Every journey to interdisciplinary studies is unique. Cinnamon Bohm '21 of Salem recently shared her reflection on her path to this program and what lies ahead for her.
When I decided to become an Interdisciplinary Studies major, I had already attended multiple colleges and had multiple majors. At the time I was a history major and not quite sure what I wanted to do when I finished college; graduate school and law school were at the top of my list.
Today, I know that I want to attend law school after graduation and have begun the search for the right law school. Moving across disciplinary lines and integrating them is an invaluable skill that will inevitably prepare me for the rigors of law school, which demands students think analytically from different perspectives and bring a range of knowledge to bear on critical cases.
I chose an American Studies concentration because I want to specialize in public interest law. This concentration is going to increase my understanding and knowledge of the inequities that exist in American society, their roots, and the ways cultural and political acts shape them.
Throughout high school I always thought I would pursue a degree in science. I took multiple chemistry and biology courses including those that were part of the International Baccalaureate program. Naturally, when I first enrolled in college, I wanted to pursue a degree that combined all my interests. So, I decided to pursue a degree in Natural Resource Management. It turned out that my interests were elsewhere. This program required an intensive focus on economics. Graphing production possibility frontiers was not what I wanted to do. I did not consider that natural resources are just that… resources. They are a means of satisfying a society’s need for fuel, food, and the like.
After a year I decided that this was not the program for me, and that a year off was a better choice. This year turned into nearly a decade. During this time, I did extensive traveling across the United States. I held jobs intermittently working as a server or bartender. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that a way of life existed outside of the suburban existence I was used to.
I spent the later part of my twenties bouncing between California and Michigan and frequently worked with people who came from very economically disadvantaged backgrounds. One person that I became friends with sticks out to me. “Sally” owned her own home in a lowincome neighborhood. Her family has been ravaged by alcoholism and drug addiction. Because of this she adopted her nephew and frequently took care of her grandchildren. I also met people like Sally on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in Northern California. Like most of Detroit, this area is ravaged by poverty; dilapidated houses and trash are everywhere. It is home to a marginalized group of people who have little money, so they are politically forgotten or viewed as a fluke aberration. Sally was in this same predicament forgotten because she did not hold status or have material wealth. It is despicable that our country, one of the wealthiest in the world, would allow people to live in abject poverty.
After I had a child, thoughts of Sally and those living on the Hoopa Reservation frequently came to mind. I could not imagine having to live in a house with lead paint, or floors that were deteriorating with my child. I want to help people living with poverty. People in these situations should not be penalized, but rather society should work to alleviate these burdens.
This is a complex issue that requires an interdisciplinary analysis in order to understand the breadth of American poverty. It is a not just an economic problem but a social one. I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in American Studies because I want to approach this problem with a holistic view. There is the American dream and then the American reality. The history of a particular group in America must be examined, as well as the sociological, philosophical, economic factors that contribute to its existence.
Advocating for the rights of those who have been, or are, marginalized is the essence of public interest law. The breadth and scope of American Studies will allow me to have a strong base of skills and knowledge in the background of the American experiment, its intent and pitfalls, to further toward my legal education.