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Enhance Your Career Skills and Creativity with Big Ideas

Big Ideas is a 16-credit certificate program that guides students through most of their required and elective Liberal Studies courses with an emphasis on reaching career goals. As a student, you'll tackle the tough questions and “big ideas” that the humanities and liberal arts raise—the role of government, the power of words and symbols, and the responsibility of individuals for the welfare of others—while broadening your understanding of the world.

Though the program is designed for students in preprofessional programs and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), it's open to all. The program can be entered at any point, from first year to senior year. It's based around a personalized, skill-building approach that focuses on career readiness in areas such as:

  • Creative problem-solving
  • Reading closely
  • Writing clearly
  • Speaking with confidence
  • Working with those who have different viewpoints and perspectives

By building this background, the Big Ideas program can enhance your career prospects and professional growth—and can make the difference between finding a job and finding a flourishing career.

Imagine Your Future

The Big Ideas program is designed to benefit a wide range of career paths. You'll be able to tap into the skills and insight you gain from this program throughout your professional journey.

The certificate is a strong choice for those who are interested in leadership roles in government, business, and other professional areas. The program's focus on the humanities can help you develop as a citizen-leader. Your understanding of the concepts covered in the Big Ideas program can give you new directions to explore when making decisions and policies.

Showing that you care about big ideas and a broader perspective to problem-solving can make you more marketable in a variety of professions and can give you an edge in careers that involve research, communication, compiling information, human relations, and planning. It could also add to your overall academic experience and help make your application stand out when applying to graduate programs.

The things you'll learn in the Big Ideas Certificate program can take you far. Below are some examples of success stories—from IUP and elsewhere—about people with majors in the humanities and fine arts.

  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO—BS in Communication
  • Andrea Jung, former Avon CEO—BA in English Literature
  • Michael Eisner, former Walt Disney Company CEO—English Literature and Theater
  • Richard Plepler, HBO CEO—Government
  • Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO—Medieval History and Philosophy
  • Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO—History and Literature

Classes and Requirements

The Big Ideas program is designed to grow citizen-leaders and professionals by enhancing their career-specific knowledge with the attributes, skills, and problem solving of the humanities and liberal arts. Those attributes include:

  • Knowing that not all technical problems have a technical solution
  • Understanding the human and social impact of technical and scientific advances
  • Being able to communicate technical and discipline-specific topics to a wide audience

Creative, Curious Approach

To build these skills, our classes offer a creativity- and curiosity-first approach to understanding the world.

  • Students will read transformative texts and explore transformative culture.
  • The liberal studies requirements for Humanities Literature as well as for Global and Multicultural Awareness will be fulfilled in a single class.
  • Classes will incorporate life and research skills that enhance university and career success and help students find pathways in areas where they have a career interest such as law and government, management, information, and organization.

In the Big Ideas Capstone Experience, students present career-specific work to a general audience. To prepare for this, students are mentored in the preparation and delivery of a formal paper or poster. Students can present their work at the IUP Scholars Forum or a similar event, adding a professional accomplishment to their resume.

Students also develop a web page or ePortfolio that displays their professional expertise and is suitable for LinkedIn and similar profiles.

Full Academic Catalog Listing

The course catalog is the official reference for all our degree and course offerings. Check it out for a full listing of the classes available and requirements for this certificate.

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Big Ideas faculty are university and community leaders:

  • Lynn Botelho: Distinguished University Professor; cochair of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion; recipient of the Excellence in Service to Students Award, National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Melanie Holm: senior editor of The Scriblerian; Award for Meritorious Scholarship; certifications in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Service Learning, Teaching with Technology, and Transformative Text Teaching
  • Bryna Siegel Finer: director of Writing Across the Curriculum; professional consultant; certificate in Transformative Text Teaching
Students talk at the Scholars Forum

Research and Career Opportunities

The Big Ideas program provides enhanced research experiences leading to a competitive position in the job market. Participation also leads to development of an ePortfolio and a capstone experience and presentation.

Two female students look at a book in the Oak Grove

Big Ideas Ambassadors

This student-led club provides peer-to-peer mentoring, organization of activities, and program ambassadors to the rest of the university.

The Problem-Solving Processes of Creative Work

Big Ideas’ Transformative Text classes engage students in a creativity-first approach to learning. In-class assignments include the creation of art as one way of appreciating the problem-solving processes of creative work, highlighting the ways technical questions can have non-technical answers.

The creative midterm requires groups of students to answer a “Big Question,” such as “What kind of person do I want to be?,” by using a wide variety of approaches as long as it isn't a traditional paper, slide show, or presentation poster. Examples include: board games, videos, music videos, fine art, how-to-books, self-help books, podcasts, and rap. In preparation of the midterm, student artwork is keyed to class readings. For example, Dante’s Inferno explores the levels of Hell, and students draw their perceptions of Hell.

Dedicated Student Resources

The Big Ideas program is embedded in these student success centers:

  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Kathleen Jones White Writing Center
  • Career and Professional Development Center
  • University College (tutors)