BIS in Individualized Study

Richard P. Peyton, 2014

Richard P. Peyton

Before coming to Mason, I took classes at American Public University, where I studied International Affairs and Religious Studies. In the interim between APU and Mason, I attended 3 (Fall/Spring/Summer) semesters at NOVA. Once enrolled at Mason, I had an abundance of credits from my time in the Navy, but I enrolled as a second semester sophomore. Before returning to school, I spent 9 years in the Navy as a telecommunications technician. After which, I worked as a Biometric Systems Engineer, supporting the federal government.

While working as a Biometric Engineer, I decided to return to school to become a Physical Therapist. I spoke with advisors from all of the area institutions and decided that Mason was the best fit for me. Utilizing my unique educational and personal experiences, I looked for a way to combine my passions for international relations, and public health.

While researching different programs, BIS stuck out because it catered to nontraditional students, and made use of our life experiences, as a tool for our education. I began to look into similar programs at other institutions, but Mason seemed to be the best fit for my lifestyle and goals.  

The most appealing aspect of the BIS program was their interdisciplinary nature. As an independent adult, having the ability to combine classes to create a new program appealed to me and allowed me to engage my passions.

In addition, because BIS required all students to perform individual research, I liked the idea of being able to engaging directly with a faculty mentor.



Initially, my long-term goal was to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. However, as I went through the classes in my degree plan, I discovered a previously unseen passion to study Maternal and Child Health. After taking more public health classes, I began to restructure my program to focus on my on a slightly different degree concentration. One particular professor, Dr. Maction Komwa (who also introduced me to my Faculty Mentor, Dr. Kathryn Jacobsen), helped me find classes that would help me meet my goals.

I received a lot of help from fellow BIS students while collaborating during our core BIS courses. But, my two greatest resources were Dr. Jacobsen and the traditional students in my classes. They were able to open my eyes to some of the issues affecting today’s youth. Although I’m not that old, I was many years removed from college classes, and their perspective was invaluable to me.

BIS requires each student to have a faculty mentor, and after talking with her, she challenged me to apply for an undergraduate research grant. Once accepted, I was able to conduct independent research and prepare a scholarly paper that is currently in review for publication. Also, BIS allowed me to participate in a variety of classes outside of one particular discipline, this further allowed me to relate ideas and concepts that otherwise may not have come together.

My BIS concentration was Global Health and Conflict Studies (with BIS Honors). I began in the Fall of 2013, and graduated in December 2014. I took classes every semester, including the summer session. In my final semester I presented my research at the Fall URSP Presentations.


I was accepted to the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. There I will be pursing an MPH in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. Afterwards, I plan to pursue a PhD in Maternal and Child Health and work on creating policies to address health disparities among pregnant women in the Middle East.

BIS Meets Student Needs

The BIS structure allowed me many more opportunities than I would have had as a student in any other department. Because of the work that I did with my mentor, I was able to produce a scholarly publication; which I believe was a key factor in receiving acceptances from every graduate school that I applied to for the Fall of 2015.

Receiving my BIS degree was vital in applying to graduate schools. Moreover, the degree gave me the tools to be successful in my future academic endeavors.


Do it! The diversity in this program is amazing. You genuinely learn as much from your peers in BIS, as from your professors. Having the flexibility to create your own program is a benefit that you will not receive anywhere else. Do not think that BIS will leave you on your own, you are able to work intimately with the staff/faculty to create a program that is of the most benefit to you.

In addition, this degree will set you up to do amazing things because you will be able to speak an interdisciplinary language, in a single discipline world.


Initially, I felt like I was just another shapeless animal in a jungle, BIS helped me find the type of animal I was, but more importantly my role in the jungle.