THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE A.B. DEGREE
The Independent Major Program
The Independent Major Program is designed for students whose interests cannot be accommodated by an established departmental major. An independent major is a rigorous, coherent and structured plan of study involving courses from the introductory through the advanced level in a recognized field within the liberal arts. Independent majors must be constructed largely from courses offered at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.
The following is a list of some recent independent majors:
- Creative Writing
- Feminist and Gender Studies
- Medieval Studies
- Peace and Conflict Studies
Students interested in the Independent Major Program should attend the informational teas and meet with Assistant Dean Raima Evan in the fall of their sophomore year. In designing an independent major, students must enlist two faculty members to serve as sponsors. One, who acts as director of the program, must be a member of the Bryn Mawr faculty; the other may be a member of either the Bryn Mawr or Haverford faculty. To propose an independent major, students must submit completed applications by the following deadlines:
- the end of the first week of classes in the spring of the sophomore year (for students hoping to study abroad during one or two semesters of the junior year), or
- the end of the fourth week of classes in the spring of the sophomore year (for students planning to remain at Bryn Mawr throughout the junior year), or
- the end of the fourth week of classes in the fall of the junior year (for junior transfer students)
The application for an independent major consists of:
- A proposal developed with the advice of the sponsors describing the student’s reasons for designing the independent major, explaining why her interests cannot be accommodated by a related departmental or interdepartmental major, identifying the key intellectual questions her major will address, and explaining how each proposed course contributes to the exploration of those questions.
- An independent major work plan of 11 to 14 courses, at least seven of which must be taken at Bryn Mawr or Haverford. The plan will include up to two courses at the 100 level and at least four at the 300 or 400 level, including at least one semester of a senior project or thesis (403).
- Supporting letters from the two faculty sponsors, discussing the academic merits of the independent major work plan and the student’s ability to complete it.
- A letter from the student’s dean regarding her maturity and independence.
- A copy of the student’s transcript.
The Independent Majors Committee, composed of four faculty members, two students and one dean, evaluates the proposals on a case-by-case basis. Their decisions are final. The fact that a particular topic was approved in the past is no guarantee that it will be approved again.
The committee considers the following issues:
- Is the proposed independent major appropriate within the context of a liberal arts college?
- Could the proposed independent major be accommodated instead by an established major?
- Does the proposal effectively articulate the intellectual issues the major will investigate and the role each course will play in this inquiry?
- Does the student possess the intellectual depth necessary to investigate those issues?
- Are the proposed courses expected to be offered over the next two years?
- Will faculty members be available for consistent and good advising?
- Does the student’s record indicate likely success in the proposed independent major?
If the committee approves the proposed major and its title, the student declares an independent major. The committee continues to monitor the progress of students who have declared independent majors and must approve, along with the sponsors, any changes in the program. A grade of 2.0 or higher is required for all courses in the independent major. If this standard is not met, the student must change immediately to a departmental major.