Some come to U to design their own major

Amy Horst

When Nick Deffley began researching colleges four years ago, he had trouble picking a major because of his interest in a number of fields.

He eventually settled on the University because it offered him a chance to design his own major in conflict resolution and the environment.

Deffley is one of about 500 students at the University who have designed their own majors.

“It was difficult for me to pick one discipline and this works better,” Deffley said. “I think it gives me a more well-rounded experience.”

The University began offering self-designed majors in 1930 when the University felt it needed more options for students whose interests did not fit into one field.

“Students come to us because they need some help figuring out how to do what they want and current degree programs and models may not work for them,” said Josh Borowicz, director of individualized degrees in the College of Continuing Education. “Often a traditional major doesn’t give them the flexibility to do what they want to do.”

Erica Jacovetty, a life sciences, philosophy and public health senior, is one of those students.

“I was pre-med, and I didn’t want to major in a science,” said Jacovetty, who began as a philosophy major. “As I was getting toward the end of my studies, it was really frustrating because I didn’t feel the philosophy degree reflected what I had done.”

For students who want to design their own majors, there are two main paths – a degree through the College of Continuing Education or a degree through the College of Liberal Arts. CLA degrees are for students who want most of their coursework to be in liberal arts, and the College of Continuing Education offers degrees for people who want to design a major that crosses college boundaries.

Other colleges, such as the School of Public Health and College of Biological Sciences, offer interdepartmental majors in which students have more flexibility in choosing courses within the college.

Karen Murray, director of individualized degrees in CLA, said students who design their own majors sometimes have an advantage when they look for jobs.

“Employers have said they like the fact that (students) had knowledge in several different fields rather than something that was really specialized,” Murray said. “It gives you an opportunity to show how creative you were and how much initiative you had to design your own major.”

Designing a major does not come easily, however. Students must write a proposal stating their career goals and outlining the courses they want to take, and they must be prepared to explain why they want to take those courses.

“One of the most difficult things was having my proposal rejected the first time,” said Molly Stennes, a mass communication, media law and management senior.

However, she said the changes she had to make were worthwhile. As a result of having to draft a new proposal, she added media law to her major and will attend law school when she graduates.