Our core courses serve as the backbone of the ISS curriculum. As part of the core, the ISS portfolio courses - ISS 350, 355, and 401 - link the rest of our courses together.  These portfolio courses allow you to integrate your own intentions and reflections as a student while producing and displaying polished, integrative work that reflects your interdisciplinary learning. This page provides a sense of what the portfolio courses are thereby meant to achieve.  


An education in Integrated Social Sciences is about much more than just taking in information from classes. It is also about integrating that knowledge with your own life experiences and expertise and learning to draw connections across disciplines. ISS is about your academic learning and your self-understanding as a citizen of the world.  We want your scholarly pursuits and research to be infused with your life expertise, and in turn, we hope your academic development will also inform your life outside of classes now and into the future.

The kind of meta-learning and social science reflexivity we encourage requires you to repeatedly reflect on the ways in which your courses help you to make sense of your life and on how your life helps you come to terms with what is being studied in any particular course. It also requires practicing interdisciplinarity, which can involve expanding and revising work - from either disciplinary or interdisciplinary contexts - in a way that broadens your engagement with diverse ideas and methodologies.

The portfolio series is designed to guide you through this process of meta-learning.


So how does this work?  Your journey in the portfolio classes begins with ISS 350. Here you'll set up your portfolio, learn the technology you need to build a Google site, and develop an organizational structure for your portfolio development process. You will also begin to add your keywords to the portfolio as a way to start displaying your ability to engage in interdisciplinary, integrative work. (More about keywords below.) In subsequent courses you will use this foundation to build towards creating a space that showcases your learning and ability to integrate knowledge across the social sciences and from your life experiences.

Throughout the ISS program the portfolio courses provide a workspace for developing, refining, and defining your intellectual identity. Along the way, the courses serve three purposes that evolve and build on each other at different points in your journey through the ISS curriculum:

  • Integrating Initial Expertise. ISS 350 is where you start setting up your portfolio.  It provides a space to document what you already know and what you do in your life outside of your academic studies. There’s also an opportunity to begin interdisciplinary scholarship through the keywords project.

  • Scaffolding Learning. ISS 355 is your opportunity to further tie together and build on the knowledge you acquire through all of your other ISS courses, highlighting the interdisciplinary integration of your learning.

  • Showcasing Your ISS Education. ISS 401, our capstone course, allows you to transition your portfolio from a workspace into a polished showcase where you document and explain the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge you developed over the course of your ISS journey for an audience of your choosing.

While you are working to develop a very personalized portfolio, your ISS journey is not taken alone. Through these portfolio stepping stones you will form a “community of practice” - along with your peers, your instructors, and your advisers - in which you can test out ideas in a collaborative and supportive environment that lets you revise and learn as you assemble materials for the portfolio.  To that end we want to emphasize that throughout this journey the portfolio is ultimately a work in progress that you develop over time and it is not until you get to the capstone that we expect to see your final product.


Keywords are the words that describe the concepts, events, people, issues, etc., that span the social sciences and your intellectual interests. As you progress through ISS 350, ISS 355, and ISS 401 you will build a glossary of social science keywords. These keywords become the foundation for your learning and your first chance to practice interdisciplinary, integrative synthesis. In ISS, the keywords you choose help you integrate your learning from many different disciplines with your own interests and experiences.

Think of "keywords" as just what the term implies: “keys” essential to “opening” the social sciences. The kind of keywords we encourage you to explore transcend boundaries of particular fields of study and have fascinating shifting meanings. For example, think about the term “value” from the perspective of a philosopher and then think of it from the perspective of an economist. It's a bit different, but equally significant. Precisely because the meanings of keywords can shift from context to context they can also function as keys for translating between different realms of expertise as well.  

Through your keyword definitions you will explore the many meanings of your keywords and how they have shifted over time and in different contexts. This process provides an introductory experience in interdisciplinary integration, as you will research how your keywords are used in different disciplinary settings and how their meanings have changed over time.

Right from the start in ISS, we want you to draw on your own expertise outside of the university, and we think that developing your own glossary of keywords that reflects the meeting point of your personal expertise and your learning in the program will make your social science more, well, social!


Each of the portfolio series courses, ISS 350, 355, and 401, has its own set of objectives. Below we list the overarching objectives of the series. By the end of the portfolio series, you will be able to:​

  1. Document and analyze your learning through reflections on your Learning Plans and other exercises that surface your ISS learning;

  2. Collaborate with your peers to practice effective peer review techniques and revision of research, writing, and digital presentations;

  3. Research, reflect upon, and gather examples of social science practices;

  4. Identify, analyze, and evaluate interdisciplinary social science scholarship and practice;

  5. Demonstrate proficiency in technical skills through assemblage and presentation of portfolio materials, including digital collages, keyword glossary, and writing and research materials.


For Portfolio Resources and FAQ, please check out our Portfolio Questions Page.