Welcome Messages

Director's Message

photo of Kym BirdWelcome to the Graduate Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies! Founded in 1972, it is one of York's oldest and most illustrious graduate programs. Interdisciplinary Studies is an innovative, pan–university program that has paved the way for a handful of other, important graduate programs at York University and in Canada.

The vision of its founder, the late Dr. Christopher Innes, was to provide prospective students with the opportunity to imagine one’s own program of study by creating a project that brings together three disciplines or areas of study. The Programme continues this legacy. Interdisciplinary Studies boasts a superb record of attracting “the best and the brightest” from a whole range of backgrounds and during their scholarly tenure, its students have produced impressive and inspired creative and academic theses.

The Programme’s wide array of renowned professors are drawn from all of York’s eleven faculties and its students are as diverse as the research they undertake: they come from across the globe, hold worlds of experience, are of all adult ages. Known as a program that consistently awards degrees, external accreditation bodies have declared that its “excellent combination of structure, rigour and flexibility” provides students with the opportunity to design creative and individualized programs of study and research. “Its structure and learning outcomes reflect the state of the art as practiced in other outstanding graduate programs in interdisciplinarity.”

The Graduate Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies is an incubator of Interdisciplinarity, we reward innovation, and are proud to be characterized as “a hidden gem in York’s crown.”

Kym Bird
Graduate Program Director

From the Graduate Program Assistant, Fiona Fernandes

fionaIt's a privilege to work in this dynamic program that has been described as the hidden gem in YorkU’s crown.

Our students come into the program with a distinctive academic background and/or work history. I find the wealth of knowledge they bring into the program, fascinating. Because each student needs three supervisors, from each of their three disciplines, I also get an opportunity to work with their supervisors, three scholars from three departments for each student. I mention this because I am involved in everything from their Admission to their Oral Defense, to graduation, enabling me to interact with them and learn more about their research, thus improving my own knowledge and academic development.

My role is to work with our students for the entire time they are in the program and for me it is a very rewarding experience.

2016–2017 Interim Director's Message

Content coming soon

2013–2016 Past Director's Message

VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

It is indeed an honor to bring greetings to you from the Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Studies—one of York's oldest and most successful niche graduate programs. Interdisciplinary Studies is an innovative Pan-University Graduate Program that paved the way for a handful of other graduate programs at York University and in Canada. The vision of the founder Dr. Christopher Innes now affords prospective students with the opportunity to create their own program of study bridging three disciplines/areas of study. The program boasts a superb record of attracting ‘the best of the best’ of York scholars when students come forward with impressive proposed inquiry projects. Our wide array of world-renowned faculty is impressive and our students are as diverse as the research they embark upon.Known as a program that consistently awards degrees, external accreditations have consistently commented that IS does much with very few formal resources and commonly conclude that is a beacon of Interdisciplinarity. The Graduate Program in Interdisciplinary Studies is an incubator of Interdisciplinarity — and we're proud to be characterized as “A Hidden Gem in York’s Crown.”


The Way Must Be Tried

Take a sojourn around our website. There you'll find student testimonials, faculty reflections and a wide array of examples of what students just like you were able to do in this program. And then give us a call. We'd be pleased to meet with you to see if we might be able to help you find a home for your area of scholarly passion.

– Dr. Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, RN, PhD, Director, 2013-2016


As a very young faculty member, who had myself done an interdisciplinary Ph.D. at Oxford (encompassing political studies, theatre, and history), I was very interested to find that York University appreciated interdisciplinarity.  However, in the early 1970s York did not in fact have interdisciplinary programs, apart from the department of Humanities and the Faculty of Environmental Studies (founded in 1968). I therefore decided to found an Interdisciplinary Studies graduate program—intended to be the core of the University plan—which was the very first one in Canada, or in fact in the United States. It was strongly supported by the then Dean of Graduate Studies, who had in fact appointed me to York as an Assistant Professor, when he was Chair of English. Limiting the Program to an MA was because the then President and Dean of Graduate Studies believed that all graduate studies which combined several disciplines would automatically be experimental in nature. So an MA degree would be a minimal commitment for students that would allow new and different modes of study, without costing the students too much in time or intellectual difficulty.

To get this new Graduate Program instituted, because—as it still does—the Program draws on faculty from any department in the university as supervisors—I was forced to visit every single Department meeting, present at every Faculty Council, and also present externally at the Ontario Graduate Council. All eventually approved it. So Interdisciplinary Studies became one of York’s signature Programs—it corresponded with York’s plans and official character then, and still does so. After it had been in operation for a year or two, the Interdisciplinary Program was then copied by various other universities, particularly in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

During my time as the first Director of the program, I had encouraged and approved applications that focused on, among many other things: theatre, politics and Canadian nationalism; engineering, design and sociology; law, psychology and literature; biology, history and feminist studies (there were at that point in time no Women’s Studies programs or departments at York or elsewhere). And indeed because of the number of Interdisciplinary students focused on this, York eventually founded a new department of Women’s Studies. The proposal for an Interdisciplinary MA also influenced a lot of other departments, for example Social and Political Thought, founded just a year later. During my years as Director, after graduation a number of my students were appointed to full–time positions at other universities, even though they only had an MA—because the ground-breaking focus and impressive MA thesis qualified them as teachers and as highly original researchers. Now, of course there are several Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs at various universities, almost all of which have Ph.D. programs as well as MA. I am all in favour of York initiating a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Given the fact that any dissertation would be an extension of the well–researched MA thesis, it would be a fairly short course of study from the MA to the Ph.D.

I have kept in touch with the program and served on the Executive Committee ever since my Directorship came to an end. And I am still on the Executive, contributing whatever I can to the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. Still active in the university, and holding a York Research Chair, I am particularly focused on Interdisciplinary Studies, and support it without reserve.