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Individualized Major

Program Guidelines

Overview of the individualized major program

The individualized major program provides highly motivated undergraduate students with an opportunity to complete an individually tailored program when their educational aims fall between established department or program boundaries. Students interested in this program should first explore the possibility that their aims can be met through a combination of established majors and minors or through the Multidisciplinary Studies program. The Multidisciplinary Studies program allows a student to combine three minors to create an interdisciplinary major.

An individualized major involves two or more academic areas, at least one of which must be in the Eberly College. The major program should be planned so that the academic depth and rigor meets or exceeds that of a traditional major. Since its approval in 1972, the individualized major program has attracted a variety of interesting and challenging student proposals. Representative examples include a program in religious studies including courses in both religious studies and communication studies, a psychobiology program focused on the integration of knowledge about the physiological and psychological mechanisms involved in learning, and a European culture program which combined elements from the Departments of HistoryWorld Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, and Political Science.

The individualized major program is administered by Valerie Lastinger, the associate dean for undergraduate studies. Students interested in pursuing an individualized major should read this document carefully and then make an appointment to meet with Dean Lastinger (Valerie.Lastinger@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-7476) to discuss their goals and the procedures they will need to follow to develop their program. Students should obtain approval for their major program no later than the end of their sophomore year as they are normally expected to embark on this program by the beginning of their junior year. This program may not be used to “patch together” courses already taken to create an individualized major.

Selecting an advisory committee

Following the initial discussion with the associate dean, the student should seek advice from individual faculty members, one of whom will become the student’s primary adviser. Two others will serve as members of the advisory committee. The adviser and members of the advisory committee must be approved by the associate dean.

All full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences are eligible to serve as advisers. All full-time tenured or tenure track faculty members in the University are eligible to serve as advisory committee members. A student wishing to pursue an individualized major normally would consult with faculty in the department offering the greatest number of courses relevant to the proposed area of concentration, and with faculty from other departments offering appropriate related courses. Early program planning may require widespread faculty consultation until decisions about the boundaries and definition of an area of interdepartmental concentration are reached.

Should it become necessary to secure a replacement for a committee member, the primary adviser will assist the student in finding a suitable replacement. Should it become necessary to change the primary adviser, the primary adviser’s department chair will assist the student in selecting a replacement.

The student will consult with the advisory committee to determine the area of concentration that the student will pursue, secure the cooperation of relevant faculty members (as needed) and define clearly the role of the student and any relevant faculty members in helping the student reach the stated objectives. Once the program is approved and established, the committee should consult regularly with the student to monitor the program and its outcomes.

Developing a program proposal

The student must submit a formal written proposal to the associate dean for acceptance into the program. The student should seek the advisory committee’s assistance with preparation of the proposal, and the proposal must be approved by all members of the committee before it is presented to the associate dean. The proposal must include the following sections: 

  1. A definition of the area of concentration
  2. A statement of the objectives served by the proposed program
  3. A listing of courses that will constitute the program
  4. A signature form

Definition of the area of concentration 

This section of the proposal specifies the nature and types of knowledge and skills to be brought together by the proposed area of study and provides a guiding rationale for the selection of courses. The definition includes a title for the major, describes the relations among the disciplines or topics to be included in the program, and justifies the need for such an interdisciplinary program.

Program objectives

This section of the proposal includes the student’s reasons for pursuing the proposed program and a description of the expected outcomes of the program. The objectives should include the competencies or skills to be developed in the program, the scope and flexibility of outcomes desired and the academic goals of the program. The statement should also include discussion of potential career goals that may be facilitated by this program of study.

List of courses 

The individualized major proposal will list the courses that constitute the program of study. The student is expected to show that the course selection is an adequate means to accomplish the objectives described in the previous section. In no case should courses be selected so that the student attains only the academic depth of the more elementary portions of any sequential departmental program. The student is expected to show that the courses selected are adequate to develop the subject matter of the major, to provide any skills or techniques desired and to insure that the program is at least as well-ordered as any other program in the Eberly College.

Signature Form

Download the signature form

The following regulations apply to the individualized major:

Evaluation of the program

Students who have been accepted in the individualized major program are required to periodically provide written reviews as follows:

End of each semester. At the end of each semester in the program, the student will submit a one-page written review of the program to that point to the advisory committee members and the associate dean. The review should summarize the student’s progress in completing the program and plan for completing the remaining courses in the program, evaluate the program in terms of meeting the program objectives so far and recommend any changes in the program that the student thinks might be needed. 

End of program. At the end of the student’s final semester, before the student is certified for graduation, the student will submit a written review of the individualized major program. The purpose of this final review is to provide information that will allow the student, the advisory committee and the associate dean to assess the value of the individualized major program as a whole as well as the individual program completed by the student. Accordingly, the student should reflect on the original objectives in his or her program proposal and the way in which courses and other experiences have contributed to the program. Specifically, the student’s written document should address these as well as any other relevant issues:

  • The function of the advisory committee
  • The value of specific courses in reaching the objectives of the program
  • The possible redirection the program might take if it were to be initiated with the knowledge gained by experience
  • The value of the program as part of a University curriculum

Upon the student’s completion of the program, the advisory committee also will submit a brief written report to the associate dean. The report will accompany the student’s report and should include an evaluation of the individualized major program, both in general and in the case of this student, including any suggestions for changes in the guidelines or procedures of the program.