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Why an IDM?

Sometimes your academic journey takes you off the beaten track. If you know what you want to do, but haven’t found the right program for it, UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences gives you the option of designing a major or minor that closely fits your particular interests and career objectives.

If you find a promising academic route that lies along on the margins of different disciplines, an interdisciplinary major or minor may be right for you.

Nondepartmental, interdisciplinary studies

In CAS, the Independently Designed Major (IDMajor) and Minor (IDMinor) are non-departmental, interdisciplinary options for students with academic interests that are not met by the programs currently offered. An IDM may not be a program of narrow professional training. Rather, the goal of an IDM should be intensive investigation of a broad area of human knowledge which is not covered by a single major discipline, or reflected in a grouping of loosely associated courses. With their faculty sponsor, students pursuing an IDM will craft a coherent curriculum that allows the student to concentrate on a unique area of study; for the ID Major, this will culminate in a "capstone" senior project research paper, project, or thesis.

Looking for ideas?

There are many potential directions to go with an IDM. Below are just a few examples of Individually Designed majors or minors you might create.

Critical Theory in Action Minor

In a world that prompts us to act rather than to think, studying critical theory in action offers students a chance to explore critical thinking itself as a form of action. Students pursuing this type of minor will investigate what gives rise to the problems that we confront today in order to give students the tools to confront them in a critical way, examining the intersection of society and subjectivity, while paying special attention to what remains opaque in all our systems of knowledge.

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• ENGS 100: Literary Theory
• FTS 121: Film and Television Theory
• SOC 101: The Development of Sociological Theory

Electives:
• PHIL 102: History of Modern Philosophy
• POLS 41: Intro to Political Theory
• POLS 148: Democratic Theory

Other courses which might be included in this ID Minor:
ENG 110: Gender and Sex in Literary Studies
FTS 123: Capitalism and Global Cinema
FTS 131: Advanced Film/TV Theory
PHIL 108: Plato
POLS 141: History of Political Thought from Plato to Aquinas
POLS 142: History of Political Thought from Machiavelli to Nietzsche

Faculty contact: Prof. Hillary Neroni (Film & Television Studies), Hilary.Neroni@uvm.edu

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Major

Students in the critical race and ethnic studies program learn to deconstruct the way race and ethnicity are both constructed and articulated—in the U.S. and abroad—a project of increasingly urgent importance.

A potential curriculum might be: 

Core courses:
• SOC 196: Race and Ethnicity
• CRES 196: Latino Writers US Contemporary Perspectives
• CRES 195: Environmental Justice
• ENGS 281: The Great American Race Novel
• POLS 195: Political Construction of Race
• CRES 296: Senior project

Electives:
• CRES 11: Race Racism Across Disciplines
• CRES 61: Asian-American Experience
• CRES 75: Diversity: Contemporary US Theatre
• CRES 196: African American English
• EC 53: Political Economy of Race
• HLTH 155: Racism and Health Disparities

For other options which might fit in this ID Major, see the courses listed each semester under Critical Race and Ethnic Studies.

Faculty contact: Prof. Jinny Huh, Director of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Jinny.Huh@uvm.edu.

Diversity and Social Justice Minor

Studies in diversity and social justice responds to the current need for critically engaged people who can analyze the social construction of identity categories (such as age, gender, sexuality and race) and address global inequities around these intersecting identity categories. There are practical applications in fields ranging from law and policymaking to education and advocacy. 

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• CSD 274: Culture of Disability
• GSWS 100: Gender and Feminism
• SOC 119: Race and Ethnicity

Electives:
• EDSP 5: Issues Affecting Persons with Disabilities
• EC 53: Political Economy of Race
• GSWS 105: LGBT Politics and History

Other courses which might be included in this ID Minor
CRES 11: Race Racism Across Disciplines
CRES 51: Intro to Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
CRES 61: Asian-American Experience
CRES 75: Diversity: Contemporary US Theatre
CRES 195: Environmental Justice
ENGS 057 : Race and Ethnic Literary Studies
ENVS 179 : Ecofeminism
GSWS 155: The Politics of Sex
HIST 017 : North American Indian History
POLS 120: The Politics of Sex
SOC 19: Race Relations in the US
SOC 022 : Sociology of Sexualities
SOC 32: Social Inequality
SOC 120: Aging in Modern Society
SOC 295: Transgender Studies
STAT 052 : Statistics and Social Justice

Environmental Economics Minor

Environmental economists aim to understand the incentives behind human behavior that lead to environmental problems, while designing effective policy solutions to these problems. Solutions can include regulatory instruments (fuel efficiency standards), market-based approaches (carbon taxes or renewable energy subsidies), or innovative governance regimes involving community and stakeholder engagement that can lower pollution from production and consumption and promote development and diffusion of environmental technologies. Thus, the minor will involve statistical and computer modeling to analyze and/or compare the effectiveness of existing regulations and propose alternative policy solutions. Further, the choice among alternative solutions or the decision to implement proposed regulations require cost-benefit analysis. Students building a minor in this vein may also be interested in learning valuation methods essential to estimating the benefits and costs of environmental protection to understand the tradeoffs involved in different pollution control measures or in energy projects such as construction of new hydroelectric plants or transnational pipelines.

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• EC 133: Economics of Environmental Policy
• EC 230 Topics in Environmental Economics
• ENVS 141: Introduction to Ecological Economics

Electives:
• CDAE 006: Energy Alternatives
• EC 130 Public Policy
• ENVS 142 Introduction to Environmental Policy

Other courses which might be included in this ID Minor
CDAE 106: Renewable Energy Workshop
POLS 130 U.S. Environmental Politics
POLS 159 International Economic Governance
POLS 180 Comparative Environmental Politics

Faculty contact: Prof. Donna Ramirez-Harrington (Economics), Donna.Ramirez-Harrington@uvm.edu

Historic Preservation Minor

Historic preservation is a really conversation with the past about the future. It may provide opportunities to ask, "What can we learn from historic sites and from the built heritage of communities and places?" and "How can important features of the historic environment be conserved and sustained for the future?" An IDM in historic preservation might also include studies in landscape history, architectural conservation, sustainability, adaptive reuse and development economics, as well as learning about preservation career opportunities.

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• HP 200 History of American Architecture
• HP 201 History on the Land
• HP 205 Historic Preservation Law

Electives:
• HP 204 Historic Preservation Development Economics
• HP 205 Historic Preservation Law
• HP 306 Architectural Conservation I

Faculty contact: Prof. Thomas Visser, Director, Historic Preservation Program, Thomas.Visser@uvm.edu

Marine Biology Minor

The oceans cover 71% of the earth, and yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding them. There is a pressing need to learn more about the marine environment that supports all life on the planet. A student building a minor in this discipline might delve into effects of pollution and climate change, invasive species, marine community ecology and conservation, physiology of marine organisms, the health of coral reefs, human health, dissolution of carbon dioxide and refining alternate energy sources.

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• BIOL 196: Introduction to Marine Science
• BIOL 295: Field Marine Biology
• WFB 161: Fisheries Biology & Techniques

Electives:
• GEOL 010: Geological Oceanography
• BIOL 295: Marine Mammal Biology
• WFB 279: Marine Ecology & Conservation

Other courses which might be included in this ID Minor:
BIOL 195: Soundscapes and Behavior Research
BIOL 219: Comparative/Functional Vertebrate Anatomy
BIOL 225: Physiological Ecology
GEOL 102: Plate Tectonics & Evolution of the Earth
WFB 224: Conservation Biology
WFB 232: Ichthyology
WFB 261: Fisheries Management

Faculty contact: Prof. Laura May Collado (Biology), Laura.May-Collado@uvm.edu

Mountain Science Major

Going "right to the top" allows geologists, geographers, hydrologists, engineers and environmental scientists to evaluate mountain eco-systems, study impacts of human interventions, investigate plant and wildlife populations and learn how mountains shape our world view. 

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• GEOG 190: International Field Studies: High Andes Underfoot
• GEOG 246: Advanced Topics in Climate and Water Resources: Snow Hydrology
• GEOL 101: Field Geology   
• GEOL 240: Tectonics
• SOC 121: Sociology of Disaster
• GEOG 296: Senior project

Electives:
• GEOL 001: Earth System Science
• GEOG 040: Weather, Climate & Landscapes
• GEOG 140: Biogeography  
• GEOL 110: Earth Materials
• GEOL 116: Glacial Geology
• GEOL 151/ GEOG 144: Geomorphology

Other courses which might be included in this ID Major
GEOL 005: Mountain to Lake
GEOL 007: Earth Hazards
GEOG 143: Climatology   
GEOG 148: Global Environmental Change
GEOG 174: Rural Geography
GEOG 192: Vermont Field Studies 
GEOL 135: Environmental Geochemistry 
GEOL 217: Vermont Field Geology
GEOL 234: Global Biogeochemical Cycles
GEOL 235: Geochemistry of Natural Waters

Faculty contact: Prof. Beverley Wemple (Geography), Beverley.Wemple@uvm.edu or Prof. Andrea lini (Geology), alini@uvm.edu.

Museum Studies Minor

Museums, libraries and institutes require a broad array of skill sets including exhibition curation, design, visitor services and educational programming. There are 35,000 museums in the U.S. alone, and managers in the field seek employees with a broad liberal arts background. Building your own minor in museum studies could prepare you for jobs in science centers, art museums, historical museums and many other areas. 

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• ANTH 250 - Museum Anthropology
• ARTH 282  Seminar: Museum Studies
• AS 190: Museum Studies Internship
• EDAR 177-Curriculum & Practicum in Elementary Art 
• EDAR 284-Current Issues in Art & Education/Alternative Sites 

Electives:
• ANTH 127 - Modernity & Material Culture
• REL 195: Exhibiting the Sacred
• THE 035 - History of Costume

Other courses which might be included in this ID Minor:
ANTH 203 - Tourism & Heritage
HP 200--History of American Architecture

Faculty contacts: Prof. Kelley DiDio (Art History), Kelley.DiDio@uvm.edu, or Prof. Jennifer Dickinson (Anthropology), Jennifer.Dickinson@uvm.edu.

Urban and Regional Planning Minor

The field of Urban and Regional Planning is a diverse and exciting area that requires core conceptual elements including: understanding relations between social, natural, and built environments; thinking critically about the political economy and social/spatial justice; and familiarity with processes such as urban and rural dynamics, community development, globalization, and environmental challenges and climate change. Planners’ technical skills vary by area of specialty, but exposure to statistics, geospatial technologies (GIS, remote sensing), community-based and mixed-methods research skills, and design are all helpful.

A potential curriculum might be:

Core courses:
• GEOG175: Urban Geography
• GEOG176: Rural Geography
• GEOG184: GIS

Electives:
• SOC 32: Social Inequality
• CDAE 102: Sustainable Community Development or CDAE 278: Applied Community Planning
• ENVS 181: Environmental Justice

Other courses which might be included in this ID Major 

CE 10: Geomatics
CS 21: Python Programming
FOR 1: Forest Conservation
CDAE 1: Drafting and Design Drawing
CDAE 6: Energy Alternatives
EC 11: Macro Economics
ANTH 89: Global Health, Devt, And Diversity
STAT 52: Stats for Social Justice
STAT 87: Intro to Data Science
VS 52: Introduction to Vermont
SOC 19: Race and Racism in the US
NR 1: Natural Resources and Human Ecology
GEOG 60: Geography of Race and Ethnicity in the US
GEOG 70: Society, Place, and Power
HSCI 21: Intro to Public Health
GEOG 191: Internship
SOC 100: Fundamentals of Social Research
NR 141/ENVS 141: Intro to Ecological Economics
NR 153/ENVS 142: Intro. Environmental Policy
HST 167: London: A Cultural History
ENVS 107: Human Health and the Environment
ENVS 137: Landscape Design Fundamentals
GEOG 177: Gender, Space and Environment
GEOG 185: Remote Sensing
GEOG 192: Vermont Field Studies
HP 200: History of American Architecture
CDAE 260: Smart, Resilient Communities
GEOG 274: Critical Urban/Social Geography
GEOG 281: Advanced GIS and Remote Sensing
GEOG 287: Spatial Analysis

Faculty contact: Prof. Meghan Cope (Geography), Meghan.Cope@uvm.edu

 

Common Questions:

What are the requirements for the IDMajor?

1. Total credits: At least 36 and no more than 45 credit hours, of which at least 18 credits must be at the 100 level or above (including at least 6 at the 200 level).

2. Core: 18 credit hours at the 100 level or above which are integral to the idea of the major. These 18 hours must include a 3-credit senior project.

3. Electives: 18 credit hours.

4. Senior Project: The major must include a 3-credit senior project, taken as Undergraduate Research in the faculty sponsor's department, in which the student submits to a Committee of three or more professors a paper or an equivalent project that demonstrates the essential coherence of the IDM. The evaluation Committee will include the student's advisor and at least one representative from another academic department with courses included in the core of the IDM. This requirement may be replaced with six credits of College Honors.

5. Alternate courses: In order to accommodate the possibility that selected courses may not be offered at a given time, students should submit one alternate course in the core and two alternate courses in the elective list.

Restrictions

• No more than twelve credits that count for the major can come from courses outside the College of Arts and Sciences.

• The department of the student's faculty sponsor shall be considered the major's department; the student cannot take a minor in that department.

• Consistent with the College of Arts and Sciences curricular policies, no more than one course included in the major can be in the minor.

• No more than eighteen credits in the proposed major may be completed or begun at the time of application.

• No more than 6 hours of Readings and Research may be applied toward the completion of an IDM.

What are the requirements for the IDMinor?

1. Total credits: 18 credits, of which at least 9 credits must be at the 100 level or above.

2. Core: 9 credit hours which are integral to the idea of the minor.

3. Electives: 9 credit hours.

4. Alternate courses: In order to accommodate the possibility that selected courses may not be offered at a given time, students should submit one alternate course in the core and two alternate courses in the elective list.

Restrictions:

• No more than nine credits in the proposed minor may be completed or begun at the time of application.

• No more than six credits that count for the major can come from courses outside the College of Arts and Sciences.

• Consistent with the College of Arts and Sciences curricular policies, no more than one course included in the major can be in the minor.

Common to the IDMajor and IDMinor

• Applicants must have a GPA of 2.5 or better at the time of the proposal (or any proposal for changes to the course of study).

• Proposals must be submitted no later than four weeks prior to the last day of classes during the final term of the applicant's junior year. Normally, IDMajors are submitted by the end of the sophomore year.

• The student must have a faculty sponsor who is tenured or tenure-track in CAS. Under exceptional circumstances, a secondary sponsor outside of CAS may also serve, if the proposed course of study clearly suggests that such a sponsor is a suitable choice for the student.

• Any changes to the course of study must be approved by the faculty sponsor and the IDM advisor in advance.

Is there anything else I need to know?

The IDMajor / IDMinor is located and has its core in UVM's College of Arts and Sciences. It is the student's responsibility, in collaboration with the sponsor, to demonstrate that:

1. the IDM does not duplicate an existing major or minor at UVM, or represent an academically less rigorous version of it, either outside of or in CAS;

2. the student cannot reasonably pursue a similar minor/major at UVM outside of CAS;

3. the student can reasonably meet the prerequisites for taking the proposed courses; and,

4. courses are planned carefully, in consultation with the relevant departments, recognizing that some courses listed in the catalog are not offered on a regular basis, and those that are may not be offered in a particular semester.

Together, all courses must form a coherent whole. Given the typically unique nature of each proposed major or minor, the approval or rejection of a past IDMajor/IDMinor shall not be treated as a precedent for the approval or rejection of a current proposal concerning the same or a similar topics.

 

Apply for an ID major or Minor:

Application Instructions for ID Major

The Individually Designed Major is a non-departmental, interdisciplinary major for those students of the College of Arts and Sciences whose academic interests are not met by the major programs currently offered in the College. It is not the intention of the College that such a special major be a program of narrow professional training. Rather, the IDM must lead to an intensive investigation of some broad area of human knowledge which is not presently defined by a single departmental discipline.


General Procedure

A. The student, in consultation with a faculty member who agrees to act as the student's sponsor, prepares a proposal for an IDM, outlining a course of study. Proposals should be approved before the end of the candidate's junior year.  Students are encouraged to submit their proposal as early as possible in their college career, but no later than four weeks prior to the last day of classes during the final term of the applicant’s junior year.

B. The proposed course plan must be submitted to the Associate Dean of CAS in charge of IDMs. If the plan is approved, the faculty sponsor supervises the student; however, the student is responsible for assuring that the program plan is carried out. All changes must be approved by the Associate Dean in charge of IDMs in advance. Alternate courses may be used to replace their corresponding courses in the core or electives list without additional approval.

C. The faculty sponsor will assume the responsibility for advising and approving the remainder of the student's courses for the last two years. In the case of an Individually Designed Major, the sponsor will see that the student, where appropriate, has the opportunity to take College or Departmental Honors.

D. For purposes of representation in University governance or other University activities, the student’s IDM shall be considered as a major or minor in the department of the faculty sponsor; in the case of an ID Major, the student shall be considered a member of the faculty sponsor's department.

Requirements

An Individually Designed Major (IDM) must consist of at least 36 and no more than 45 credit hours in the College of Arts & Sciences of which at least 18 must be at or above the 100 level (including at least six at the 200 level). The proposal must include 18 hours of required core courses at the 100 level or above which are integral to the idea of the major. These 18 hours must include a 3-credit senior project, in which the student submits to a Committee of three or more professors a paper or an equivalent project that demonstrates the essential coherence of the IDM. The evaluation Committee will include the student's advisor and at least one representative from another academic department with courses included in the core of the IDM. A 6-credit College Honors project may be substituted for this tutorial requirement. The balance of the major requirements is to be chosen from a longer approved list of ancillary courses. No more than 6 hours of Readings and Research may be applied toward the completion of an IDM.

Proposals for an individually designed major program must include the following and be submitted to the IDM Director:

1. A completed application form.

2. An essay by the applicant explaining the aims and purposes of the proposed program and how the program's curriculum will enable the student to meet those goals. The curricular coherence of the program of study and each course’s contribution to it must be discussed. This statement represents the most important part of the proposal and may be rejected if not carefully formulated and presented.

3. A supporting letter from the faculty member in CAS who will supervise the proposal program.

Note: Any change in an approved program must be approved in advance by the Academic Studies Committee.

Application Instructions for IDM Minor

The Individually Designed Minor is a non-departmental, interdisciplinary minor for those B.A. and B.S. candidates whose academic interests are not met by the minor programs currently available. An ID Minor should not consist of a grouping of loosely associated courses; rather the ID Minor should be a carefully crafted curriculum allowing the student to concentrate in a unique area of study. The course of study for an ID Minor should constitute a coherent and intensive concentration of courses consistent with the philosophy underlying liberal education. No more than six credits hours in the proposed ID Minor may be outside the College of Arts and Sciences.  It is not the intention of the college that such a special minor be a program of narrow professional training.

General Procedure

A. The student, in consultation with a faculty member who agrees to act as the student's sponsor, prepares a proposal for an IDM, outlining a course of study. Proposals should be approved before the end of the candidate's junior year.  Students are encouraged to submit their proposal as early as possible in their college career, but no later than four weeks prior to the last day of classes during the final term of the applicant’s junior year.

B. The proposed course plan must be submitted to the Associate Dean of CAS in charge of IDMs. If the plan is approved, the faculty sponsor supervises the student; however, the student is responsible for assuring that the program plan is carried out. All changes must be approved by the Associate Dean in charge of IDMs in advance. Alternate courses may be used to replace their corresponding courses in the core or electives list without additional approval.

C. The faculty sponsor will assume the responsibility for advising and approving the remainder of the student's courses for the last two years. In the case of an Individually Designed Major, the sponsor will see that the student, where appropriate, has the opportunity to take College or Departmental Honors.

D. For purposes of representation in University governance or other University activities, the student’s IDM shall be considered as a major or minor in the department of the faculty sponsor; in the case of an ID Major, the student shall be considered a member of the faculty sponsor's department.

Requirements

Proposals for an individually designed minor must include the following and be submitted to the IDM Director in electronic form (email attachment) and one hard copy.

1. A completed application form.

2. An essay by the applicant explaining the aims and purposes of the proposed program and how the program's curriculum will enable the student to meet those goals. The curricular coherence of the program of study and each course’s contribution to it must be discussed. This statement represents the most important part of the proposal and may be rejected if not carefully formulated and presented.

3. A supporting letter from the faculty member in CAS who will supervise the proposal program.

Note: Any change in an approved program must be approved in advance by the Academic Studies Committee.

Application Form: Independent Major

Application Form: Independent Minor

 

Application Form: Independent Major

Application Form: Independent Minor

Questions about Individually Designed Majors or Minors?

Please contact the IDM advisor of the Academic Studies Committee.

Abigail McGowan, Associate Dean
E-mail: idmcas@uvm.edu

 

Jamie Benson

Creating his own path in emergency medicine policy

Senior Jamie Benson’s 2019 summer activities grew out of an internship with the Vermont Department of Health he completed during his gap year, after high school. He's back working at the department, this time in the Division of Emergency Preparedness, Response & Injury Prevention office in Burlington. Benson has long been interested in emergency medicine research and policy issues surrounding patient outcomes in Vermont’s rural trauma system. He volunteered as an advanced EMT for the ambulance service in his home town of Waterbury, Vt., and as a Wilderness EMT with the Waterbury Backcountry Rescue Team. 

Read more about Jamie's major

Peter Ackerman

Exploring where the disciplines overlap

Peter Ackerman ’19 earned a degree in film & television studies at UVM. For his minor, he wanted to explore ways in which human knowledge and tradition are based on deep connections in nature. While there is no specific minor for this niche at UVM, Ackerman has developed his own self-designed “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK) minor at UVM.

Read more about Peter's major

 

Dakota

Charting her own course

An explorer by nature, Dakota Hanke-Ledwith '20 of Belfast, Maine, brought a wide range of interests and experiences to unpack at UVM. “I came to UVM as undecided. Looking back I’m glad I took my time,” she says. “The first two years here gave me the time and space to explore and build a major around all the things I’m passionate about.”

Read more about Dakota's major