Program provides chance for customized majors

College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) students can create their own major beginning fall 2014.

The Faculty Senate approved the proposal for an independent major in January. The program is only offered for CAS students.

Maria Stampino, senior associate dean for CAS, said the idea came from “two independent sources.” The first was directly from CAS Dean Leonidas Bachas who had known about a similar program in the University of Kentucky where he was chair of the chemistry department.

Stampino also thought of the idea when she was working on a committee to select a student speaker for commencement. The Faculty Senate originally proposed the idea in November 2013.

“I started talking to a former senator in the [Student Government] Senate, and he explained that the Student Government had been trying to create a ‘Design-Your-Course’ but was presented with many challenges … at that point we were able to push it through the levels of approval,” said Stampino, who is also a member of the Faculty Senate.

Students in their sophomore year may initiate the process by meeting with a faculty member with whom they will design the specific coursework for the major. To start the program, students must be juniors and have a 3.25 GPA or higher.

The program will be regulated on different levels, beginning with guidance committee chairs who will closely work with the student to develop the major and the coursework. An advisory committee will then review each major proposal and monitor students’ progress annually.

As outlined by the Faculty Senate, only five students will initially be selected to complete the program and will graduate with either a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. Once students complete their degrees, an internal review supervised by an associate dean will examine the success and viability of the program.

The major will consist of at least 30 credits of coursework in addition to the university’s general requirements. Six of the 30 credits will involve a capstone project or a thesis, which will be completed during the student’s last two semesters.

Some students, like senior Sergey Vikhlyantsev, think the program should be expanded beyond CAS.

“I would have liked it as part of the School of Engineering so I could do a mix of mechanical and electrical to make a robotics-centric major,” he said. “I do think it’s a good idea; I wish it came sooner.”

Students like sophomore Joseph Miano, however, are not as convinced. He believes that future employers would appreciate a more standardized curriculum.

“I would be interested in computational neuroscience, but even if I created a major related to it, there would be no class specific to it,” he said. “In the real world, is an independent major respectable when compared to more standard majors?”