By: Makenna Franklin
To be completely honest, Interdisciplinary Studies was never part of my life plan. In middle school, I created a ten year plan as part of a project that outlined exactly what I wanted to do in life and how I was going to do it. My ultimate goal was to become a Registered Nurse specializing in either neonatal or hospice care. I chased this dream all the way through high school where I took my first steps into the healthcare field as a Certified Nursing Assistant. One of my first patients my sophomore year showed me that I was definitely on the right career path – he was a young cancer patient on hospice care. I took care of him, helping with his ADLs (activities of daily living), and reassuring him that I was there for whatever he needed. In the end, he passed away and I was faced with my first client death – no matter how much you prepare yourself, losing a patient is never easy. His family was extremely thankful for my help and I knew at that moment that no matter how difficult the field could be at times, it was where I was meant to be: to shed a light on individuals and families during their darkest hours. I continued in the field through the good and the bad and attended Plymouth State as a Nursing student all the way up to my Junior year where I felt a sudden shift in my passion. Without a doubt, I knew that I wanted to be in the health field and help others, but the lack of time to have thorough one-on-one care with patients and truly address all of their needs was sending me into distress and making me hate the field. I found myself losing motivation, and at the end of my Junior year, I failed out of the nursing program by less than a point.
At first, I was highly devastated and spent the summer sulking, after a lot of pep talks with family and friends I decided that even though it was never part of my plan, failing out may have been the best thing to happen to me. I communicated with the director of the IDS department, Robin DeRosa, and found myself enrolled into the department that Fall. I was able to build a program to my liking that was more patient-centered that would transition me into the field of Social Work – where I will be able to ensure that patients are receiving the care that they require and make sure that all needs are being met. I titled my major Patient Advocacy, combining a variety of fields, including health(physical/mental), social work, communications, psychology, and even aspects of nursing. Together, all of these fields along with my personal experiences have given me a substantial amount of knowledge in order to be a well-informed and passionate patient advocate. Ultimately, the IDS department assisted me through a very tough time and helped me revision my dream.
My journey in the interdisciplinary program has proved to be fun, inspiring, and very insightful. For my last semester as an undergraduate interdisciplinary student, I was given the task of coming up with a topic that related to my field of study and complete a research article, along with a correlated applied project. To be honest, this was probably my favorite assignment I have had throughout my entire time as a Plymouth State student, as I had the free will to explore what I wanted and go about it however I wish, with only a few guidelines. The topic I chose to explore was mental health issues within the college population. The reason that I chose this topic is because it is of my highest interest in regards to my career, as I have been personally impacted by mental health issues and have loved ones who have been affected in some way. Over the years, I have seen an increase in mental health issues among my peers and loved ones, peaking my interest and making me question why. In addition, I know that there is a high need for society as a whole to raise awareness on mental health issues and become comfortable actively discussing it. Therefore, the purpose of my research was to raise mental health awareness, while identifying causation and consequences of this mental health increase, discuss resources and services offered on university campuses, and lastly, provide an interdisciplinary perspective of interventions. Overall, this research contributed to my education as I gained more insight on mental health issues that I was not aware of previously that will assist my future career as a social worker.
Moving onto the applied portion of my project, I wanted to focus this section on Plymouth State University (PSU) in particular, versus my research article that focused more on mental health issues within the entire college population. Focusing on PSU gave me the opportunity to specifically look at mental health issues among my peers and determine if PSU has quality services in place for students. There were many segments to my applied project, the first being a survey with fifteen questions that went along with the research in my paper, along with specific questions pertaining to PSU services. Next, I sat down with some peers and conducted student interviews that also went along with my research, but would allow me to retrieve more thorough responses versus multiple choice survey questions. The data I collected through both of these methods proved to be incredibly insightful. In the end, I determined that Plymouth definitely does have a significant portion of students that suffers from or has suffered from some sort of mental health issue. In addition, I discovered that the student support services on campus do provide quality care, although, there are some internal issues and factors that can be worked on.
The last portion of my applied project was volunteering for the Human Rights Campaign at Anime Boston as I wanted to do something other than collecting data and interviews that still correlated with my research. Overall, the information I uncovered definitely expanded my knowledge on mental health issues and made me realize that as a society we have a long way to go in regards to advocating for mental health issues.
Looking back at every aspect of my interdisciplinary journey, from the introduction class to concluding the senior seminar, and every single assignment in between, I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have been apart of the IDS community, and am proud to soon be an IDS alumni. This program has changed my life for the better, as I now have a substantial amount of knowledge that will become a stepping stone for my future as a social worker.