The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday December 2nd

Customized majors are difficult to create

Many pros, cons in designing curricula

Last year, Jesalyn Keziah tried to create her own major.

But after struggling with the process and the structure, she said it didn’t work out.

Steps for designing your own major at UNC:

1. Figure out the rules governing the Interdisciplinary Major. Number of courses, minimum gpa etc.

2. Articulate on paper a clear rationale for the intended course of study, and be prepared to explain why it cannot be served within existing degree programs.

3. Create a name for the major and develop a tentative course itinerary for the junior and senior years.

4. Schedule a preliminary consultation with the Associate Dean in Undergraduate Curricula.

5. With the Associate Dean’s approval, consult the directors of undergraduate studies in all the affected departments/schools.

6. Obtain a written statement endorsing the feasibility and rationale of the proposed major from a faculty sponsor in one of the affect departments

7. Sumbit the major proposal with all supporting documents by the semester deadlines: September 15 for fall, January 15 for spring.

Source: Office of the Undergradate Curricula website

“The process isn’t as open as it is advertised,” Keziah said.

She is one of several students at UNC who want the freedom to customize their academic programs even as schools in the past few years have added a variety of majors and minors.

Nick Siedentop, a curriculum coordinator for the undergraduate education office and an adviser who specializes in custom majors, said he has had between five and 15 students express interest in creating their own major in the past six months.

But Siedentop said students already have many choices for majors at the University, and administrators want the option of creating a new major to be the last resort.

“With over 100 different majors and minors options, students have a lot of options,” Siedentop said.

He said that students not satisfied with the offering of majors at the University should look toward interdisciplinary options before creating their own majors.

He also said the amount of time and effort necessary to successfully create a major is not something to be taken lightly.

“It’s a long process because our college is really structured to promote interdisciplinary programs first,” he said.

Philosophy professor Susan Wolf said that she knows of students in the past who designed their own majors and that creating a custom major made them unique.

“It’s the sign of a very creative person,” she said.

Junior Grayson Cooper is in the process of creating his own major.

He said he thinks that creating a major is a great way to incorporate many subjects if other options do not accomplish the task.

Siedentop said he sees a benefit in creating a custom major.

“You can tailor your specific interests into a really structured program,” Siedentop said.

“I know that premed students have mentioned that medical schools are looking for diverse students. So that is one way of making their application look different.”

He warned that students creating a major for the sole purpose of a unique graduate school application will not get far in the process.

Ray Angle, director of University Career Services, said self-created majors can be potential liabilities when students start looking for jobs.

He said he would only encourage students to pursue the self-created major if they were highly motivated and knew of a specific organization or employer that could hire them for their specific major.

“When you think about employers, you always want a reason for them to screen you in, not screen you out,” he said.

“Since the self-created major does not have a specific predetermined curriculum, the student may have left out important courses that are necessary,” he added.

Keziah said many of her friends have considered the option but have been discouraged by the complicated process of applying for their own majors.

“Students who are passionate about a topic should not be confined to a program simply because it is already there,” she said.

Angle also said the self-created major might cause confusion for those not familiar with the student’s program.

“It’s extremely rare for employers who want an individualized major in a particular area,” he said.

“They look at students in groups of learning communities.”

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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