Goals of the Self-Designed Major:

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) offers each undergraduate student the opportunity to define a personalized program of study. This curriculum is entitled the "Self-Designed Major" program of study. When a student determines that their personal educational objectives fall either outside or between the curricula defined by departments and programs of the College, the student may wish to consider designing a Self-Designed Major.

Essentially, each student is asked to formulate their own program of study by working in association with a faculty advisor and the Faculty Review Committee which oversee the major. Designing a major requires examination of personal goals, acquiring information about formal courses and other possible learning experiences (e.g., internships, independent studies, special topic studies, and independent research). The information is then formulated into a package of proposed coursework and other learning experiences. The objective is to design a coherent and unique plan of study to meet the specific learning needs of the student and by which the student will achieve an advanced state of skills, knowledge, and values in their chosen field.

Disclaimer: What the Self-Designed Major is NOT.

The Self-Designed Major offers a flexible and creative alternative for students who have very specific, integrated educational goals. It does not provide students with an avenue to avoid specific requirements in any department in CALS and the University, and it may not be used in this manner.

Please review the outline presented below which describes the process by which you can devise your own Self-Designed Major. It will help you determine each step that needs to be done to bring a full proposal to the Faculty Review Committee.

Eligibility Requirements

 Students interested in becoming a Self-Designed Major must:

  • complete the Pre-Proposal Application with the aid of a faculty advisor;
  • design a program (with the aid of the faculty advisor) that meets the recommendations of the Faculty Review Committee, fulfills CALS Core Competency requirements, and achieves 120 credits needed for graduation;
  • have accumulated no more than 60 credit hours at the time of approval;

  • discuss the Pre-Proposal with the Faculty Review Committee and the faculty advisor to receive approval of the Pre-Proposal;

  • present the final proposal to the Faculty Review Committee and the faculty advisor for final approval.

Academic Credit

A student may receive one hour of academic credit for preparation and acceptance of the full proposal (consult the Chairperson of the Faculty Review Committee to arrange for this credit).

Roles and Responsibilities of the Participants

  • Responsibilities of Student: It is the responsibility of the student to develop fully their proposal, identify coursework, and design a semester-by-semester schedule that supports their program goals and identifies their faculty advisor. Both the faculty advisor and the Faculty Review Committee members should be helpful to the student in this process.
  • Role of the Faculty Advisor(s): The faculty advisor is responsible for working with the student to develop a thoughtful, well-written proposal, identifying coursework and alternative experiences, and then, working with the student throughout the course of his or her studies to help him or her achieve the desired goals.
  • Role of the Faculty Review Committee: The members of the FRC are responsible for helping students develop a thoughtful, well-written proposal, identifying coursework and potential faculty advisors, evaluating competency skills, and evaluating and approving the proposals and monitoring student fulfillment of the student's obligations as self-designed. Decisions will be based on the intellectual benefit of the student as judged by the Faculty Review Committee.

Self-Designed Program Proposal Faculty Review Committee:

Self-Designed Major Learning Outcomes

Program Goal: Students pursuing the CALS Self-Designed Major are empowered to create personalized curricula that prepare them to meet their professional and personal goals by customizing their learning experiences with an emphasis on interdisciplinary knowledge, relevant skill sets, and engaged learning opportunities.

  1. Students gain the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully prepare them for their post-graduation goals. [Knowledge and Skills Category]
  2. Students demonstrate competency in both written and verbal communication skills.  [Skills Category]
  3. Students design and complete engaged learning opportunities relevant to their Self-Designed Major, including internships, semesters studying abroad, undergraduate research projects, and other extra-curricular experiences that support and enhance their chosen area of study. [Knowledge and Skills Category]
  4. Students develop critical reflection skills throughout the entire Self-Design Major process—from proposal to graduation—that will continue to serve them as life-long learners.  [Personal Growth]

Steps in Developing and Carrying Out a Self-Designed Program of Study:

Step 1: Determine the Appropriateness of a Self-Designed Major

A student contemplating a self-designed program should seek out and consult with one or more faculty members to discuss his/her educational objectives, learning goals, and career plans. The objective of this consultation is to determine the appropriateness of a self-designed program, or, whether an existing academic program can meet the student’s needs. The nature and availability of resources to support a self-designed program is determined.

Step 2: Drafting a Pre-proposal

The student secures agreement from a faculty member to serve as sponsor and advisor for the development and implementation of a Self-Designed Major. The student, in consultation with the faculty member, develops a pre-proposal which is submitted to the Faculty Review Committee with the student's academic transcript and PDF icon Core Curriculum Check-List. The proposed course work must include a minimum of 40 credits in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) not including any CALS courses that fulfill the College's Core Competency requirements. At least 20 out of the 40 CALS credits must be at the 100-level or higher. Also, at least six of the 40 CALS credits must be at the 200-level or higher. The pre-prosposal should include a table of course work including what courses (title, number, and credits) are taken each semester. Include a total number of credits for each semester and a total number of credits of CALS courses. At the end of the table should be a grand total of credits, and total number of CALS credits, and total number of CALS credits at 100-level or higher. The pre-proposal is reviewed and signed by the faculty sponsor before submission to the Faculty Review Committee. PDF icon Self-Designed Major Pre-Proposal Application Form

Step 3: Presenting the Pre-Proposal to the Faculty Review Committee (FRC)

The FRC reviews the pre-proposal and schedules a meeting with the student and faculty sponsor to discuss the proposed program and the FRC's recommended modifications and revisions. Following this meeting, the FRC will either approve or disapprove of the proposed program. If approved, the student will be invited to develop and submit a formal proposal to the FRC. Members of the FRC will be available to help and advise students during the process of proposal development. The formal full proposal needs to be presented to the FRC and the student's advisor within four months of the approved pre-proposal. Failure to present the full proposal within four months will result in the student being disqualified from the Self Designed Major.

Step 4: Writing and Presenting the Full Proposal

A full proposal is developed according to a standard format provided by the FRC. It includes a full justification of the proposed program, complete description of its design, and details of its implementation. Specific learning objectives are identified. Courses and experiences related to each objective are described. Prior to submission, the faculty sponsor reviews and signs off on the full proposal. Following submission of the written proposal, the FRC will schedule a formal oral presentation to be given by the student and attended by members of the FRC, the faculty advisor, faculty in relevant departments, and interested students and staff. A question, comment, and discussion session will follow. When the proposal has been accepted by the Faculty Review Committee, the student will receive one hour of academic credit from CALS.

PDF icon Self Design Major Proposal 

Step 5: Decision by the Faculty Review Committee (FRC)

Following review and presentation of the proposal, the FRC will either approve, approve pending modification, or reject the proposed program.

Step 6: Milestones in the Self-Designed Major

Yearly progress reports, endorsed by the faculty advisor, will be submitted to the FRC. If deemed necessary, students may be asked to meet with the FRC to discuss progress and future plans. All changes to the program must be endorsed by the faculty advisor and approved by the FRC.

Step 7: Completion and Graduation

During the final semester of the senior year, the student will make a formal presentation to the FRC, CALS faculty, students, and staff addressing significant learning outcomes of the program. The scope and content of this presentation will be developed in consultation with the student’s advisor and members of the FRC. Successful completion of this, and all required elements included in the approved proposal, is necessary for graduation.