Proposing an Individual Major


Getting Started 

First, discuss your ideas with your academic advisor or other faculty members, faculty and staff of the CIS, your friends, or any one else who offers you good advice. Think hard about the kinds of experiences you want to include in a major, and about which college resources you want to use. Think hard about what you want it to add up to when you’re done. It may also be useful to visit with staff in the Piper Center for Vocation and Career.

Get necessary forms and worksheets for proposing an individual major from the CIS office or download them here . The proposal forms will help you gather the required material for your proposal. The worksheet suggests a process of self-reflection that may help lead you to a workable plan. The worksheet focuses on questions like:

  • What majors were you considering when you came to St. Olaf?
  • What kinds of things will you be integrating in your individualized major (e.g., particular departments, types of learning experience, modes of expression)?
  • What departments or particular faculty might be valuable resources for you?

General Education

As you work on your proposal, make sure that your course planning includes a strategy for satisfying all general education requirements. You may include classes taken for general education in your proposal for an individual major.

Submitting a Proposal РDrafts and Deadlines 

You may submit a proposal for an Individual Major anytime from the beginning of your sophomore year to the middle of your junior year. Each proposal will be reviewed by a Faculty Review Committee (FRC) and then forwarded to a final approval committee with the FRC’s recommendations. FRCs can be scheduled when proposals are ready; currently, proposals are paired for review when possible. The final approval committee normally meets just once a semester, so a review late in the fall semester, for example, might not be seen by the approval committee until spring. It’s helpful to aim to have the final draft of your proposal ready for FRC review in early November or early April, in order to have it forwarded for approval in the same semester.

Use the checklist to help draft your proposal. It will help insure your proposal is complete. Your proposal must include:

  • the proposed name and description of your individual major, with an explanation of the main ideas or themes that tie your proposal together, and why your studies must be pursued through an individual major;
  • a list of the courses, independent studies, internships, or other experiences you propose, with an explanation of their role in the major;
  • a preliminary description of possible senior projects you might set up as the capstone for your major;
  • statements of support from your adviser and from a reference and instruction librarian;
  • how you would structure, and one or two items you plan to include in your web portfolio.

The Review Process РProcedures, Criteria 

When you, your advisor, and CIS staff agree that your proposal is in final draft form, the CIS program coordinator will convene a Faculty Review Committee to evaluate it. A new faculty review committee is convened for each proposal or pair of proposals. This insures that proposals get a fair hearing; it insures that faculty across the campus are aware of what students are proposing; and it provides valuable feedback and advice for students at the beginning of their individual majors. Your FRC will include your advisor, the CIS director and program coordinator, your consulting librarian, a student currently pursuing an Individual Major, and at least one other faculty member who has expertise relevant to your proposal. The meeting of the faculty review committee will be public. You will each have a chance to explain the ideas behind your major, and why you have included the courses and other learning experiences you propose. The faculty review committee may recommend approving your proposal as it stands, recommend it with stipulations or recommendations agreed on during the meeting, or recommend that it not be approved without further work.

The Center and the faculty review committees will be guided by prevailing standards of excellence for a departmental major at St. Olaf, and especially by the following criteria:

  • Your plan must be sufficiently coherent and substantial to meet the aims of integrative study .
  • Your plan must meet usual St. Olaf standards for the quantity of academic experience constituting a major–generally the equivalent of twelve units of academic work (including two units devoted to a senior integrative project).
  • Your plan must include significant advanced work, usually two or more Level III courses, plus a senior integrative project.
  • Your plan must include evidence that it will provide both a foundation of skills, concepts, and methods appropriate to the proposed field of study, and opportunities for developing skills, sub-fields, and special topics to enrich the major.
  • Your preliminary plan for the senior integrative project must suggest a sustained exploration of your subject matter, guided by familiarity with appropriate methods, and permitting a reflective reexamination of material encountered earlier in the major.

If, as you proceed with your work, your plan for the major changes, it is possible to amend your proposal in consultation with your adviser and the director.

When your work is completed, in your senior year, the director will convene a faculty certification committee to review your work and certify whether or not you have met the requirements for your major as defined in your original proposal.

Back to the top