Caitlyn Johnson ’21, Interdisciplinary Studies

Caitlyn Johnson
Caitlyn Johnson

Caitlyn Johnson, a native of Chattanooga, TN, is an interdisciplinary studies major and an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences. With four internships on her résumé, Johnson plans to attend law school after graduation.

How did you choose your major? What sparked your interest in the field?

I began my time at UA in the political science department, and while I enjoyed my time in the program, I ultimately found the interdisciplinary curriculum in the New College better fit both my personality and academic interests.

In the New College, I have been encouraged to self-design an interdisciplinary major that allows me to take courses in departments including religious studies, political science, Arabic, French, history, and economics. I study the way that religion, culture, and language influence the construction of political institutions in the Middle East and North Africa.

I am also pre-law, and being able to take seminar-style classes with the committed faculty of the New College has been incredibly formative to my undergraduate career and preparation to enter law school.

What do you like about the interdisciplinary studies major?

My favorite part of the major is that I feel as if I am maximizing every moment at UA. I choose all of my courses and therefore never take anything I’m not truly excited about, and this allows me to be very motivated and passionate about my coursework. I am challenged to self-advocate and create an academic path that will allow me to develop the practical skills I will need in the workforce, and as a senior, I feel exceptionally prepared as I prepare to end my time at UA.

What are your career goals? What about your dream job?

I plan to attend law school, but I am not tied to a particular area of practice quite yet. I am extremely interested in U.S. Foreign Policy and international development, so I could see myself going into either nonprofit or government work, but I hope to find a more clear passion as I progress in my legal studies. My dream job is probably to be the Secretary of State.

Talk about any job-related experiences you’ve had. How did you find these opportunities?

I have held part-time jobs throughout my college career, along with four internships. Most of my internships were found through online searches. However, my current internship experience was found through a friend in the International Relations Club. He recommended I take advantage of a volunteer opportunity at a non-profit he was working with, and over time that turned into an operations internship that has been a huge part of my undergraduate career development.

The experience has been invaluable, and it has made it abundantly clear how important and beneficial networking is on our campus. There are people from all walks of life, and investing in the people you’re surrounded by on campus can result in very unexpected connections.

Professionally, I have learned a great deal about managing logistics for a nonprofit and how to leverage the experience into future positions and resumes. I have developed skills and confidence that I’m sure will serve me long into the future.

What surprised you the most about college?

I think what was the most surprising is how UA’s campus, while so large, can still feel so incredibly small. If you push yourself and get involved during your first few semesters on campus, you’ll be surprised how rare it is for you to go anywhere without running into someone you know.

How did you make friends and find community on campus?

I was fortunate enough to be able to join Greek life, and that has been a huge part of my community while on UA’s campus. However, I found I was happiest on campus when I was invested in several campus organizations (and, therefore, groups of friends) that I was able to hang out with during different parts of the week. I joined and applied for just about anything I could find freshman year and found incredible friends and community through the Student Government Association, the International Relations Club, Greek life, and my classes.

What advice do you have for future students?

My advice to future students would be to always say yes freshman year. Hang out with anyone at any time and make a conscious effort to get to know and invest in the people around you. Some of the people that have been huge parts of my college experience are people I met in line at the dining hall or in the elevators at Presidential Village, and being willing to reach out and get to know new people is imperative to finding your movie college experience!