Independent Majors

Here are some resources for both students and faculty regarding Independent Majors:

Independent Major Proposal Checklist

Independent Major Guidelines

Independent Major Proposal Application DocuSign

Independent Major Curriculum Guide (to be completed with completed past courses, as well as proposed future courses)

SAMPLE Excel Formatted Comparison Chart

SAMPLE Narrative

SAMPLE Bibliography

Independent Major Deadline for 2020-2021 Academic Year: 5 PM, Monday, February 1st, 2021

If you would like other examples of documents or have any other questions, please feel free to email Sam Cole (colesa@berea.edu) or Scott Steele (scott_steele@berea.edu). Please note that students who plan to declare an Independent Major during the course of a year should attend one of the two yearly Independent Major Mandatory Information Sessions. Emails about these sessions will be sent out a week in advance of the session. For 2020-2021, the mandatory sessions is set for the following time/location:

2020-2021 Mandatory Session: Monday, September 28th from 6-7 PM via Zoom

If students cannot make it to either of these sessions due to scheduling issues, they may contact Sam Cole or Scott Steele to set-up an appointment later in the semester or to learn about session alternative dates and times.

An Independent Major is an option available to students who wish to pursue a field of study that cannot be met through an established Berea College major department. Students are free to propose majors, provided they meet the criteria in the Catalog’s Definition of a Major. While this list is not exhaustive, some examples of previously approved independent majors are: Appalachian Studies, Classical Studies or Classical Civilizations, and Sustainable Community Development.

At least one term prior to when they plan to declare the major and submit their proposal, students interested in an Independent Major should talk with the Teaching Faculty members they would like to have as their primary and secondary Independent Major advisors. (Each advisor must be above the rank of instructor and a member of the Teaching Faculty from one of the departments with significant course work included in the proposed major curriculum. Normally, the primary advisor would be from the academic department in which the greatest number of courses would be taken. The secondary advisor should be chosen to provide the student with guidance in an area related to the field of study.).

To propose an Independent Major, students develop a rationale outlining and explaining their goals (career, educational, etc.) for the proposed Independent Major and why none of the existing majors (alone or in conjunction with other majors and minors) in the Berea College Catalog will meet their specific goals. Students explore the Independent Major by looking at other accredited four-year institutions of higher education and finding approved undergraduate majors in the student’s proposed field of study. These majors will be used as the model for the Berea College Independent Major. Using the list of courses/experiences required at each of the other schools, and in consultation with the primary and secondary Independent Major advisors, a tentative curriculum is developed based on offerings available to Berea students. Students then prepare a comparison chart for the other school’s department and their proposed Independent Major at Berea. Students should prepare a narrative to go with the charts and, wherever the proposed plan deviates from the major being used as a model, students must explain their reasoning for the change(s).

Using the latest information available concerning when courses will be offered (see course sequencing tables in the Berea College Catalog and consult with Department Chairs), prepare a Curriculum Plan showing how the degree will be completed in their current and remaining terms. This Curriculum Plan must be reviewed and approved by the Independent Major advisors. Additional approvals for the curriculum itself and the title of the Independent Major must be obtained from the Chairs of all departments in which two or more courses in the major are required (including core, capstone, and collateral courses). The student then meets with a College reference librarian to assess available resources for the Independent Major curriculum. The student also will prepare a list of other resources (people, centers, institutions, museums, etc.) available to the student to support the proposed major. The student and Independent Major advisors all must sign the cover sheet after careful review of the completed proposal.

Completed proposals with all required signatures are submitted by the deadline each regular term to the Associate Vice President and Dean of Curriculum and Student Success (located in Suite 320, Lincoln Hall), liaison to the Academic Program Council (APC). The Council and/or Associate Vice President and Dean of Curriculum and Student Success may accept, reject, or request that the student modify and resubmit the proposal. If approved, copies of the final version are sent to the student and the Independent Major advisors and the original is kept in the student’s file in the Office of the Registrar.

Proposals are subject to the following guidelines:

  1. For students declaring an Independent major as their primary degree area, the online declaration of major and the completed Independent Major proposal must be submitted by the regular-term deadlines set by the Office of the Registrar. Students who are required to declare a major will receive notification early in the Fall or Spring term in which the student will accumulate fifteen (15) course creditsNote: Preparation of a completed proposal can take months and should begin in the regular term prior to when the student intends to declare the Independent Major.
  2. For second majors or those wishing to change their primary major, proposals must be submitted by the regular-term deadline set by the Office of the Registrar.
  3. The student must obtain approval from the Associate Vice President and Dean of Curriculum and Student Success if the proposed Independent Major will require that the student’s College career be more than eight regular terms (including transfer terms). To obtain approval for an extension, the student must complete the Request for an Extension of Terms paperwork explaining the need for additional terms in the proposal materials and submit it along with the Independent Major proposal. (The Office of Academic Services will coordinate the approval of both the major and the extension.)
  4. The Associate Vice President and Dean of Curriculum and Student Success will serve as the Department Chair for all Independent Majors.

In addition to the above documentation, completed Independent Major applications must include the following:

  • Statement describing your educational and/or career goals and the rationale explaining why no established major at Berea College meets your educational needs/goals.
  • Narrative and a Comparison Chart for majors at another school on which the Independent Major has been modeled (with attached copies of the Catalog information from the other school).
  • List of on- and off-campus resources (including people, institutions, etc.) accessible to you in this area of study (with contact information).
  • Bibliography of print and electronic resources available to you (completed with the help of Ed Poston, Reference and Bibliographic Instruction Librarian).
  • Completed Independent Major Curriculum Guide (plus guides for any other major you plan to declare or have declared). Be sure to consult your MyBerea Degree Evaluation to fill out the General Education requirements.
  • Curriculum Plan for all in-progress and future coursework.