Focus on Individual Studies

Jordan Sheldon, an Individual Studies major, tutors a student in the EOP office in Warren Hall.

Jordan Sheldon, an Individual Studies major, tutors a student in the EOP office in Warren Hall.

New degree gives students greater course flexibility

Offering a plethora of academic degrees to meet the diverse needs of prospective students can be a difficult challenge for a small community college, but a new program at SUNY Adirondack gives students more options and flexibility.

The college’s Liberal Arts Humanities & Social Sciences — Individual Studies degree makes it possible for students to create a customized associate degree based on their personal interests or academic needs.

The associate in science degree combines a strong liberal arts and sciences foundation with 30 credits of choice to help a student transfer in a direction previously not supported by many degree programs. Students in the program work closely with an advisor to design a customized four-semester layout.

Hannah Grady of Corinth, who played on the college’s softball team, started college as a Liberal Arts major because she was undecided about her future career path. After some time at college, she connected her love of athletics with academics and switched to an Individual Studies major to make the most of the credits she had earned.

“I’ve decided to become a physical education teacher because I love working with kids,” Grady said. “As a teacher, I don't think I want to be in classroom all day. I like being hands-on in a gym. Physical education seemed like the best path for me.”

Grady graduates in May 2019 and transferred to SUNY Cortland to study physical education. 

Jordan Sheldon of Hudson Falls switched his major to Individual Studies to optimize his financial aid availability, making it possible for him to take classes at SUNY Adirondack before graduation that will apply toward a bachelor degree program.

“I was able to knock out more prerequisites for my transfer,” said Sheldon, who graduated in May 2019 and transferred to SUNY ESF. “SUNY Adirondack was close and convenient for me —and not expensive. I thought it was a great place to start.”

The degree can be especially helpful for returning adults and veterans, who may have started in one direction and now have a new focus. Individual Studies enables them to continue their studies without an undue loss of credit, making it easier to finish an associate degree more quickly and giving them the opportunity to transfer to a four-year college.

“The flexibility of the degree allows students to change their transfer plans without having a negative impact on their ability to complete an associate degree in four semesters. This happens quite often as students change their minds about four-year college majors and/or specific four-year colleges,” said Doug Gaulin, A SUNY Adirondack counselor who specializes in transfer advising. “The program also allows advisors and students the flexibility to plan for some of the non-traditional four-year degrees where we don't have a perfect fit at the associate degree level.”

Gaulin cites two career-specific concentrations as examples. A Music Industry concentration directly aligned to support transfer to SUNY Oneonta or SUNY Fredonia and combines music and business coursework with a foundation of liberal arts and sciences. A Sport Management concentration combines business and general education coursework to prepare students for transfer to obtain a bachelor’s from SUNY Cortland.