Student Self-Designs Her Future

With her Self-Design degree from NC State, junior Kristin Caddick plans to go into education — but not in the traditional sense.

Rather than teaching in a classroom, she wants to focus on environmental education through work in the nonprofit sector.

Kristin Caddick

“I’d love to run my own zoo and have a place for individuals to come and have an opportunity to learn about animals, the natural environment and our interconnectedness,” Caddick said. “I feel like it’s just got huge appeal; it would be bringing in people of all ages.”

Caddick is pursuing that goal through an interdisciplinary degree she’s customizing to her own interests. Through NC State’s Self-Design program, Caddick designed a degree in environmental studies, with a concentration in conservation biology and a minor in nonprofit studies.

“The Self-Design program is kind of a more liberal approach to education,” Caddick said. “A lot of majors follow a very strict core curriculum, but the Self-Design program allows students to have more of a tailored curriculum from the courses that already exist here.”

A component of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Self-Design allows students to create a one-of-a-kind degree customized to their own interests. Students can combine courses from several disciplines into one bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree. Toward the end of their coursework, Self-Design students also complete a capstone project, demonstrating the skills and knowledge they’ve gained.

Caddick came to NC State as a parks, recreation and tourism management major, and found a specific interest in courses on fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. She was looking to earn a degree in environmental studies, a degree not offered at NC State. NC State does offer a degree in environmental sciences, but it was not quite what Caddick was looking for. In her words, “Environmental Studies often centers around the human dimensions of the sciences and is keen on analyzing interactions of systems. Environmental Sciences is more quantitative in its studies and is more concerned with basic scientific knowledge.”

“As interested as I am in the sciences,” Caddick continued, “I believe the way to combat environmental issues is dependent on changing human behavior and an environmental studies degree gives me the tools needed to make those changes happen.”

In addition to her studies in the Self-Design program, Caddick is also a Caldwell Fellow. The scholarship program is dedicated to fostering development and leadership skills in outstanding students at NC State. Caddick learned about the Self-Design program through the Caldwell Fellowship, from two other students who are also customizing their degrees.

“I used the upperclassmen as resources to walk me through the process, because it involves picking out your courses, planning your own degree and justifying it with essays and other materials,” Caddick said.

To apply, students identify a faculty adviser, describe their desired concentration and create a semester-by-semester course outline. Click here for more information on how to apply.

Caddick said the program offers a unique college experience.

“I get to explore so many areas around campus,” she said. “I never really have a set course load where I just follow a specific track, so I really get to dive into each college, and get to interact with diverse mindsets.”

Caddick’s courses range from international wildlife management, to environmental communication and poetry. Some of her courses are at the graduate level, although Caddick said she’s in no rush to jump into graduate school.

“I’m looking forward to the professional world and getting some work experience before diving into grad school,” she said. “I’d really like to invest more time in higher education after I get a few more years of experience in the working world.”

Caddick’s undergraduate experience has been unique and full of interesting challenges. To students thinking about the Self-Design major, she said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is 100 percent not easy and requires a lot of initiative on your part.”

Caddick is well on her way to earning a unique degree from NC State. Despite the challenges, her drive and initiative have made the Self-Design program well worth the effort. For more information on this and other programs offered by the Interdisciplinary Studies program, click here.

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