The Independent Major Program is designed for students whose interests cannot be accommodated by an established major. An independent major is not just a loose version of a departmental major or an agglomeration of courses in several fields. Instead, it is a coherent, structured plan of study from introductory through advanced work in a recognizable field within the liberal arts. What is more, an independent major is constructed largely from courses offered at Bryn Mawr and Haverford.
Interested students should attend the informational teas and meet with the supervising dean, Dean Balthazar, in the fall of the 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.
The application consists of a proposal, a proposed major work plan, letters of support from each of two faculty advisers and from the student’s dean, and the student’s transcript. Completed applications must be received in the Dean’s Office according to the following deadlines:
Each student must submit by the appropriate deadline
In addition, students must make sure that the following have been submitted by the deadline:
The Dean’s Office will supply a copy of the student’s transcript
The Independent Major Committee, comprised of three faculty members, two students, and one dean, evaluates each proposal. The Committee's 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?
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 the faculty members be available for good advising?
Does the student's record predict success in the proposed major?
If the Committee approves the 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 major. If this standard is not met, the student may be required to change immediately to a departmental major.
Honors in the Independent Major may be awarded for significant work in the field of the major. The criteria may be met by a 3.8 average for the courses in the major, or an outstanding senior project (3.7 or 4.0) as evaluated by a special committee and a 3.5 major average. The special committee consists of two thesis advisers and an outside reader.
Committee Members for 2008-2009 Academic Year
Judy Balthazar, Associate Dean, X5374
Frank Mallory, Chemistry
Mary Osirim, Sociology
Roberta Ricci, Italian
Alex Tisman, Class 0f 2009
Tips For Designing a Major Work Plan for the Independent Major
1. With the help of your advisor(s), identify courses you have already taken and courses that you plan to take towards the independent major
2. Provide a list that clearly includes the following information:
General Programs H114B: Introduction to Semantics
Completed Spring 2004
Provided an introduction to the meaning of language and satisfied the “Semantics” requirement of the Swarthmore Linguistics Major
3. Make sure your list includes the following courses:
Classes begin at the University of Pennsylvania (Monday classes)
Dorms reopen at noon
Martin Luther King Day: no classes at Bryn Mawr or Haverford;
Classes begin at Swarthmore
Classes begin at Bryn Mawr and Haverford
Confirmation of Registration (all class years)
Last day to declare Cr/NC option for first quarter courses (5 p.m.);
Last day to drop a fifth course at Bryn Mawr and Haverford;
Application deadline for study abroad ~~
Fall ’15, Spring ’16 & Full year ’15-‘16
Last day to declare cr/NC option for full semester courses (5 p.m.)
Spring break begins after last class;
First quarter (including PE) courses end
Classes resume (8 a.m.)
Second quarter (including PE) courses begin
Last day to add a second quarter course
Last day to drop a second quarter course
Last day to declare Cr/NC option for second quarter courses (5 p.m.)
Preregistration Advising for Fall
Last day of classes at the University of Pennsylvania
Last day of classes: all written work due 5 p.m.
Last day of classes at Haverford and Swarthmore
Examination Period (ends at noon on May 15)
Dorms close at 12 noon