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Guidelines

Students who wish to pursue a major other than an existing disciplinary or interdisciplinary major may propose an Independently Designed Major (IDM). This option for a major requires considerable initiative and self-discipline from students who elect it. Students pursuing the Independently Designed Major must have the independence to work outside the support and curricular framework ordinarily provided by established departments and programs. The Independently Designed Major is fundamentally interdisciplinary. The course of study within this major must be supported and approved by two faculty sponsors from two different departments/programs. It permits students working with a Major Advisor and Associate Advisor from different departments/programs to design special interdisciplinary concentrations according to particular interests and needs.

[1] The Independently Designed Major (IDM) must be interdisciplinary in its conception and as rigorous, in terms of both depth and breadth, as any departmental major.

[2] Students who develop an Independently Designed Major must submit their applications for consideration to the Dean’s Advisory Committee during the second semester of the sophomore year. A student wishing to apply for this major after the sophomore year or to change from another major to the Independently Designed Major must present persuasive evidence that such a proposal is educationally advisable and that circumstances make it possible to design and complete a compelling major.

[3] The application should include a description of the proposed concentration of the major with a program of courses. Each course in the proposed program of courses should be listed by course number and title. The student should include a statement about how each course relates to the description of the major and how courses within the major correlate. The description of the major and proposed program of courses should be accompanied by a rationale that articulates the cohesiveness of the proposed program of courses.

[4] In order to propose an Independently Designed Major, a student must obtain the approval of two faculty advisors—a Major Advisor and an Associate Advisor—from different departments or programs for a tentative program of courses for the final two years of undergraduate study. Each faculty advisor is expected to write a letter of support for the student’s proposed program. In their support letters, faculty advisors should: [1] indicate their evaluation of the student’s past academic performance; [2] discuss the student’s ability to carry out the program of courses; [3] comment on the student’s ability to complete the program of courses with an unusual amount of independence and responsibility.

  • The Major Advisor works closely with the student in constructing the initial proposal as well as reviews and approves changes to the original proposed major in consultation with the Associate Advisor. Students should have taken a class with the faculty member they ask to be the Major Advisor before they begin work on the thesis in the spring semester of the junior year. This insures that the Major Advisor has had previous experience working with the student proposing the major and lays the foundation for the Major Advisor and student to develop an effective working relationship. It is essential that the student work closely with the Major Advisor. The Major Advisor can serve as a reader for the senior thesis when appropriate. If the Major Advisor does not serve as a reader for the senior thesis, she or he helps the student identify the appropriate first and second faculty readers for the thesis.
  • The Associate Advisor reviews the initial proposal, providing critique and revision suggestions. The Associate Advisor may also serve as a reader for the student’s thesis when appropriate.

It is expected that the student will meet at least twice a semester with both the Major Advisor and Associate Advisor during the junior and senior years to discuss the progress of the major. At the end of the senior year, the faculty advisors will submit a report to the Dean’s Advisory Committee, evaluating what the student has accomplished in the major.


Revised 5/2013