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(From left) SMU Provost, Prof Timothy Clark; SMU President, Prof Lily Kong; and SMU Dean, College of Integrative Studies (CIS), Prof Elvin Lim announced the formation of the new college. (Photo: SMU)
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Transformative Education

Introducing the SMU College of Integrative Studies: an incubator of interdisciplinary learning

Published on 23 May 2022

On 20 May 2022, SMU announced the launch of its College of Integrative Studies (CIS), a new approach to education that cultivates deep, integrative interdisciplinarity in graduates. Students enrolled in the flagship Individualised Major will be guided through a customised major that leverages their strengths and areas of interest. This allows them to respond to the dynamic needs of industry and society. It will provide them with the opportunity to explore across traditional disciplinary boundaries and develop a well-rounded, interdisciplinary skill set that employers highly value.

Students will have the flexibility to defer the declaration of their degree programme until they have had a chance to explore different areas of interest. The move will allow them to make more informed decisions about their future and choose a course of study best suited to their interests and career aspirations.

“The College of Integrative Studies is ultimately about connecting ideas and perspectives across disciplines to derive innovative solutions in new areas,” says SMU President Professor Lily Kong.

“By removing institutional limits on how students can combine disciplines and courses, we offer an extraordinary level of flexibility and range of permutations that make this degree experience responsive to government, business, and society and exciting for students and partners alike.”

A bold pivot to new realities

The changes that the global economy is experiencing have been unprecedented in degree and scale. Recent developments — from geopolitical tensions to the Covid-19 pandemic and financial uncertainty — have implications for businesses, government institutions, and society at large.

Graduates of tomorrow will need to find innovative ways of navigating through new challenges if they want to be successful on this journey towards a better future. SMU is committed to nurturing a new generation of graduates who will be able to navigate emerging fields and master multiple disciplines.

“The integration of disciplines and domains is how new knowledge is produced,” explains Prof Kong.

“We have set out to develop a new generation of graduates who will be able to combine knowledge domains, who can respond to industry disruption in multi-dimensional and non-linear ways.”

The College of Integrative Studies was designed for this purpose. It will serve as an incubator of interdisciplinary learning, where students will learn to move with confidence between multiple disciplines and develop skills to manage the inter-related issues of a complex world.

Next level individualised learning

A first of its kind in Singapore, the CIS enables students to look beyond the boundaries of a single discipline, enabling them to make a bold pivot to the new realities of an ever-changing world. Known as a trailblazer in interdisciplinary education, whereby students can customise their education pathway through unusual combinations of domain knowledge and skillsets, SMU has excelled in producing graduates who are highly sought after by employers as they can thrive within modern economies and societies.

As Mr Edmund Lin, Chairman of Southeast Asia, Bain & Company, remarks: “We see the benefits in our industry of enabling students to better understand the challenges of integrative learning with a deferred major declaration, as well as providing strong mentorship from academic and industry perspectives in the Individualised Major programme.”      

The CIS will welcome its first intake of up to a hundred students in Academic Year 2023/24 and will be open to all students applying for admission to undergraduate degree programmes at SMU. It introduces the Deferred Declaration of Degree Programme (D3), which allows students to postpone the choice of their degree programmes until after they have explored the range of disciplines available to them at SMU in their first year.

CIS students may also pursue the Bachelor of Integrative Studies degree and individualise their major with a selection from across the University’s entire suite of close to a thousand courses. Allowing each student to customise and design their Individualised Major (IM) according to their strengths as well as the dynamic needs of industry and society, the CIS provides an avenue for students to configure a unique path that is aligned with their past experiences, current interests and future ambitions. Alternatively, they may opt for an Individualised Second Major (ISM).

Students at the College will benefit from the pedagogy and expertise of world-class faculty, renowned for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research.

The CIS faculty comprises respected scholar-teachers who hail from various disciplinary backgrounds. They include colleagues with expertise in computer science, economics, environmental science, history, geography, law, literature, and political science. In time, SMU anticipates an even more diverse faculty with interests that intersect with and complement the expertise of faculty from the other six schools.

SMU is well-poised to play a pivotal role in the future as it focuses on its three priority areas of digital transformation, growth in Asia and sustainable living. The CIS is testimony to SMU’s commitment to tackling the challenges and opportunities of the future in an integrative, multi-approach manner, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to drive positive change and make meaningful contributions to the economy, polity and society.

Related Topics:  Undergraduate Education  Excellence