Student-designed majors provide an opportunity for students to develop areas of concentration outside established programs for interdisciplinary or departmental majors. Like all majors, those that are student-designed should meet the following objectives: greater knowledge of the field under study; increased methodological sophistication; and the integration of sometimes disparate, but related, areas of study that fall within the proposed major. Student-designed majors must be based on areas of faculty expertise and regularly offered courses. The major should not be heavily reliant on tutorials, independent studies, or a single faculty member.
The procedure for establishing a student-designed major is relatively simple:
- The student elects a general topical area and identifies a member of the faculty who is willing to act as advisor.
- With the advisor, the student develops a statement on the planned major. The statement indicates (a) how the major will serve the objectives of an area of concentration; (b) what educational or other objectives the student seeks to meet; and (c) the courses that have been taken or will be taken that would fit into the major and the proposed Senior Experience. In the statement, the student and the advisor have the responsibility to show that the proposed objectives can best be satisfied outside established programs of study. (d) Proposed coursework should include a reasonable distribution across the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. As a guideline, regular majors for the Bachelor of Arts degree typically require nine to 12 courses and a Senior Experience. (e) Self-designed majors should not be proposed in areas that are better served by existing majors and minors.
- The advisor and the student invite two other members of the faculty who are supportive of the proposed major to serve as the student’s advisory panel for the major. The panel is responsible for overseeing the program and for reviewing minor changes — e.g., in course selections, topics for an honors paper, etc. One member of the panel should be designated as an alternate advisor in case the principal advisor goes on leave or teaches at an overseas campus that the student does not attend. It is the student's responsibility to check with the department chairs whether proposed courses in the major will be offered in the terms indicated. If the Senior Experience will be done as an independent study, the student also needs the signed commitment of a faculty member for that independent study.
- The student submits the statement of the proposed major, endorsed by the faculty advisor and members of the panel, and a transcript to the Instruction Committee (for the Bachelor of Arts degree) or the Conservatory Committee on Administration (for the Bachelor of Music degree) before the end of Term I of the student’s junior year. Students wishing an extension to this deadline should contact the chair of the relevant committee. Faculty members who endorse the statement accept responsibility for supervising the major if it receives committee approval.
- The Instruction Committee takes action on the proposed major and communicates its action to the registrar, the student, the faculty advisor, and members of the panel.
Students who are preparing a proposal for a student-designed major should use the Application for a Student-Designed Major (MS Word file).