Wednesday, July 23, 2008

College Changes

A couple of changes have taken place this month at my school and for myself.

First off, Utah Valley State College became Utah Valley University. I'm not sure if this will affect my collegiate career in any way, but regardless, I am happy about the transformation.

Secondly, I have switched my major for the last time ever. And I've never been more excited about school.

The degree I am pursuing is a BA in Integrated Studies with emphases in Philosophy and Psychology.

Now, I realize on the surface this seems rather pointless. What will a degree in Integrated Studies get me, right? I mean, isn't it just a Bachelors degree in General academics with two minors pretty much? No. It's so much more.

At first, I thought that very thing. I thought, why would somebody pursue a major that is really just two minors? Here is the answer: Experience and Grad School preparation.

In this program I will take integrated studies courses, 21 psychology credits and 24 philosophy credits (a major in philosophy only contains 37 philosophy credits). The difference in this program? Research! The student of integrated studies is required to do a one year research project in their senior year. This includes independent research that is guided by a faculty committee - chosen by the student. This senior thesis can be anything from making a documentary film, to making an album, to writing an argumentive paper, to designing a magazine.

My senior thesis will be a research paper that will be 60-70 pages in length. This paper will integrate the two disciplines I am studying (philosophy and psychology) and will pay special attention to the anatomical and physiological processes of the brain and how free will plays into this equation. My definitive thesis is yet to be decided (I must take Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Physiological Psychology, and Cognitive Science courses first), but will most likely deal an attempt to find empirical and quantitative evidence for free will or determinism within the physical aspects of the mind, and how, if such a metaphysical process exists, how the possibility hinges on the physical processes of the brain.

This research will be exciting and will help me prepare for graduate school like nothing else could. The faculty committee will consist of three professors (who will rip my apart for the next three years of my life). These three professors will be David Yells of the Psychology department - he is also the Dean of the School of Humanities; Christine Weigel of the Philosophy department - she is also the Department Chair of the Philosophy department; and either Scott Abbott (PhD in German Literature from Princeton and Chair of the IS program) or Mark Jeffreys (PhD in English from Emory and another PhD in Anthropology from the UofU).

Needless to reiterate, I have never been more excited about my academic setting. Wish me luck.