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The individually planned major permits the development of a concentrated study in some area which crosses two or more disciplines, or which currently does not offer a standard major, thus permitting an area of concentration not available in other major study programs.

The process of establishing an individually planned major involves creating an individually planned major committee of at least three faculty members. With the committee, the student develops a proposal consisting of a title, rationale and a schedule of coursework. The proposal is submitted to the Board of Review for approval and is subject to review by the Curriculum Committee.

Deadline: The deadline for applying for an individually planned major is prior to the end of a student's second semester of their sophomore year, or equivalent.  No applications from seniors will be entertained by the Board of Review.

Individually Planned Major Committee: The first step in establishing an individually planned major is selecting at least three faculty members, including at least two tenure-track or tenured faculty, to form an individually planned major committee, which will oversee the construction of the major, the student's progress and the comprehensive examination. One of the tenure-track or tenured faculty, or a visiting faculty with a contract extending through the student's senior year, must be designated chair of the committee. Students need to confirm that the members of the committee, or suitable replacements, will be present throughout the entire course of study. The designated chair of the committee must write a letter in support of the application and include therein an indication of his/her willingness to be on campus throughout the student's senior year.

Title and Rationale: With the advice and consent of the major committee, the student must develop a title and rationale for his or her individually planned major.

  • The title should be clear, concise, and accurately describe the content of the individually planned major; it should be sufficiently different from existing major programs.
  • The rationale must clearly establish the need for constructing an individually planned major as opposed to a double major, an established combined major or a departmental major plus a minor. It must also include an intellectual justification for the coherence of the proposed program as an academic discipline appropriate to the liberal arts context.
  • The statement should include a clear justification of the appropriateness of each course for the individually planned major.
  • The program must contain work of an interdisciplinary nature.

In order to insure the rigor of the major, the following guidelines should be observed:

  1. There must be a minimum of 32 credit hours.
  2. There should be a full range of courses from the introductory to the advanced level. A minimum of 12 credits should be in 300 and 400 level courses.
  3. There should be a fully justified capstone course consisting of at least four hours of integrative work. (This course may be one of the courses above the 300 level.)
  4. At least 12 hours should not yet be completed at the time of application.
  5. No more than 2/3 of the courses should come from any one department or program. The individually planned major is not intended to substitute for an established major less one or two courses.
  6. No more than one-third of the courses may be taken off campus and no more than one-third of the courses may be independent studies. Students need to reflect realistically on whether Whitman has the ability to offer an individually planned major in the proposed field. Will the faculty who share the student's interests be available to teach the courses needed for their major? Are there enough regularly offered courses (excluding independent studies) to provide sufficient credit for an in-depth, coherent course of study in the proposed individual major?

Proposal: After securing approval of the individually planned major committee, the student must submit an application for an individually planned major with the title and schedule of courses listed by semester and rationale for applying for an individually planned major to the Board of Review for approval. The Curriculum Committee will subsequently assess the actions taken by the Board of Review.

Oversight: The chair of the individually planned major committee has responsibility for overseeing the progress of the student. A student with an individually planned major must maintain a grade point average of 2.0 in the courses specified for the major.

Changes: The individually planned major committee evaluates proposed alterations to the individually planned major and submits them to the Board of Review for approval.

Comprehensive Examination: As with any other major, the individually planned major must include a plan to complete a comprehensive examination. The individually planned major committee will administer the examination. The student should work in consultation with the individually planned major committee to determine that a sufficient number of qualified faculty will be available to administer the examination at the appropriate time in the student's course of studies.

Honors: The student requesting honors in the individually planned major must meet the same requirements (concerning grade point average, etc.) as students in other majors. An honors proposal must receive the support of the individually planned major committee, and be filed with the Registrar by the date specified in the official College calendar.

Diploma and Transcript: Upon successful completion of the course of study in an individually planned major, the student will receive a diploma stating the title of the major.

The transcript will list the major as the actual title of the individually planned major.

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