Nick Chiu, '24, treasurer of the IDEAS Student Association, presents at a meeting on Mar 4. in STEPS. The Student Association hopes to foster community among IDEAS students. (Julia Cassone/ B&W Staff)

IDEAS program creates its own student association


Lehigh’s Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) program is a four-year interdisciplinary honors program that allows students to explore an individualized thematic degree. With its first class of students graduating in 2011, IDEAS is relatively young compared to other interdisciplinary programs at Lehigh. 

A group of five IDEAS students in their senior year felt like there had been something missing in their experience: something that could bring added value, foster a sense of belonging and allow for connections between students across classes.

So, the IDEAS Student Association was formed. 

“(Other programs) have organizations to increase the sense of community and more of a sense of a connection across grades,” Chris Meleski, ‘24, the vice president of student affairs of the IDEAS Student Association, said. “That was what I felt had been missing throughout my IDEAS experience, and so I wanted to work to help create that.” 

After learning about the student councils within the Integrated Business and Engineering program and the Computer Science and Business programs, Josie Krepps, ‘24, president of the IDEAS Student Association, felt that was exactly what the IDEAS program needed. After bringing up the idea to other seniors in her program, plans began to form.

This planning process took most of fall 2023. 

Krepps said it ranged from writing a constitution, forming the structure of the organization and presenting the idea to co-directors of the IDEAS program and the deans of the College of Arts and Science and the College of Engineering.

“It took a while,” Krepps said. “We brought it up to the co-directors, and they agreed that it made sense to have an organization like that for IDEAS. From there, we had to present something formal to the deans, and we met with them many times — probably five or six times over the last six months — refining and working out the details.”

Finally, at the end of January, the IDEAS Student Association held its first general meeting, with about 30 IDEAS students in attendance.

Any IDEAS student, including those transferring into the program, is automatically a member of the student association and is welcome at any meetings or events planned by the association.

Meleski is in charge of planning social and educational events. His goal is to plan a minimum of three events by the end of the semester.

The association is making plans for an artificial intelligence seminar focused on AI ethics, and other potential events including luncheons and movie nights, but those are not yet concrete, Meleski said. The association is also planning a resume and LinkedIn workshop. 

Another element of student affairs is the mentorship program, which is a very important aspect of the association for Meleski.

“One of the things that I really feel strongly (about) is that IDEAS needs a strong mentorship program because it is such an interdisciplinary and integrated program where you have to figure out exactly what the thing you want to be doing is,” Meleski said. “We wanted to make sure that there is that support of IDEAS students who are able to help other IDEAS students.”

During Meleski’s first year at Lehigh, Professor Bill Best, the co-director of the IDEAS program, connected him with a senior who had an overlapping concentration in the IDEAS program. After connecting with the senior, Meleski received advice on what classes he should aim to take and what benchmarks he should try to hit.

Meleski said this was a beneficial experience for him, and he wants to foster that for other IDEAS students through the mentorship program within the association. 

The executive board also consists of Mika Kuzuka, ‘24, vice president of professional development,; Nick Chiu, ‘24, treasurer; and Sasha Rabeno, ‘24, archivist. 

The executive board is entirely made up of seniors. With graduation only a few months away, members of the board were concerned about the longevity of the newly formed student association.

“It is not great timing on our end — we’re all about to leave,” Rabeno said. “That was kind of one of our concerns from the beginning, making sure we have written in our bylaws a well-established succession plan.”

However, Meleski said multiple juniors and sophomores approached the current executive members after the first general meeting to express interest in the executive board for the next academic year.

Rabeno said most of the executive positions have a committee underneath them, which has already allowed students to get involved in the association at a lower level of commitment, providing insight into what being a part of the executive board entails. The process of identifying the next executive board will begin in the coming months, Krepps said. 

“I expect that next year the executive board will be much more diverse in terms of grade and will allow for a broadening of scope as well as just to make sure that the association keeps progressing,” Meleski said.

Zoe Ford, ‘27, said she has been looking to get more involved with the IDEAS program but was not sure exactly how to do that until she learned about the IDEAS Student Association.

Ford chose to join the professional development committee as she is interested in learning about others’ IDEAS concentrations and how they break them down for future employers. 

“My big hope for (the association) is finding ways that different years can connect and socialize and help each other, because other than through the student association, I really haven’t met any other IDEAS students,” Ford said. 

While the student association is in its early stages, both its executive board and general members are hopeful for its success and continuation after this academic year.

“I really hope that this association continues past when we graduate, and I think that we’ve hopefully set it up in a way that it will,” Meleski said. “And I hope that we will continue to have people be able to participate and continue to have students being able to foster better connections through the IDEAS student association than they would have otherwise.”

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply