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Student-designed Majors or minors

All proposals for student-designed majors must be approved by the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, a faculty subcommittee of the Committee on Academic Priorities.

A self-designed major or minor includes concentrated work that crosses the traditional divisions of academic study.  Whether you design a major or minor, it should be unified by a methodology and culminate in a project that integrates your previous course work.  The integrating project may be the result of a special Studies course, or a paper for a Senior Seminar in a department or program, or some other project devised by you in consultation with yor adviser(s).

The STUDENT-DESIGNED INTERDEPARTMENTAL Major

Majors at Smith demand between 10 and 14 courses; you should plan your major accordingly.

Your plan should include:

The deadlines for student designed majors are October 15 and March 15.  Students who are planning on studying abroad may submit proposals for self-designed majors by the end of the first week of the Spring semester.

It is possible to apply for departmental Honors within a student-designed major.  The student's Primary Adviser will take on the role of Director of honors for the student's honors program (the thesis adviser may be one of the student's student-designed major advisers or another faculty member).

     Please note:

    The student must observe the same deadlines as all other students applying         for Honors.  

    The Primary Adviser should determine the relative weight to be used in determining the recommendation for Honors awards (i.e., course grades 20- 30%, thesis 50-60%, examination10-20%).   

One of the advisers must be a Smith faculty member, the other may have an appointment at one of the 5-Colleges.

A few thing to keep in mind:

As you plan your course of study, do not assume that listing every course that has any conceivable relation to the topic will make your proposal more persuasive.  Smith is a liberal arts college in which breadth of study is as important as depth in a field.

Narrowly defined majors in very specific areas of expertise will not be approved.

It is helpful to keep your integrating project in mind as you plan your major: what will you need to know in order to complete your project?

SHIP will not approve a student-designed major that appears to be designed entirely to avoid departmental requirements.

In general, if it appears to SHIP that your proposed plan for student-designed major could be accommodated by declaring two majors or combining a major with a minor or a certificate the Committee will ask you simply to declare a major that is the options that are already available.

Approval Procedure

Students should begin the process by speaking to potential advisers and scheduling an appointment with the Senior Class Dean at x4920.

Every student designed major must have two advisers, one from each of the departments or programs that contribute to the self-designed major.  One of these advisers should be designated as the primary adviser.

Each adviser should write a letter in support of the student-designed major topic and the student's capacity to undertake the plan of study delineated in the applications.

Once the application is completed and the advisers have written their supporting letters, the student should submit the completed application cover sheet, statement, plan of study, and letters of suport from the advisers to the Chairs of the department or program in which the advisers teach.  Both Chairs must sign the application and endorse the plan.

The completed application, with the cover sheet, statement, plan of study and supporting letters should be submitted together to the Senior Class Dean, Colelge Hall 101 by October 15 or March 15.  The Registrar will record the student's new major by the following semester.

Applications received after these dates will not be considered until the following semester.  Questions should be addressed to ship@smith.edu .

The Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs will review the application and notify the student of its decision by email before registration for the following semester.

Once a student's interdepartmental major has been approved, all subsequent revisions of her course program must be approved in writing by each of her advisers.

Do Student-Designed Interdepartmental Major

The application should include:

  1. Completed Student-Designed Interdepartmental Major Application Cover Sheet.
  2. A statement (limited to one page approx. 1,000 words) explicitly defining the problem, subject matter, or method of approach that underlies the proposed major, together with a clear demonstration that this major cannot be accomplished effectively through an existing departmental or interdepartmental major.
  3. A Course Listing that includes the three-letter department codes (EGR, AMS, etc.), course numbers and titles for all courses within the proposed major and also courses outside the proposed major for the entire four-year program, specified by year. The instructor and title for each Special Studies course must also be indicated.
  4. A separate listing of courses to be included in the major with an explanation of how each course relates to the overall plan of the major. The explanation should not merely quote the catalogue description but rather justify why that particular course should be part of the major.
  5. The formulation of a topic designed to integrate the work of the major. This integrating topic can serve as the focus of a special studies or of some other independent or integrating work (e.g., a long paper prepared for a seminar) supervised by one or more of the interdepartmental major advisers in the senior year.
  6. Letters of support from at least two advisers representing a minimum of two areas of study central to the major. At least one adviser must be a tenured member of the faculty and at least one department or program must itself offer a major. One of the advisers must be designated as the primary adviser.

 

Procedure
  1. At least one faculty member from each of the areas of study central to the major must agree to act as a major adviser. One faculty member must agree to serve as the student’s primary adviser. Each adviser should provide a statement detailing the reasons behind his/her support of the student and evaluating the application. Theies supporting statements should accompany the application submitted by the student to the chair of the advisers’ departments or programs.
  2. The student should give the application and supporting statements from her advisers to the chairs of the relevant departments or programs for their consideration. Department chairs should consider the quality of the proposed program and the student’s preparedness to undertake it, as well as the effect of its acceptance on allocation of departmental resources and functions. Each chair should return the application to the student with his/her signature.
  3. The student should submit the completed application, including the advisers’ statements of support and the signatures of the respective chairs of departments or programs to the Chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101. Applications will be considered by the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs only upon receipt of ALL required materials. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

 

Honors
  • Students with a student-designed interdepartmental major may apply to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs to enter the Departmental Honors Program in that major.
  • The adviser(s) for the Departmental Honors Program must state on the student’s application for departmental honors the relative weight to be used in determining the recommendation for Honors awards (i.e., course grades 20–30%, thesis 50–60%, examination 10–20%).
  • Students considering these options should obtain information regarding procedures for Departmental Honors from the Chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs.Inquiries and applications regarding honoring in the department of the student-designed major should be addressed to the Chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101 or to honors@smith.edu.

The STUDENT-DESIGNED INTERDEPARTMENTAL MINOR

The student-designed interdepartmental minor includes concentrated work in more than one department or program and is characterized by a unified subject matter or method of approach. It should differ significantly from established departmental or interdepartmental minors.

The Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs (SHIP) has determined that student-designed interdepartmental minors must include:

The application for a student-designed interdepartmental minor i modelled on the application for a student-desgined major, so please read those directions carefully.

An application for a student-designed interdepartmental minor should be submitted to the Dean of the Senior Class at any time after the major has been declared, but no later than October 15 and March 15.

Form of the Application

The application should include:

  1. A statement (limited to one page) explicitly defining the problem, subject matter, or method of approach that underlines the proposed minor, together with a clear demonstration that this minor cannot be accomplished effectively through an existing departmental or interdepartmental or minor.
  2. A course list form including three-letter department codes, course numbers and titles for all courses within the proposed minor and in the major for the entire four-year program, specified by year. The instructor and subject for each Special Studies course must also be indicated.
  3. A separate list of courses to be included in the minor with an explanation of how each course relates to the overall plan of the interdepartmental minor.
  4. Letters of support from at least two advisers representing two areas of study central to the minor. At least one adviser must be a tenured member of the faculty and at least one department or program must itself offer a minor. One of the advisers must be designated as the primary adviser.
  5. Signatures of the chairs of the department or program of each adviser indicating approval of the proposed interdepartmental minor.

Procedure
  1. At least one faculty member from each of the areas of study central to the minor must agree to act a minor adviser. One faculty member must agree to serve as the student’s primary adviser. Each adviser should provide a statement detailing the reasons behind his/her support of the student and evaluating the application. This supporting statement should accompany the application submitted by the student to the chair of the advisers’ departments or programs.
  2. The student should give the application and supporting statements from her advisers to the chairs of the relevant departments or programs for their consideration. Department chairs should consider the quality of the proposed program and the student's preparedness to undertake it, as well as the effect of its acceptance on allocation of departmental resources and functions. Each chair should return the application to the student with his/her signature.
  3. The student should submit the completed application, including the advisers' statements of support, and the signatures of the respective chairs of departments or programs to the Chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101. Applications will be considered by the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs only upon receipt of ALL required materials. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

The Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs will review the application and notify the student of its decision within approximately 4 weeks.

Once a student’s interdepartmental major has been approved, all subsequent revisions of her course program must be approved in writing by each of her advisers.

Inquiries and applications should be addressed to the Chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, College Hall 101 or to ship@smith.edu.