An Independent Major is an option available to students who wish to pursue a field of study that cannot be met through an established Berea College major program. Students are free to propose majors, provided they meet the criteria in the Catalog & Student Handbook ’s Definition of a Major. While this list is not exhaustive, some examples of previously approved independent majors are: Appalachian Studies, Classical Studies or Classical Civilizations, Peace and Social Justice Studies, and Sustainable Community Development.
At least one term prior to when they plan to declare the major and submit their proposal, students interested in an Independent Major should talk with the Teaching Faculty members they would like to have as their primary and secondary Independent Major advisors. (Each advisor must be above the rank of instructor and a member of the Teaching Faculty from one of the programs with significant course work included in the proposed major curriculum. Normally, the primary advisor would be from the academic program in which the greatest number of courses would be taken. The secondary advisor should be chosen to provide the student with guidance in an area related to the field of study.).
To propose an Independent Major, students develop a rationale outlining and explaining their goals (career, educational, etc.) for the proposed Independent Major and why none of the existing majors (alone or in conjunction with other majors and minors) in the Berea College Catalog & Student Handbook will meet their specific goals. Students explore the Independent Major by looking at other accredited four-year institutions of higher education and finding approved undergraduate majors in the student’s proposed field of study. These majors will be used as the model for the Berea College Independent Major. Using the list of courses/experiences required at each of the other schools, and in consultation with the primary and secondary Independent Major advisors, a tentative curriculum is developed based on offerings available to Berea students. Students then prepare a comparison chart for the other school’s program and their proposed Independent Major at Berea. Students should prepare a narrative to go with the charts and, wherever the proposed plan deviates from the program being used as a model, students must explain their reasoning for the change(s).
Using the latest information available concerning when courses next will be offered (online Catalog & Student Handbook, program coordinators, advisor’s information, etc.), prepare a Curriculum Plan showing how the degree will be completed in their current and remaining terms. This Curriculum Plan must be reviewed and approved by the Independent Major advisors. Additional approvals for the curriculum itself and the title of the Independent Major must be obtained from the coordinator of all programs in which two or more courses in the major are required (including core, capstone, and collateral courses). The student then meets with a College reference librarian to assess available resources for the Independent Major curriculum. The student also will prepare a list of other resources (people, centers, institutions, museums, etc.) available to the student to support the proposed major. The student and Independent Major advisors all must sign the cover sheet after careful review of the completed proposal.
Completed proposals with all required signatures are submitted by the deadline each regular term to the the Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning (located in Suite 320 Lincoln Hall), liaison to the Academic Program Council. The Council and/or Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning may accept, reject, or request that the student modify and resubmit the proposal. If approved, copies of the final version are sent to the student and the Independent Major advisors and the original is kept in the student’s file in the Office of the Registrar.
Proposals are subject to the following guidelines:
- For students declaring an Independent major as their primary degree program, the online declaration of major and the completed Independent Major proposal must be submitted by the regular-term deadlines set by the Office of the Registrar. Students who are required to declare a major will receive notification early in the Fall or Spring term in which the student will accumulate fifteen (15) course credits.
Note: Preparation of a completed proposal can take months and should begin in the regular term prior to when the student intends to declare the Independent Major.
For second majors or those wishing to change their primary major, proposals must be submitted by the regular-term deadline set by the Office of the Registrar.
- The student must obtain approval from the Director of Academic Services if the proposed Independent Major will require that the student’s College career be more than eight regular terms (including transfer terms). To obtain approval for an extension, the student must complete the Request for an Extension of Terms paperwork (available in the Self Serve Room, 101 Lincoln Hall) explaining the need for additional terms in the proposal materials and submit it along with the Independent Major proposal. (The Office of Academic Services will coordinate the approval of both the major and the extension.)
- The Dean of Curriculum and Student Leaning will serve as the Program Coordinator for all Independent Majors.