University College troika
(l. to r.): Tracy Skipp, Mariah Harrison and Stephanie Heikkinen, University College.

Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up, but the majority of students have no idea. For those students, the new Liberal Arts and Integrative Studies Program offered through the University of New Mexico’s University College, which replaces the Bachelor of University Studies (BUS), just may be the best solution.

In 1969, UNM faculty initiated the BUS program administered through University College. Each year, approximately 1,200 students enroll in the program, making it one of UNM's largest degree-granting programs. Students complete all courses required in the University Core Curriculum and design individual plans of study leading to a baccalaureate degree.

But beginning this fall, the BUS program, under the leadership of University College Dean Kate Krause, is undergoing big changes starting with its name to the Liberal Arts and Integrative Studies Program. The new program offers two bachelor’s degrees and a minor.

The Bachelor of Liberal Arts (BLA) program remains similar to the BUS degree with a few specific requirement changes. The newest change to BLA allows technical and vocational courses to count towards a baccalaureate degree. Just like the BUS, it offers the non-traditional student, those looking to do degree completion for advancement in their current careers, or students who have many different areas of interest, the opportunity to design the degree that is just the right fit.

The Bachelor of Integrative Studies (BIS) is an entirely new program that engages students who benefit from closer collaboration with a faculty mentor through experiential research and/or participation in faculty-led problem solving teams. The minor in Integrative Studies will allow creative students who are not in an interdisciplinary major to broaden their academic experience while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in their chosen discipline. 

 “This is the program where we catch those incoming students who see connections that others do not, connections between computer engineering and art, math and music, and biology and criminology," University College Associate Dean Tracy Skipp said. "We encourage students from day one to explore diverse areas.”

Another important component of the new BIS and BLA program comes by way of degree plans that UNM does not offer. “Many students have become interested in forensic science, but UNM does not offer that degree,” Skipp said. “But after looking at the courses required at the most competitive programs in the country, one student saw that all those classes were available at UNM too. Over the course of four years, he was able to create a degree plan to achieve his goal. He was accepted to Stanford where he received his masters in forensic science. He had taken all the necessary requirements at UNM to be accepted into their program, and all the credits transferred.”

Changes are also occurring at the advisement level at UNM. Now during new student orientation, students will be advised in their college should they declare their first year. This will be a big change for University College, as they will now be able to focus on only undeclared students versus advising every student in every major in every college. 

“About half the students who enter UNM are undeclared and therefore open to exploring their academic opportunities," said Sonia Rankin, UC associate dean, Curriculum and Program Development. "That’s really a great thing. With all the rapid changes in technology these days, it may not be the best course for us to prepare students for a job market that could conceivably be something very different in four years. The creative options now available to students are wide open.”

“The BIS and BLA degrees provide our students with the flexibility to tailor their education, while keeping the rigor and quality of an undergraduate UNM degree,” said UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah.