on to this doctoral program now.”
Blake Hefter, Medical Biotechnology, B.A. 2009: D.V.M., Veterinary Medicine at Ross University. Hefter completed a Technical Research Assistantship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is now pursuing the Veterinary degree. “It all started for me with CUNY BA and I’ll never forget that.”
K. Daya Bill, Urban Sustainability, B.A. 2009: Master’s in Urban Planning, Rutgers’ Bloustein School, one of the top ranked graduate programs for urban planning. “I credit my unique area of concentration for helping me secure a paid internship in my field as well as admission to the master’s degree program.”
Rachel Klapper, Journalism and International Affairs/Holocaust and Genocide Studies, B.A. 2009: Masters in Society and Politics in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “I have been deeply affected by CUNY BA’s interdisciplinary academic mission.”
Azriel Relph, International Relations and Journalism, B.A. 2009: CUNY Graduate School of Journalism as a Sulzberger Scholar. “It would have felt great to go to an Ivy League school but the cutting edge curriculum at CUNY Journalism, combined with my CUNY Baccalaureate degree, will take me much farther.”
Tyleen Kelly, World Literature/Theatre, B.A. 2009: Oxford University for an M.A. and the University of California-Berkeley for a Ph.D. “I attribute my academic success to working closely with my faculty mentor, being able to construct my own areas with courses from Hunter and City Colleges, and having access to graduate-level education.”
Sarah Lippek, Ethical History of the 20th Century / Creative Writing, B.A. 2008: University of Washington School of Law as William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholar. “CUNYBA allowed me to pursue a multidisciplinary study of history and to work on my interest in how historical and philosophical knowledge function together.”
Saundra Ayala, Mediterranean Art History, B.A. 2008: Brooklyn College’s M.A. in Art History. “My years in the CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies enabled me to feel qualified to excel in my graduate courses and exams.”
“CUNY BA set the benchmark for academic freedom and I finished my master’s degree in a similar interdisciplinary program. I am now a tenured professor of Jazz Studies at Diablo Valley College and I am eternally grateful for the fact that during my studies I was able to create programs that were relevant to my life and career.” — Glenn Appell, Music and Education, B.S. 1979
Don’t shy away from a self-designed interdisciplinary degree because of concerns it will not lead to a job! In alumni surveys, conducted annually, approximately 80% of graduates report that they hold jobs in fields related to their areas of concentration. More than half report receiving promotions or raises in their current positions or starting new careers upon earning the degree.
The nature of the CUNY BA degree allows students to leverage their academic choices in order to obtain their dream jobs (even since the 2008 economic down-turn).
Here are some recent employment examples:
Rebekah Ambjor, B.A. 2012 (Creative Writing for Children / Health Studies for Children) is now a Cooking and Nutrition Instructor at Red Rabbit, a NYC-based healthy school meal provider to the Metro area.
Ladyane Lima, B.A. 2012 (Latin American Studies / Economics Policy) is now an Operations Analyst at Morgan Stanley.
Andrea (Drea) Bernardi, B.S. 2011 (Mass Media / Mediated Performance Art) is the Media Production Coordinator for world-renowned chef and restaurateur Mario Batali.
Michaela Lind, B.S. 2011 (Ritual-Focused Performance Techniques) is a performer with “Clowns Ex Machina.”
Alex Wernquest, B.S. 2011 (Film Sound and Music Technology) is a sound technician at Gotham Sound.
Mustafa Ali, B.A. 2011 (Environmental Justice) works for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Justice, in Washington D.C.
Diana Diaz, B.A. 2011 (Education Policy Analysis) works for the Day Care Council of New York.
Lina Cardona, B.A. 2011 (Film Production / Anthropology) works with Jackson Films in New York.
Dan Compitello, B.S. 2010 (Urban and Community Development Policy and Planning) is Principal at Urban Parc and Volunteer Director at Youth in Planning – American Planning Association.
Noah Ginsburg, B.A. 2010 (Renewable Energy) is Performance Guarantee Specialist at Sungevity, a home solar system company based in San Francisco; formerly, he was the NYC Solar Ombudsman at CUNY.
Jessica Lawson, B.A. 2010 (Convergence Journalism) works in Operations for Condition One, a mobile media technology company that develops tools and platforms for filmmakers, photojournalists and visual storytellers.
Lisa Jahn, B.A. 2010 (Medical Anthropology) is a research scientist for NYC’s HRA Office of Evaluation and Research.
Rachel Ramirez, B.A. 2010 (Creative Writing / Literature) is a staff writer for the CUNY Graduate Center’s Office of Public Affairs.
Havalah Collins, B.S. 2010 (Ethnic Vocal Studies) is Director of Music Together of Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill.
Tunu Thom, B.A. 2010 (African Centered Education) is a middle school dance and drama teacher.
Mai Kichuchi, B.A. 2009 (Marketing and Management of Art and Design) is a sales associate at a NYC art gallery.
Katharine Daya Bill, B.A. 2009 (Urban Sustainability) is a policy analyst at APPRISE, a nonprofit research institute that provides bill payment assistance, energy education and energy efficiency services to low-income households.
Tyler Shenk-Foley, B.A. 2009 (Biology and the Brain) is a Physician’s Assistant in NYC.
Mohamed Jallow B.A. 2009 (International Relations) is a Program Development Specialist at IntraHealth International, based in North Carolina.
Claudio Salazar, B.A. 2008 (Geopolitical History) is Account Manager/ International Sales for Latin America at Business Monitor International, based in New York City.
Karalyn Shimmyo, B.S. 2007 (Experimental Social Psychology) is now Better Days Supervisor/Program Coordinator at Amida Care.
Here is some feedback from our alumni:
I am currently working for Red Rabbit as their cooking andnutrition instructor along with working towards publishing my children’s book, Lucy’s Garden. Both of these jobs relate to my CUNY BA degree. — Rebekah Ambjor, Creative Writing for Children / Health Studies for Children, B.A. 2012
I just got a job as a music specialist at a live-in foster home housing 60 mentally disabled adolescents, thanks to this great program! — Ryan Woodhall, Sound Studies, B.S. 2011
I’m writing this email from my desk at my new job as a sound technician at Gotham Sound. I started about 5 weeks ago and it’s going really well. My AOC was Film Sound and Music Technology, and my job involves renting out audio gear for professional film and music production companies. It feels fantastic being able to work in the field I studied in at school. I have a lot of peers who unfortunately can’t say the same thing. I just wanted to write to thank you and everyone involved at the BA program – I wouldn’t be in this position if not for CUNY BA. You guys really do embody what I always imagined higher education to be.
–Alex Wernquest, B.S. 2011
I received two professional theatre opportunities as a direct result of working with my CUNY faculty mentors. — Chandler Wild, Storytelling for the Stage and Screen, B.S. 2011
After graduation, I was promoted to an editor position and given a salary increase! – Matthew Zuras, Digital and Print Media Production, B.A. 2010
I ended up getting two job offers as a result of my CUNY BA education, one as a Gallery Associate and one as a Gallery Manager. – Molly Watts, Art History and Religion, B.A. 2010
CUNY BA gave me the tools I need to think on my feet, form original concepts, and follow through. I could never have developed these skills as thoroughly as I did without this program. I used my CUNY BA experience to prepare me to excel in my Renewable Energy career. – Clint Porter, Energy Resource Policy, B.A. 2008
CUNY BA is nothing less than phenomenal. I’ve been able to focus in on unique coursework, and I’ve been able to progress with extreme efficiency. I couldn’t have made a better decision with my education. My areas of concentration helped me obtain employment with the U.S. Department of Justice. – David Morgante, International Crime/Terrorism Studies, B.S. 2008
Having to create my own course of study fostered my ability to apply theater and theater-based solutions in almost any context. I am now employed in a position that was tailored just for me and my skills. If I didn’t have the practice and the knowledge that this unique degree program offered me, my options would be much more limited. –Kayhan Irani, Theatre and Social Change, B.A. 2008
Just a few months after graduation, I was hired as a television reporter for Channel 69 News in Pennsylvania. I report in Spanish and in English. Last year, I sent out my resume in overnight mail. In less than 24 hours I received a call asking me to set up an interview. With so many people trying to get into television, I truly believe that my CUNY BA education and my study abroad experience gave me the edge I needed. — Dwayne Parker, Communications and Latin American Politics, B.A. 2007
My degree is one of the main reasons I was able to get my new job. My interview focused quite a bit on my degree – what I studied, why I studied it, and how this was even possible. My job is directly related to what I studied, as is obvious from the job title, Manager of Volunteer Relations for New York Cares, Inc. – Jaime Denniston-Merced, Sociology of Volunteerism, B.A. 2006
CUNY BA enabled me to extend my academic and professional vision beyond what I believed possible. After graduation I became an Assistant Vice President within IT at Citigroup, and am currently Project Management Professionally certified (PMP) with Time Warner, managing corporate level projects and initiatives. – Paul Sanabria, Information Technology for Hospitality Management, B.S. 2006
I am proud to share with you that I just accepted a great executive assistant position at Ogilvy and Mather. During my final interview my new boss confided in me that she had been thrilled to see CUNY BA on my résumé. She could see that I had the professional qualifications for the position, but ‘CUNY BA graduate’ under the education section of my résumé said more to her than my other qualifications. The way she talked about CUNY BA made me feel like I was the alumnus of a truly prestigious program. – Alex Van Ark, French Studies/Russian Studies, B.A. 2005
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