Checklist for Individual Majors

Proposed Individual Majors have a Final Review Consultation (FRC) with CIS staff and the major’s faculty advisor, after which the proposal is sent to the Curriculum Committee with a summary and recommendations based on the review’s discussion and findings.

Once your proposal is approved, you may pursue the major it describes. Any changes must be reviewed by CIS staff, who will determine whether the major ought to be re-evaluated.

How to prepare a proposal to present to an FRC

Your proposal must include:
  • Your name, class, individual major advisor, and the date of your proposal (please date each new draft!). As you plan your writing, consider that most final proposal drafts end up 5-7 pages long.
  • The “working title” and description of your proposed individual major. What is your topic/area of study?
  • A set of important questions that you want to pursue. Include “big questions” in the overall area of study, as well as more specific questions that will guide your own studies and learning in the major.
  • A list of 11-12 courses, seminars, independent studies, and/or experiential learning that will become the “requirements” of your major, including brief explanations of how each contributes to the goals of the major. We recommend that you present your proposed courses under different categories or subtopics, not simply by their department or program affiliation.
  • Indicate courses completed or currently enrolled, and when you expect to take the remaining courses.
  • At least two courses must be advanced work (Level III).
  • The senior project adds one course credit (IS 392) in the spring of your senior year; some students choose to include a senior project course (IS 391) in the fall.
  • You may also include a list of other related or supporting courses.
  • A rationale for the major that 1) explains the coherence of your plan and its relation to other areas of study; 2) addresses the opportunities for focused study of your subject at St. Olaf; 3) justifies the major as integrative, not simply interdisciplinary, study; and 4) connects your subject to the values and mission of the college. Why is this a good liberal arts major for a college like St. Olaf?
  • A description of your learning and life experience leading up to this proposal. Why does this major make sense for you? Include factors that show how well prepared you are to carry out an independent plan of study and a complex independent capstone project.
  • A preliminary description of at least two potential senior integrative projects, including their relationship to your other work in the major; the format for the final product(s); resources you would need; possibilities for public presentation; and how it would be evaluated. What kind of work do you envision doing?
  • A description of the structure of your web portfolio, including potential conceptual links within your major and to outside resources. Visit the archive page to see how past students have chosen to organize their web portfolios.
A consultations section that includes:
  • A summary of your consultation with your assigned reference librarian about research strategies in the field(s) of the major, as well as potentially useful search terms and specific resources for the major and the senior project. What does research in your field look like? What data-gathering methodologies will be most useful?
  • A summary of your peer review session, with the comments from other students that you thought were the most helpful, and how you incorporated those suggestions into your proposal.
  • A summary of your conversations about your proposal with at least one faculty member other than your individual major advisor, with the comments you thought were most helpful, and how you incorporated those suggestions into your proposal.
Be sure to also include:
  • Agreement from a faculty member to be the advisor for your individual major. The faculty advisor helps you draft your proposal, works with you as you carry out your planned course of study, and will help you structure the integrative capstone project in the fall of your senior year. The advisor also evaluates the completed senior project in the spring. Faculty advisors write a recommendation after the FRC meeting that will be added to your proposal packet for the Curriculum Committee.
  • A four-year course grid or similar plan showing your schedule for completing your major and other graduation requirements. A course grid form is available at online or from the CIS office, or you can write up your own plan on a separate (single) page.