A New Twist on Nontraditional
The typical story, if there is one, of the undergrad experience goes something like this: Enroll in a college or university after graduating high school, enter self-actualization incubation period and emerge with a major ascertained, graduate in four years with said major, and enter the job market. That’s the average experience, but it’s not what many undergrads experience. And it’s not at all what 30-year-old Cory Salveson experienced through his studies as a student in the Multidisciplinary Studies (MdS) program through the College of Continuing Education (CCE). And certainly Salveson’s acceptance to the Oxford Internet Institute for the fall of 2016 is not part of the typical undergrad story.
Salveson’s academic journey began long before his enrollment in the MdS program. With interests in IT and all things Internet-related, he knew he wanted to go to college, but the completion of his degree was complicated due to family responsibilities. The eldest of three kids, Salveson stepped up to get a job and keep groceries on the table for his family when the Great Recession hit hard in 2008 and, simultaneously, his father became disabled.
Salveson had been attending Art Institutes International, but dropped out before completing his bachelor’s. From there he’d gone on to Normandale Community College, graduating with an Associate of Arts degree with an emphasis on writing in 2008. It wasn’t enough: Salveson wanted his bachelor’s. Getting it would prove difficult, however, because he needed a flexible program that would bend to allow for a full-time job with an income. Fortunately, he found the ideal program for him. In the fall of 2011, Salveson enrolled in the MdS program, which fit his unique interests and busy schedule perfectly.
Salveson completed his MdS degree in the spring of 2014 with a unique focus: the sociology of knowledge. It was largely due to his in-depth studies of the Internet, history of science and technology, applied business, and more in the MdS program that led to his acceptance to Oxford Internet Institute where he’ll pursue his Master’s of Science in the Social Science of the Internet through the intensive 10-month program.
We sat down with Salveson to ask a few questions about his experience in the MdS program and his acceptance to the Oxford Internet Institute.
CCE: What attracted you to the MdS program at CCE, and what did you like about it?
CS: I liked CCE’s special accommodations for full-time working students, such as myself. That flexibility was key in my choosing the MdS program. I also didn’t want to sacrifice quality, depth, or range of studies, so, in that respect, the MdS program turned out to be a perfect fit for me. It allowed me to take University of Minnesota courses while still leveraging more catered support for my schedule and needs as a returning student.
I also appreciated the help of my adviser, who was an incredible advocate, support, and guide through the completion of the degree.
CCE: How did your adviser help guide you?
CS: This question gets at something important for me about the MdS degree: It wasn’t just the convenience of time that drew me to it. I also desired access to the flexibility of designing a custom program of study. When I entered the MdS program, my goals needed clarifying, and my inexperience at a large university was also a stumbling block. My adviser at CCE was very skilled at helping me navigate requirements and find options for how to graduate successfully, while also helping me process my education on a broader level.
CCE: What were your areas of specialization in your MdS degree?
CS: My goal statement read like this: “I aim to research and develop a critical, socially responsible Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) praxis built upon interrelated investigations into the Areas of Study of History and Social Sciences (HSS), Arts and Humanities (AH), and Applied, Technical and Professional (APS). These studies, as unified under the heading of a Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies degree from the College of Continuing Education and placed into dialogue with my ongoing professional career as a Knowledge and Information Analyst, will help me develop a unique, globally-conscious professional practice that builds upon and supports ongoing critical research.”
CCE: Sounds intense. What drives you to study the sociology of knowledge and the Internet?
CS: I believe that individuals’s life chances, the quality and justice of our society, and the accomplishments of science itself, all are dependent on getting knowledge to, from, and between people and groups at all levels. Therefore, there’s no greater puzzle to solve than finding out how this flow works and how to make it better.
The Internet is a critical object of study for such an interest because it is the technology that’s at the center of this puzzle today. At the same time, there’s a dark side to this pursuit. Whoever owns the search engine algorithms or news feed algorithms has a lot of power in the world—and it won’t necessarily be used for good.
CCE: Tell us about the challenges of working full-time while completing your MdS degree.
CS: The courses were always exciting and interesting to me, and being able to design a degree to fit my interests kept me focused. What really pulled me through the challenging times was the support of my wife and of my employers. The sacrifice of time was very real, but in a sense, with the support I had, I was always happy to do good by the commitment I had made to improve myself and help those around me by being a good student.
CCE: Congratulations on your acceptance to the Oxford Internet Institute! What will you focus your studies on while studying there?
CS: Thanks! I’m interested in data science, both as a possible source of innovation for social science research methods, and as an object of study with respect to the ethics of the use of data in society. I’m also curious to try and explore what’s going on in education with the rise of so many options and alternatives for learning online.
CCE: Sounds great. Anything else you’d like to add about your experience in the MdS program and your next step getting your Master’s of Science in the Social Science of the Internet?
CS: I’m grateful for the opportunity to have pursued my undergrad degree in this way, via the MdS program. I think CCE is positioned as largely for students who are nontraditional by merit of returning after a long absence, but I found at least as much value in how it catered to a nontraditional research interest. I’m convinced that the strength of the uniqueness of my MdS degree made a huge difference to my application and acceptance to Oxford.
Find out more about the Multidisciplinary Studies program.