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Alexis Van Dijk ’14

Class of 2014, Major in Interdisciplinary Studies

I loved the self-designed courses of the IDS major since this is one’s opportunity to learn outside of classroom walls. I created a course that explored turtle conservation efforts in Costa Rica, where I traveled to work hands-on with turtle-nest relocation and data gathering. I have to say that experiencing the issues is very different than reading about it in a book. I believe it is of greater impact, and is also very beneficial, helping you to grow as a person.


Alexis Van Dijk recently graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in May 2014. 

The theme of Alexis’ studies was How to Promote Environmental Sustainability through Journalism and Film.

Why did you choose the Interdisciplinary Studies major?

I was inspired to enroll in the IDS major upon reading the “required skills” necessary to work at National Geographic Magazine, which at the time was my favorite publication. I wanted to be a Nat Geo writer, and found that a single major wouldn’t serve me enough to get that job, that I needed skills from multiple departments.  I spoke with advisors at Marymount Manhattan College who guided me to the IDS Major which opened an enormous amount of opportunities for me.

I like to refer to the IDS major as “Graduate school for undergraduates;” it’s not for students who don’t know what to do and should try a little of everything; it’s for students who know what they want, and have a specific plan of how to achieve that. For me, this involved taking classes in various departments, which are sometimes reserved for “majors only.” However, be it that I was interested in the elements of various majors, the IDS has allowed me to seize what I needed from each department, and also allowed me to lift some of what I thought were “constraints”, such as certain pre-requisites or requirements, which make sense for students that are focusing on one specific major, but not necessarily when you are shaping your own program based on a combination of departments.

In addition, the IDS major has allowed me to incorporate life experience by pushing internships and personalized classes. The IDS major allowed me, in fact pushed me, to seek education outside of classroom walls- to seek real life experiences related to my projected career of choice. This has not only made for a richer resume, and the ability to bring back experiences to the classroom, but it also gave me a taste of what I was getting into, which allowed me to realize what my weaknesses were, and adjust accordingly.

What were some of your favorite classes? 

My favorite courses have included “Web Video Activism,” where students were asked to partner with an organization around New York City to create videos that would best serve the organization for exposure or other purposes. I had a chance to work with The No Impact Project, which focuses on steps to reduce personal environmental impact and carbon footprint. The video I have produced to the No Impact Project, which encompasses their message with my creative approach is now featured on their website. 

I also loved the self-designed courses, which is the best aspect of the IDS major since this is one’s opportunity to learn outside of classroom walls and bring back experiences that will advance you in your college career and beyond. I created a couple of courses, one of which explored turtle conservation efforts in Costa Rica, where I traveled to work hands-on with turtle-nest relocation and data gathering. I also explored a course on Native Hawaiian plants and how the use of GMO’s in the Hawaiian Islands is in contradiction with local cultural beliefs. I have to say that experiencing the issues is very different than reading about it in a book – I believe it is of greater impact, and meeting people related to the topics you are studying is also very beneficial and helps you to grow as a person.

Currently, I am taking a course focusing on the “Elements of Professional Journalism” where part of my grade lies on my success in having my writing published online as a freelancer.  What better way to get ready for a career as a freelancer than to be pushed to pitch articles?

Alexis in Costa Rica with baby sea turtles Alexis in Costa Rica with baby sea turtles

What is your dream job?

While I would still love to work for National Geographic Magazine, my studies have opened my eyes to a wide realm of possibilities.  I now feel prepared to work with various publications, production companies and research centers, as long as they are in line with my ethical beliefs and my initial goal of preserving the environment and exposing the degradation of which to the public. 

How do you think your major will help you in the future?

Although I already had an idea of what I wanted out of my IDS that would allow me to gather the best possible tools for my future desired career, I was pleasantly surprised about how, over the course of the years and upon taking various classes and listening to advisors, I have touched in fields that I had never considered, allowing me to gain further skills and knowledge in various departments.  One such skill be web-designer. In a world where the use of the Internet is growing, building web-sites is just another platform where communication can occur. I now have a stronger sense of my capabilities and the opportunities those can bring.  For those who are considering the IDS major, here are just a few things being an IDS major can guarantee:

-Connections: Make deeper connections with a wider range or students, faculty and outside specialists, all of which is possible because of the experiencing of the various fields of study.

-Support: At MMC, being an IDS major will guarantee you a lot of support – if you ever have second doubts, you will be guided in an enriching direction, and perhaps you will find a new direction that in fact makes more sense.

-Uniqueness: As a student, you will very often be asked by other students, and adults “what’s your major.” Having the opportunity to explain, with a sentence your field of study is a great talking point, which can allow you to stand out.

The theme of my IDS was “How to promote environmental sustainability through journalism and film.” Although at times it can be difficult to communicate in a resume, I cannot stress how this has helped me grab attention from possible employers, as it is intriguing and gives you the opportunity to let your personality, interests and passion shine, which is desirable in the professional world.

The IDS major can be everything you want it to be, you will get as much out of it as you put into it. The tools are provided; the opportunities are there, especially being in New York City.