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UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies

The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) degree is a degree-completion program offering a broad interdisciplinary education with online and evening classes.

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About UVA School of Continuing and Professional Studies

About SCPS

The School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) opens the doors of the University of Virginia to thousands of nontraditional adult learners for continuing education. With Academic Centers in Abingdon, Charlottesville, Falls Church, Newport News, Richmond, and Roanoke, the school strives to meet the continuing education needs of the Commonwealth's citizens.

It is the mission of SCPS to be responsive to nontraditional learners by providing high quality continuing education opportunities that help them achieve their personal and professional goals. The commitment to serving a diverse community of learners is apparent in the continuing education programs and courses offered at convenient times and places. Students enrolled through SCPS have the option to learn in the classroom, online, and through other modes of delivery.

Why BIS?

The BIS, a degree completion program, is designed for working adults to complete a UVA undergraduate degree on a part-time basis through online and evening classes. The program offers a broad interdisciplinary education with concentrations in business, the liberal arts, and individual­ized. The degree prepares students to advance in their cur­rent jobs, transition into a new career, or pursue graduate studies.

Students will be challenged with a curriculum, drawn from a range of disciplines that develop and strengthen skills in:

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Communications

BIS students benefit from personal interactions with faculty advisors, peer mentors, and fellow students and alumni.

Why UVA?

Set yourself apart with a degree from the University of Virginia. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University is recognized for developing leaders and innovators who help shape the future.

Experience a high-quality education designed for adult learners. In today’s knowledge-driven economy, be ready to solve complex organizational challenges with a credential from one of the nation’s top-ranked universities.

Enroll in affordable online courses, offering flexibility and convenience, taught by highly-qualified faculty. Learn practical skills and pioneering innovations sought after in today’s competitive environment.

Access options to help pay for your degree, including financial aid, scholarships, and payment plans.

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Student Stories

"You get all the services you would expect from a university like this. It is amazing."

There is no single route to enrollment in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program. Every student has his or her own story, but Jesús Pino Aguilar’s is exceptional in that it encompasses not just a change of careers, but also a change of continents.

Born in Córdoba, a small historic city in the south of Spain, Pino managed a bar and art gallery to pay for his undergraduate studies in law. He soon found himself being drawn to the city’s cultural life and, as a result, questioning his career goals. “I asked myself why I was pursuing a law degree when I really enjoyed working with artists and being an artist,” he says.

With two friends, he founded a bimonthly magazine dedicated to the arts in Córdoba that reported on openings and exhibitions, profiled artists, and listed upcoming events. “We had no money when we started the magazine, so we had to do everything ourselves,” he recalls. “This included photography. Since I was interested, I bought my first camera and started shooting.”

The magazine was a resounding success, attracting advertisers as its circulation grew. Pino might still be at it if he hadn’t met and married Erica Roth, an American living in Spain. Soon after they married, Roth was accepted in the master’s program at Teachers College Columbia University. Pino tried to continue working on the magazine from New York City, but the distance made it very difficult.

Pino arrived in New York knowing little English and without a job. Buying his first MetroCard so he could navigate the city was a momentous event for him. “Even though I was still excited to be there, that tiny piece of paper made me realize how challenging things were going to be. It took me fifteen minutes to decipher the English on the screen, and it cost a significant chunk of the money that I had brought with me from Spain, but my new MetroCard put my feet on the ground and gave me the strength I needed to find a job in my new country.” Pino secured work first as a security guard and then as a language teacher and photographer at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, but he soon realized that to succeed in photography and advertising he needed an undergraduate degree.

When Roth took a post with a Charlottesville school, Pino started taking classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College and, having graduated summa cum laude, enrolled in the BIS program. At the same time, he is developing his photography business, doing photo shoots for clients as diverse as the UVA Law School, Monticello, and a local chain of coffee shops. “BIS has been great so far,” he says. “At orientation, everyone was kind and supportive, and they make you feel welcomed as a UVA student. You get all the services you would expect from a university like this. It is amazing.”

"If I hadn't had the flexibility to take classes in the other UVA schools, I don't think I would be in the position I am in now."

When Sara Teaster entered UVa's master's program in Urban and Environmental Planning in fall 2009, she felt well equipped to take on the challenge, thanks to the experiences she gained while earning her Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.  Teaster gives credit to BIS faculty for helping her hone her skills and develop her strengths as a student.  She also was inspired by her classmates.  "Every student in the program wanted to be there," she comments.  "Their commitment to learning and to changing their lives was apparent every day.  I felt motivated by their example."

In the final analysis, however, it was Teaster's own initiative that played a decisive role.  She was determined to make the most of her opportunities as a BIS student to take courses around the University--and one of those classes was in the School of Architecture.  There she met Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning.  Beatley became her undergraduate Capstone advisor and encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree.  "If I hadn't had the flexibility to take classes in the other schools at the University, I don't think I would be in the position I am in now," she says. Teaster is currently the sustainability coordinator at VMDO Architects, a Charlottesville architecture firm specializing in educational buildings.

"BIS has given me the opportunity to make my education more closely match what I want to do in life."

In retrospect, Clifton Jones sees his initial attempt at a UVA education as a false start. Science and math always came naturally to him, and he decided on the basis of his reading that biomedical engineering would be a good career path for him. Although he was thrilled to be accepted by UVA’s rigorous Engineering School, the excitement soon faded. He felt constrained by limited opportunities to take electives in the liberal arts, and he ultimately concluded that biomedical engineering, though absorbing in theory, was simply not for him. After sticking with it as long as he could, he left the University in his third year.

“I was too young to really know what I wanted,” Jones recalls. “It was only by going back into the workforce and becoming a professional and a manager that I was able to experience what worked for me.”

Now, as a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies student, Jones is back on track to receive his UVA degree. “BIS has given me the opportunity to make my education more closely match what I want to do in life,” he says.

After leaving UVA, Jones soon found a home in the creative arts. He became involved in HANDS on the FUTURE, a Washington, DC, nonprofit that trains young people in theater, television, motion picture, audio, and radio production. A talented musician himself, Jones soon found himself teaching students practical skills they would need to find employment in the recording industry. He managed the organization’s recording studio and was the program’s lead engineer. “I loved it,” he says. “I was producing music every day in a state-of-the art studio. Every day was a new challenge.”

Jones has subsequently branched out to videography and web design. He is now an audiovisual specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, where he has the satisfaction of seeing his work picked up by different news organizations. “I’m in a managerial position now,” he says. “A degree would provide a foundation for advancing in my career.”

This time around, Jones is finding the UVA experience rewarding. He particularly had praise for the film classes he took from Professor Robert Kolker. “These are the types of classes I would loved to have taken when I was an undergraduate,” he says. “Dr. Kolker was awesome.”

"When I was accepted into BIS, it was a dream come true."

For most of her adult life, Marion Dobbins had set her heart on earning a degree from the University of Virginia—but her first priority has always been her family. She and her husband raised two daughters—Sheree and Jasmin—and cared for her aging parents.

After her parents passed away and with her children old enough to be on their own, Dobbins decided it was time for her to pursue her long-deferred college education. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program, and began taking classes in Alexandria.  “When I was accepted into BIS, it was a dream come true,” she says.

Individual BIS students can shape the program to make it more meaningful for them. In Dobbins' case, this meant learning more about her past. Her ancestors had been part of the Falls Church African-American community since the 1860s, and her family donated land in the 1940s to build an elementary school for black children. She devoted her BIS capstone project to exploring the history of the Civil War- and Reconstruction-era freedmen community in Falls Church. “I have newfound respect for their courage and dedication,” Dobbins says.  “It is because of their vision and steadfastness that I am where I am today.”

Dobbins' exploration of her past has shaped her plans for the future. For the last decade, she has been a historical interpreter specializing in 18th- and 19th-century slave life. To further this work, she embarked on graduate studies at George Mason University, completing a master's degree in U.S. History in 2014. Currently, Dobbins is in GMU's Ph.D. program, intending to one day teach at the college level.

“In the BIS program, we are taught to become leaders,” she says.  “My mantra is before you can lead you must know where you came from.  The capstone project helped me find my beginnings so I can move forward.”

"It is extremely energizing to teach adult students, especially the highly motivated students in our program."

Stephen Levine likes to play the blues—so much so that he is part of an acoustic blues duo—Dr. Levine and the Dreaded Blues Lady. But when he talks about the School’s Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) program, he sounds far from blue. “It’s a remarkable program for remarkable people,” he says.

Levine has been teaching courses on U.S. cultural history for the BIS program since 2006. He was appointed the program’s first full-time faculty member in 2014 and became the program's director in 2015. 

Leaving a tenured position at the University of Maine to come to Charlottesville, Levine found BIS students a revelation. “It is extremely energizing to teach adult students—especially the highly motivated students in our program,” he says. “They bring a mix of personal and professional experiences to discussions that you just don’t encounter in the traditional classroom.”

Levine has also been excited to see the BIS program grow and evolve. In 2014, the program opened its sixth site at Thomas Nelson Community College in Williamsburg, VA. He has also rolled out a new advising plan designed to help students focus on the skills they want to enhance while in the program, the academic areas they wish to explore, and the personal, professional, or academic goals they want to achieve. Levine is also in the process of developing new concentrations that will provide students with the opportunities to explore particular academic or professional areas in depth.

Increasing access to the program is also important to Levine. “The BIS program provides working adults throughout the Commonwealth access to UVA, and we continue to look for ways to increase this access and flexibility.” One way he has expanded access has been by offering courses in in-person, blended, and online formats. “We are committed to helping working adults in Virginia join the UVA community, complete their bachelor’s degree, and have the best possible educational experience,” says Levine. “This is our mission, and this is what we will continue to strive for.” 

"I want to better myself to be an example to my son in real time and hopefully inspire him later to do something similar."

After graduating high school in Richmond in 1993, Jason Woodle studied briefly to be a nurse at Virginia Commonwealth University, then worked as a financial analyst at a large corporation and traveled the country as a point person for the corporation, opening new business locations.

But something was missing: a college degree. “I was watching people being promoted around me and it was frustrating,” Woodle says. That, a new marriage, and the prospect of having children also pushed him to pursue a college degree. “The thought of having children and not being able to provide to the level that I’d like to provide was definitely an obstacle that I wanted to overcome.”

Woodle’s wife, who graduated from UVa with a degree in foreign affairs, learned about the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies. Woodle decided he wanted to enroll and created a plan to get in. He calls going back to school College, Round Two. “It’s because it is really a second opportunity for me,” he says. “When I moved to Charlottesville, I enrolled in Piedmont Virginia Community College. Coming out of that environment, where I was accustomed to all ‘A’s’ for two years of transfer credits, adjusting to the level of instruction at UVa was a bit intimidating. But I was really ready to go and just kind of took off.”

After his son Connor was born, Woodle decided to study full time and be a stay-at-home dad. Having worked in a business environment and being held to certain standards, Woodle structured and organized his educational goals with his personal ones.  With school in particular, he really wanted to walk out of UVa with 4.0 (he graduated with a 3.99). He found that setting goals was one of the most useful tactics to succeed. “I also wanted to prove to myself and others that I could achieve these goals,” he says.

As a humanities major in BIS, Woodle decided to focus on an area that is very personal to him, and it is art. His father, a retired CPA, is also a phenomenal painter, as was his grandmother and aunt. For Woodle, he dabbles in a variety of different mediums and loves art history. His Capstone Project was based on how 18th-Century colonial Americans used visual media to promote nationalism.

Woodle credits his three-year old son as the guiding motivator behind all of this, including completing his degree is just 2.5 years. “Everything that I’ve done, absolutely everything is for him,” he says. “Some people go to college because their parents want them to. Some people go because they want a better job. I want to better myself to be an example to my son in real time and hopefully inspire him later to do something similar.”

Today, Woodle serves as the marketing and events manager at James Monroe's Highland

"Students at BIS have fulfilled my expectations. They are really engaged and ask very good questions."

Fan Gao realized she had a vocation for working with adult learners as a doctoral student in interpersonal communication and psychology at Northwestern University. She also taught at Northeastern Illinois University and sometimes traveled to their suburban campus 90 minutes from her home in Chicago to teach an evening class. “Even though it was close to midnight before I got back, I loved it,” she says. “Compared to the traditional students I taught at Northeastern’s downtown campus, the adults students worked harder and were more eager to learn.”

When Gao learned about the opening for a faculty member in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program, she jumped at the opportunity, seeing a way to combine her interests in adult learning and psychology. Her interest in interpersonal relationships and stress reduction strategies—her area of specialty—comes from her own experiences. In 2004, she traveled from Beijing to enroll as a graduate student in the University of Hawaii. “It was my first time in a foreign country, one with a very different educational system and cultural environment,” she recalls. “I was under a great deal of pressure to succeed.”

Later on, she dealt with the trauma of having a dear aunt develop depression and then die of cancer by establishing a website to help those in China learn more about measures that they could take to nurture their psychological well being. “Counseling services in China are still in their initial phases,” she says. “I thought I could help those suffering from grief and stress address their problems more effectively.”

Gao is teaching developmental psychology and mental health disorders, among other courses. “Students at BIS have fulfilled my expectations,” she says. “They are really engaged and ask very good questions.” And although she is once again under pressure—preparing two new courses, mastering new software for teaching online, and looking for housing—her reliance on such stress-reduction techniques as exercise, yoga, and meditation have helped her manage the transition. She finds just being in Charlottesville relaxing. “I have always lived in big cities like Beijing and Chicago,” she explains. “Nature is quite beautiful here. I love it.”

“When I came to UVA, it was time to finish my degree because it was something I regretted not having done when I was younger."

Every year, Fran Bossi oversees the arrival and organization of more than 32,000 undergraduate applications for admission into the University of Virginia. So when the senior operations manager for the Office of Undergraduate Admission decided to go for her own diploma, it was a little strange to be on the other side of the application process. “It was weird,” she said. “I was so careful about my essays and everything because I was really thinking about how we look at things from the admissions side.” Her hard work paid off. Bossi applied and was accepted to UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies – one of the schools that does not process applications through her office – with the intention of completing her bachelor’s degree.

Bossi has taken a slow and steady path toward graduation. She always wanted to complete her undergraduate degree, but was busy running a small media business with her husband for 26 years and raising three children along the way. When they sold the business and she came to work for UVA in 2008, she saw an opportunity. “I had my associate’s degree and probably 30 more credits from different times when I restarted my academic career,” Bossi said. “When I came here, I knew it was time to finish it because it was something I regretted not having done when I was younger.”

Using the education benefits that are available to UVA employees, Bossi began taking one class a semester, carefully balancing her studies with her job responsibilities. With three semesters a year, it took her 6½ years to meet the requirements for a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree.

Bossi’s associate’s degree was focused on business and accounting, but she wanted to explore new topics with her bachelor’s. “I decided that since this was just for my benefit and my pleasure, I was going to take classes that I liked, and not necessarily business classes,” Bossi said. “I went more toward social sciences.” While her academic studies tapped into different areas than her everyday work, Bossi found that the strong communication skills she honed in class were an asset in the office. “My writing skills are much better than they were before. There’s an emphasis in interdisciplinary studies on learning to write clearly and concisely,” she said.

Likewise, her experience with a sometimes-demanding job helped her maintain a high level of focus and determination in her classes. “That’s the interesting thing about Fran,” said Ann Marie Plunkett, a history scholar and assistant professor in the interdisciplinary studies program. “She is such a poised and level-headed person. There were times that I taught her in the spring and fall when the admissions office is incredibly busy, and Fran just managed to do everything well.”

While many of Bossi’s fellow graduates are thinking about using their degree in new careers, she is considering how her studies may help her when she’s ready to retire. Bossi says those days are still in the distant future, but when she is ready to retire, she’s going to make the most of her new degree. Her final capstone project focused on the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. The research she did into nutrition and human behavior got her interested in exploring volunteer opportunities in that area. “Research in that area interests me greatly,” Bossi said. “I think I’ll definitely get involved in that as part of my community volunteering once I’m retired. I’m not a person who sits still very easily.”

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The main offices of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) are located at Zehmer Hall in Charlottesville. 

Address: 104 Midmont Lane | P.O. Box 400764 | Charlottesville, VA 22904

Phone: 1.800.346.3882


To inquire about a course or program: 1.800.346.3882 | SCPSinquiry@virginia.edu

To inquire about applying to our degree program: 1.800.346.3882 | SCPSadmissions@virginia.edu

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