The Interdepartmental Studies major and its related tracks grew out of the success of the Individualized Plan of Study created in 1990 for those very unique CLAS students wanting to develop their own majors. The required curriculum for the Individualized Plan of Study is created by the student with guidance from the Interdepartmental Studies Academic Coordinator. The plan may not duplicate an existing major and must be approved by the Interdepartmental Studies Advisory Board. The process of designing such a major and finding faculty support for it from a number of units while presenting it to the Board is an example of the applied learning that this major encourages.

The Individualized Plan of Study major, discussed above, served as a model to create additional study plans to help undergraduates who had not yet found an academic home at UI. Not unlike students designing their own majors, these students were also unique, searching for a “right fit major.” Thus, the Health Science and Business Studies tracks within the Interdepartmental Studies major were added in 2006 with the goal of including gateway coursework taken in the above “pre” areas while giving students flexibility to choose other courses from an approved list appealing to the student’s particular talent and interests while building skills necessary for advanced learning and a first career. The interdisciplinary model allows students to find opportunities for learning and growth that propel them to success, particularly when compared with the narrower and sequential disciplinary approach to learning in some disciplines.

In the spring of 2007 the College created two “pre-approved” tracks in the Interdepartmental Studies major that used prerequisite course work in business or the health sciences as foundational course work (22 hrs.). This work combined with 15 hours in pre-approved emphasis areas from courses in CLAS completed the BAIS major (36 hrs.). The College initiated a three-year pilot and at the end of three years there were nearly 900 students in the BAIS major. The College then began working with Human Physiology to create health science majors without selective admission. Additionally, during this pilot in 2008, the College added a track in Recreation Management. As soon as there were 100 students in the Recreation Management track in Interdepartmental Studies, the College moved the track to Leisure Studies (in 2008) and encouraged the program to propose a major in this area, which it did. The Sport and Recreation Management major was approved in 2014.

The Human Services Track was added in Fall 2013 to provide an alternate plan for Psychology majors. As the name indicates, the track allows students to apply the content learned in psychology to career oriented courses, helping students to gain employment in counseling or related services.

The Engaged Social Innovation track was added in Fall 2014 at the request of then Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The track provided students with the opportunity to engage in public outreach as a significant part of their major while providing structure to provide community and shared experiences, helping students to learn how to work with others. This track was removed beginning in Fall 2022.