Interdisciplinary Concentration

The Hamilton curriculum is about forging creative connections. If the curriculum doesn’t offer what you need, you may design an interdisciplinary major, with faculty guidance. Imagine the possibilities, say; Hispanic studies/women's studies/computer science or philosophy/mathematics/dance. It can happen at Hamilton.

Jake Meserve Blount ’17

A student falls for the banjo and finds his path

Jake Meserve Blount ’17 is spending his summer traveling to music festivals around the East Coast to research a style of Appalachian old-time music he says is native to Ithaca, N.Y.  A grant from Hamilton College is funding the project. Blount entered Hamilton thinking he’d major in psychology, then discovered the banjo (thanks to banjo player and music Professor Lydia Hamessley) and old-time music. From there, Blount developed his own course of study in ethnomusicology through the interdisciplinary studies major. “It seemed natural that my first major fieldwork project would be into a style of music that has influenced me so hugely,” he says. “I’ve also found a few other great research opportunities through Hamilton; I spent the past semester with the Hamilton in New York City program.  I interned in the Department of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and catalogued their Appalachian dulcimer collection and learned to play the dizi (a traditional Chinese bamboo flute) as an independent study.”

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Blount says he’s been making music since he was 12 but didn’t get good at playing or studying it until he’d been on campus for a few months. Now he plans to make a career of it in some way. “Although there are other schools that have established programs in my field, no other school offered me the total academic self-determination that Hamilton does, so I never seriously considered transferring,” he says.

Jason Haas ’07 with President Obama
Jason Haas ’07 with President Obama

A graduate’s progress: activism and acting

Jason Haas ’07 built his own interdisciplinary major of communications and government and added a theatre minor into the mix. It’s easy to see a link between his interests at Hamilton College and his evolving career. Haas is a digital-media marketing consultant – and volunteer – for progressive organizations and socially responsible corporations. He still enjoys writing and acting for stage productions.

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In his performances Haas wants to inspire, work with and share the stories of “everyday folks making a difference in their community.”  His personal and professional activism goes back to his middle school days. At Hamilton, he founded the LGBT Empowerment and Action Project. (He also received the prestigious Posse Foundation full-tuition leadership scholarship.)

Right after college Haas had a fellowship with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. He worked as a field operative for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, among other activities.

Haas also is the founder of Hamilton’s LGBT alumni network, Spectrum, and works with recent alumni. He dispenses this advice to current Hamilton students: “When you really find what you’re passionate about intellectually, academically, go for that. Be an anthro major even if your parents – or you – think you should go into the legal profession…”