The idea for BDIC originated with UMass students.
In 1968, a group of students organized a conference and called for more individualism in education. Professor Arthur Kinney in the English department then stepped forward. He shaped the student demand for academic freedom into a rigorous and interdisciplinary program. BDIC was approved by the faculty senate and board of trustees and began to operate in the fall of 1970.
A report to the faculty senate stated: “…the student is thus able to pursue his own academic, intellectual, or professional interests even when they are unusual enough (or demand is low enough) that there is no major program offered for his purpose.” As examples, the report cited “zoology and art” and “business and fashion design.” A major concern of Professor Kinney's was to make sure that the BDIC program would not interfere with the regular course of study in other majors. He also believed that finding exceptional faculty sponsors was an integral part of the success of the program.
From the moment BDIC became a major, some interesting students created cutting edge concentrations, placing them on the road to success. A shining example of one of the first BDIC students is Susan Howard, now a successful attorney. Susan created a concentration in Women’s Studies through BDIC (before the Women’s Studies department existed). For the last 38 years, thousands of students like Susan Howard have come and gone through the BDIC program, inserting creativity and initiative into their majors, and discovering much success along the way.
A vital source for BDIC history is Patricia H. Crosson’s Ph.D. thesis, “Toward a Theory of Change: Three Case Studies in One University” (UMass, Doctor of Education, 1974). BDIC is one of the three programs covered. The thesis emphasizes the program’s intellectual integrity, and the pivotal role of Arthur Kinney. Pat Crosson went on to become Provost of UMass.