2016-17 catalog

The Academic Program


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
  • Dance
  • Public Health
  • Sociology of Education
  • Theater

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 advisers. 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 juniors)

The application for an independent major consists of the following components:

  • A proposal developed in conversation with the advisers that describes the student’s reasons for designing the independent major and explains why her interests cannot be accommodated by an established major or a combination of an established major and a minor or concentration. . The proposal should identify the key intellectual questions her major will address and explain 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 advisers, discussing the academic merits of the independent major work plan and the student’s ability to complete it.
  • Confirmation from the student’s dean that the student is mature and independent enough to successfully complete an independent major.
  • A copy of the student’s transcript, which will be supplied by the Dean’s Office.

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 major appropriate within the context of a liberal arts college?
  • Could the proposed major be accommodated instead by an established major and minor?
  • Does the proposal convey its intellectual concerns and the role each course will play in this inquiry?
  • Are the proposed courses expected to be offered over the next two years?
  • Will the faculty members be available for good advising?
  • Does the student’s record predict success in the proposed 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 advisers, 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.