Guidelines for Student-Designed Majors
The Curriculum Committee offers these informal guidelines to assist anyone developing a student-designed major. The official procedure for submitting a student-designed major is outlined in the college catalog.
The Marietta College Catalog and website state that a student-designed major
- draw from curricula of two or more departmental programs
- differ substantially from existing majors
- focus on a particular subject area
- be comparable in rigor to a conventional major
- include a minimum of 35 and a maximum of 60 credit hours
- no more than two-thirds of these will be from an existing major
- no more than two-thirds of these will be completed before the major is approved
The student should work with his or her academic advisor to write a proposal including
- a rationale for the major demonstrating that it fulfills the criteria above
- signatures from the chairs of all departments whose courses are included in the major
- curriculum for the major (list of courses organized as on an audit sheet)
- suitable title for the major
The proposal will be submitted to the Records Office for distribution to the Provost and Curriculum Committee. Download a sample proposal (PDF).
The Curriculum Committee will study the proposal and take one of the following steps:
- approve the proposal as submitted
- reject the proposal
- request further information or revision to the proposal
What will help a proposal receive approval? The Curriculum Committee offers the following suggestions for students and faculty members developing student-designed major proposals:
Remember that after the proposal is approved, it is the only document the Records Office can use to verify whether the student has fulfilled the requirements for the major. Therefore, information essential to the major must be included in the written proposal. Some proposals are rejected because essential information which may have been agreed upon orally is not included in the written proposal.
Be sure the proposal includes a suitable title for the major. The title of the major will appear on student records and transcripts, so it should accurately express the focus of the major, and it should sound like one focused course of study and not several majors randomly stuck together. "Student-Designed Major" is not an adequate title. "Basket-Weaving and Marine Biology" looks like two majors rather than one focused course of study, while "Underwater Basket Weaving" sounds more focused.
"Underwater Basket Weaving" does not, on the other hand, sound comparable in academic rigor to other majors. What makes a major academically rigorous? Look at the requirements for similar majors here or at other colleges; pay attention to the types of courses required and the number of upper-level courses required. Make sure the proposal includes a capstone course.
If independent study courses are included in the proposed major, provide as much detail about these courses as possible.
If courses within the major have prerequisites, make sure the proposal states whether the student has taken required prerequisites and if not, where the prerequisites fit into the program. If prerequisites have been waived, the proposal should say so.
It is helpful for the Curriculum Committee to envision why the proposed major is needed. What makes it different from majors already available? How is it better than a double major or a major and minor? What makes it unique? The rationale should express this clearly.
It is also helpful for the Curriculum Committee to envision what kind of career the major will equip the student to pursue. Consider including data about job availability and demand for graduates in the field. Also, consider asking advice from professionals in the field about what courses would provide the best preparation and what kind of demand there is for graduates in this particular field of study.
It is not unusual for the Curriculum Committee to request further information or suggest revisions to a student-designed major proposal. If this occurs, the committee chair will inform the student and the advisor of specific areas of concern. Proposals may be revised and resubmitted as many times as the student wishes.
Finally, students are urged to start the process early. The major must be approved before the student has completed two-thirds of the required coursework, but proposers should be sure to allow adequate time for revision of proposals.