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Why Interdisciplinary studies?

I’m majoring in interdisciplinary studies because the normal college pools aren’t colorful enough for me.

I grew up different, most would say I’m “weird”.  I grew up with a mentally ill father, no permanent mother figure, lived in a trailer, and we bought food with food stamps. The icing on the cake is that I have ADHD. How was I ever going to fit in?

I decided I wasn’t, and chose to embrace it all. I grew up under the influence of a skilled taxidermist, my father, Fredrick Albert Bewersdorf III.


That was my only understanding of an honest job. His job was interdisciplinary as he had to incorporate a mix of anatomy, zoology, physiology, and sculpture art. I helped him a lot with his work, and found it fascinating and a bit g never the less, i found it to be a crucial part of finding out who and what I wanted to be.

Semester after semester, I floundered, lost with an idea. This idea could change the way people learned. I assume, from the people I’ve met over the last 20 years of my life, that people are like canvases, and a lot of media is being thrown at them.


At the end of the day they look like half finished works all over the canvas, with more abstraction than an actual understanding of what really went on that day. I wanted to help close the circle, or finish the big picture so to say. The big picture being the public’s understanding of their body. I hated learning about the body for so long, but I came to realize it isn’t the subject, its the teacher. But most of the time, it was the teachers teacher who taught them that way, and it hardly did a thing in terms of helping the students. I want to change how we educate children, college students, and the general public on the one thing every human being has: a body. With all these dreams building over the years, my window of opportunity started to close. I though that only exceptionally bright students would have the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, and so I put my beautiful ideas on a dusty imaginary shelf to be ornaments floating in my subconscious.

I tried to stick to the status quo, like I had tried before, but nothing sit right in my mind. I just simply couldn’t do one thing forever.

And so, I entered an office, spilled my dreams on the desk of a very open minded woman and she told me “yes, this is possible”. I finally found a  misfits place in this university. I found people with grand ideas destined for big things, and seeing the confidence in their eyes gave me the confidence to stick to what I believed in. I was finally handed the pen and paper to write my own future, but for real this time. I was given all the information and was talked through the program, and instead of confusion and looks of disappointment, I was looked at like a colleague. I was looked at like I knew what I was doing, and for once I feel like I do know what I’m doing. I can dip my hand in different pools of paint, and I can mix what I want so that I can see the big picture.

Interdisciplinary studies to me is using more than one discipline to do something better than how it has always existed. Its about bringing something new to the table, changing how we see and do things. Its about seeing a problem and dipping into different puddles of disciplines to solve it. Its freedom to do more than complete the job, its about finding more than one option to fix the problems. Its about seeing the bigger picture.

My family has always supported me, they know when I’m determined about something, I will get it done. My friends already see me succeeding, especially with this course. They tell me that they see me becoming me, with confidence and structure. My boyfriend tells me that he knows Ill figure it out no matter what. But my teachers have believed in me more than anyone. They are the only ones who know what kind of work has to go into this kind of commitment and how difficult it will be to accomplish my dream, and they say I can do it. And so, Im doing it.

If I owned a university

Trysten Bewersdorf   If I could start my own university, I would have courses in Latin. This would help any student understand basic roots of any language or understand bigger words in their respected majors. I think it would help students learn how to translate the world around them and teach them to draw comparisons to any topic they come in contact with that they were not trained in at university. I would incorporate a course focused on what society needs and where these students can apply their major to help benefit the society they live in. Everyone wants to make it big in the world, but making it big is not the same as that one superstar musician who nailed their audition on American idol. I think showing students what the world needs most gives them the opportunity to take their major, and apply it in a way that would guarantee that they are able to use their college training in the working world rather than just using their degree as a pass that says “you have completed a higher level of education”. I feel as though a lot of students go to school without knowing what the job market needs, so they wing it as even I did, we need to know what the world needs, and how we can help. I would apply a course on verbal communication, a lot of our interactions with people could go better if we knew how to access our knowledge rather than our emotions first. The class would be much like an acting course but it would teach students how to use the skills to avoid unnecessary confrontation. When people at rallies are confronted by an opposing party, many people break out in a high stress argument instead of logically declining the discussion, or rebuttal the argument with a calm and level head. This way, students could remain calm in times of crisis when they become CEO of some prestigious business. Who doesn’t want to learn some stress management? I would include a course that would teach students to be frugal and efficient. We have terrible skills in saving our money as a college student. We are already in debt up to our eyes, I think it would benefit students to learn a bit more about protecting their wallet. They would learn how to find food outside of the conventional stores, like maybe how to grow some easily grown vegetables like lettuce and other things that require little space and grow like a weed. They would learn how to utilize the coupons in the back of the newspaper. They would learn how to squeeze every last drop out of their laundry soaps, and printer inks. They would learn how to sow, how to cook with minimal ingredients, besides, spices are cheaper than seasoned meat. Some things are taught by families but some families could benefit from these things as well. They could learn to budget, and get more for their dollar. This way they could learn to save enough money to pay for those expensive medical books. I would start some classes that teach about survival outdoors that would require students to go outdoors for their class. They would learn how to find food, build shelter, and see what society has lost from our ancestors over the years of colonization. It would also teach students how to use their resources wisely, we waste many of our difficultly obtained resources without thinking. Any major would apply to this course as it concerns higher thought process development which every major needs. Plus, it’s an easy way to learn some boring topics when your outdoors learning on a small scale, and understanding how to apply it to a large scale issue. If I owned a university, many of my courses would overlap different disciplines, but that is because the world needs someone who understands more than one topic to successfully continue our growing population and its diverse societies.

My Interdisciplinary Studies Contract

Medical Illustration Trysten Bewersdorf. My program is the study of medical illustration. To put it simply, it is illustrating the body for educational, and documentation purposes. A combination of fine arts and biological studies, this form of art is used in a variety of ways including medical books, pharmaceutical promotion, and legal cases for medical explanations. The program combines sciences like Biological and chemistry studies with fine arts programs like life and figure drawing, color design, and graphic design. Growing up I was surrounded by art and anatomy, which was introduced to me by my late father. His profession was taxidermy, the art of preserving the pelt of an animal to immortalize its wild beauty. I understood at a young age the cruel reality of mortality and was curious as to what keeps us alive. My father taught me the mechanisms inside the body that keeps us alive, and I only wanted to know more. My father was also one of the best taxidermists in the state of New York because of his artistic abilities. He was a classic dyslexic, and had trouble reading and calculating numbers, so I learned from him that art was a universal language that many could understand without having to cross the language barrier. I continued to study anatomy and marine biology in my high school career, and I only found myself wanting to know more. Throughout my classes I illustrated many different study guides for my teachers and classmates and found it easier to understand than reading and trying to visualize where things were. I found my abilities in art had excelled without any art classes and found it to be a natural talent, and considered a degree in the arts. I continued to do art in high school but found I wanted more than abstract designs and still life drawings. I started to learn about peculiar artists like Henry Vandyke Carter, and Frank Netter, both were medical illustrators. One had illustrated Greys Anatomy, and the other is the father of modern medical illustration. I read many books on both and was fascinated by their experiences and found myself wanting to have some experiences of my own. I originally came to Plymouth State University to pursue another of my life’s devotions, music. However I found myself feeling constricted by the lack of creativity, and found much more joy in my art courses. I gave up music as a profession and use it only for a hobby so I could switch my focus onto medical illustration. I found it difficult to put my desired major into action, as there are currently no programs that focus on illustration and little to no practice of medically related drawing aside from a little basic knowledge in my figure in value class. I had spoken with many different professors about medical illustration and all had little to no understanding of what I was talking about. I met with Dr. Zher to discuss my frustration in choosing a major, and he recommended a degree in interdisciplinary studies. My strange program is one of fascination to many of my current and former professors and all encourage me to pursue a degree in medical illustration. As far as my courses go, I researched the few graduate schools that offer medical illustration degrees, and looked at the prerequisites required for acceptance. I also looked at the undergraduate programs at schools that offered medical illustration as a degree. The association of medical illustrators suggested some courses on their website as well. All were very similar in course requirements. After meeting with my advisors and other teachers in the art programs, I compiled a list of courses that would suffice as a medical illustration degree according to the programs of study I had researched. The prerequisites for the graduate program in medical illustration are listed in two different categories, art & science. For the science aspect of my program the following courses include: General chemistry, Vertebrate anatomy and physiology, and two courses in human anatomy & physiology. For the art portion of my program the requirements are as follows: Drawing, Life drawing, painting, graphic design, color theory or color design, and digital media. I have fulfilled the drawing, figure drawing, and color theory requirements with the following courses: AR1120, Drawing: Objects, Interior, and Landscapes, AR2520, Figure in Value, and AR1045, Art Foundations 2D. To fulfill the remainder of the requirements I have added the following courses to my contract: AG2350, Graphic Design 1, which counts towards my TECO requirement, and AG3530, History of Graphic design, which completes the WRCO requirements. For the completion of my color media requirements I have included AG3010, Painting: Theory and Process, and to complete the digital media requirement I have included AG3050, Digital Multimedia Design. The most rewarding part of my program would be the scientific studies, which is the next half of my program. I have fulfilled half of my biological sciences with BI2110, Human Anatomy & Physiology 1, and BI2130, Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory 1. The bulk of my contract consists of mostly science courses. The requirement of chemistry takes a few credits to complete, and the courses required are as follows: CH2000, Introduction to General Chemistry, CH2335, General Chemistry 1, and CH2335, General Chemistry 2. All of which will be taken over the last two semesters of my senior year. Though it is a heavy course load, I am determined and excited to complete these courses. To complete the Physiology or Vertebrate Anatomy, I will complete the second portion of A&P2: BI2120, Human Anatomy & Physiology 2, and BI2140, Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory 2. I am very excited to complete my Cell Biology requirement by taking a class with Dr. Prince, BI4100, Cell Structure and Function. This completes my contract for my interdisciplinary studies major. However, there are some prerequisites for the above courses that fit outside of my contracts 52 credits, but are still equally as important to take. The additional eleven credits will be taken to further my understanding and skill set for my future occupation. AG2330, An Introduction to Graphic Design, to get ready for graphic design 1. AR3040, Painting: Figure in Context will help prepare my portfolio for future graduate studies. I have also been informed by my previous A&P1 professor and current biological studies advisor to take BI2040, Vertebrate Zoology due to the courses incorporation of art in the sciences. Medical illustration itself is an incorporation of many different disciplines. My program incorporates four different majors courses offered here at PSU. Majors such as Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Biological Studies, and Chemistry help to make up my desired major. Medical illustration is an interdisciplinary study by nature. I could not complete my degree unless it was through Interdisciplinary Studies. I plan one day to change the textbooks medical students use for basic studies such as Anatomy and Physiology, and other basic Biological studies. I plan to illustrate injuries for athletes so they can plan accordingly in their training to prevent such injuries. I plan to make medical issues easier for patients to understand on a scientific scale that gives them hope, and understanding for their future medical journey. I find that the human body is explained in such a way that the average person has difficulty understanding their own body, and I want to change the way the world sees health and human sciences. I want to change the tedious task of being a healthy individual, and this program will give me what I need in order to do so.

An Interview with Michael Heffernan

self portrait of, and by Michael Heffernan
 For my Interdisciplinary studies exploration in medical illustration, I interviewed a former professor. He was my favorite teacher at Plymouth State University because of the diverse studies he had us do. He’s a talented artist, and a great teacher, very patient and wise. He was my very first real art teacher outside of middle school classes. He taught me how to draw what I see, not what I think I see. I took quite a few of his classes to get as much knowledge out of him as I could with the years that I have here at Plymouth State.
Due to our busy schedules, I couldn’t find a time to meet in person so e-mail would have to suffice.
I wanted to know what his official title was as a professor, or what different art forms he has taught.
“I teach various 2D ( as in two dimensional) studio art. So painting, drawing, and what is sometimes called Color & Design. I think now we call it 2D design.” My favorite class that I took with him was the figure in value class. In that class we learned how to draw the figure and apply our previous knowledge from our foundation classes. He had us study a bit of anatomy as well, which made me more excited than ever because I wanted to apply my medical knowledge to my art.
Most teachers will tell you that they didn’t quite know what they wanted to do when they got to college or had an idea of what they wanted to do, but no one can guarantee what you end up doing. I wanted to know if he knew what brought him to being a 2D art professor at PSU, so I had asked him where he went to school, and what for.
“I studied art & art history at Colgate University which is a liberal arts college. Then spent more time in art programs to build up my portfolio so I went to Art Center in Pasadena, CA and then SVA in NYC.
I did my M.F.A. at The New York Academy of Art in NYC.”
I have always wanted  to be an artist
When I asked about whether or not he knew what he wanted to do after school, he replied  ” I have always wanted to be an artist, I think if I was going to school now I would be interested in animation.”
Because I am in interdisciplinary studies, I was curious if Mike had ever done any collaborations or did work for people outside his profession, and he said he had.
“I have done paintings for my brother’s movies and had to work within their parameters or needs. I usually don’t have the gumption to do work for other people. It bores me.
Maybe that would make me a terrible team player but I have plenty of my own ideas that I want the time to follow through on.” I wanted to know more about his involvement in his brothers movies, so I asked him to remind me of his brothers movies.
“I did paintings for Beerfest and Slamming’ Salmon. My brother Kevin is part of the Broken Lizard comedy group that made those movies, as well as Super Troopers and other movies.”
That was something I found to be really cool, not every artist gets to put their art into a movie featuring their comedian brother.
I was wondering what kind of things Mike does outside of academic life, and he seems to have a lot of fun. He responded “I spend a lot of time creating a sustainable household. I have gardens and I sugar using my trees. I made a clay bread oven with clay and sand from our land. I have planted apple trees and blueberry bushes and nut trees.
I make my own cider. So my home is maybe a mini-Sturbridge Village.”
Of course I wanted to know what courses he would suggest kids do outside the art department to help them in their studio art or other art majors, he replied “I think art students should take a wide variety of courses. Philosophy and anatomy are important. They should take advantage of the liberal arts courses available to them at PSU.
Spend a lot of time in the library.”
And just some extra information about mike because I know he has much to offer any student, I asked him if he had anything he wanted the world to know about him that I hadn’t asked him.
 “I think my children have helped me be a better teacher and artist, perhaps by taking a more pragmatic view of the world. And finally, I started taking banjo lessons as a middle aged musical know-nothing and it has humbled me. I reminds me that it can be hard for students to learn something that may be easy for me. After much study and practice, of course.”
I was very glad to have had this opportunity to talk with Mike, and I hope you enjoyed the interview.