Modern Renaissance Thinkers
Bioengineering and religion. Computer science and graphic design. Industrial engineering and international relations.
It’s not easy to combine such diverse interests as these. But with the Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences (IDEAS), students at Lehigh are doing just that. Jointly administered by the College of Arts and Sciences and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, IDEAS is a four-year honors program that allows students to get a bachelor's degree with heavy concentrations in both colleges.
On the one hand, the program attracts students whose first love is engineering, but who also feel passionate about the arts and sciences. Yet IDEAS is also perfect for those initially drawn to the arts and sciences, but who understand the importance and practicality of a strong technical background gained through engineering.
“I liked the flexibility of my classes and the fact that I combined two completely different majors into one theme,” says Kara Werner. “That's something that is really hard to find at other universities.”
Werner was drawn to Lehigh because of the university’s strong international relations department. But after she was invited to join the IDEAS program, she added courses in industrial engineering. In combining the two, her thesis examined how industrial engineering techniques can improve the efficiency of non-governmental agencies (NGOs) doing work in the developing world.
In a nutshell, here’s how IDEAS works: In the first and second years of the program, you take seminars that draw on many different disciplines. Among other things, this helps you get used to thinking beyond the boundaries of traditional academic fields. In the final two years, you focus on a senior thesis project that combines both of your concentrations. Along the way, you work closely with advisers to develop a coursework and thesis gameplan. What’s more, you can choose from all the courses offered in both colleges.
“Students in Lehigh’s program are essentially building a product,” says Professor William Best, one of the co-Directors of the program. “They’re designing their own degree. We meet with each student every semester to develop a ‘flight plan.’ It is a challenging process for them, but they don't do it alone.”