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What is the Interdisciplinary Major Program?

The Interdisciplinary Major Program offers students with unusual interests, superior ability, and exceptional self-discipline the opportunity to design an individual program of study instead of pursuing a regular department major. 

The program hopes to attract proposals that show creativity, novel approaches to learning, and experimentation, but it does insist that the applicant be able to designate clearly a definite field of study which falls within the liberal arts and sciences. Arts Administration, Medical Ethics, Psychobiology, Irish Studies, Physical Anthropology, and Philosophical Psychology are examples of the kinds of programs that are acceptable. There are, of course, many others. 

What are the requirements of the Interdisciplinary Major Program?

The IMP requires 30 credits of coursework in addition to a thesis.  

Required courses are IMP 4970 (fall) and IMP 4971 (spring). 

A 3.400 minimum cumulative grade-point average is required for admission to the program.

How do I determine my eligibility?

The program is a Distinguished Majors Program and requires a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.4. Students generally apply in their third or fourth semester. Proposals made after the fifth semester cannot be considered. Students whose projects can be completed through regular departmental or interdepartmental majors will be asked to apply to those programs.

Where do I start if I want to develop an Interdisciplinary Major?

Successful applicants must demonstrate that the College has sufficient resources to support the proposal. Toward this end, you are asked to list thirty credits of course work (normally 3000-level and above), drawn from three different departments of the College that will form your curriculum. Next, you should discuss the project with several members of the faculty in those departments. To apply, you must secure the sponsorship of your proposal from (full-time) faculty members from each department as well as their agreement to serve as your mentor. Finally, all IMP students must agree to write a year-long thesis, worth six credit hours, in their fourth year. Three of the sponsors must agree to direct, read and grade this work.

I’ve completed the preliminary steps. How do I apply?

If you have laid the groundwork described above and your plans are firm, make an appointment to meet with Shawn Lyons, the program Chair in Monroe Hall. To apply for the program you must have, along with the Interdisciplinary Major Program application, a written proposal outlining your project, a list of courses related to your field with a total of 30 credit hours, and a current transcript. Upon receiving an offer of admission to the program, you must submit a Declaration of Major Form approved by one of your faculty sponsors.

Advice and Considerations for Applicants

Program Goals

The IMP is authorized only for students who cannot attain their goals through a conventional major. Most departments require 24-30 hours in any department you choose. With this flexibility, most students simply do not need an Interdisciplinary major but can major in one or two departments and still complete courses in another.


Some proposals are inadequately defined, either too small or too large: the highly specialized study of a very narrow area will not be useful to your growth; a very broad project will be unfocused or will overwhelm you.

Course Selection

Be sure to examine the course offerings very carefully and consult with your instructors in advance. A successful application shows diligence in course selection and includes all essential courses—a key indicator of the independence needed to successfully complete the IMP.

Historical Perspective

The IMP committee believes that many modern problems in the humanities and the social sciences cannot be fruitfully examined without some sense of history. (You should consider courses in intellectual, social, and cultural history within the Department of History.)

Non-Academic Goals

The emphasis in your major must be on a liberal arts education (rather freely interpreted) and not on a vocational objective. Experience has demonstrated that "pre-law," "pre-medical," or "pre-business" programs may be superficially attractive, but they do not really function well since they are career goals rather than self-contained ends in themselves. They remain unfocused because they are ultimately vague.

Echols Scholars

Students in the Echols Scholars Program may apply for the Echols Interdisciplinary Program. For more information, please visit the Echols Scholars website.

Guidance for Students in the Interdisciplinary Major Program

Senior Thesis

The thesis is a two-semester project with a total of six semester credit hours. You must register in your last two semesters for IMP 4970 (fall) and IMP 4971 (spring), respectively.


The Interdisciplinary Major Committee sees the senior thesis as a project in which the student has a free choice of subject area and methodology. It should certainly go beyond, or perhaps be outside, any course given. Although the student may develop materials already considered, the senior thesis should be viewed as an opportunity to examine an area not previously treated in the depth desired.

The thesis should be a full exploration: ideally, the student should strive to know everything in the subject area. That exploration should, furthermore, take place over an extended period of time so that ideas can mature. Paradoxically, however, the thesis is a demonstration of the difficulty in fully developing a limited and well-defined area: there is never enough time or energy to answer all the questions implicit in a problem.


In your seventh semester, each student must enroll in IMP 4970 for three hours’ credit. Since the thesis is a major undertaking, differing from the familiar term paper, both in quantity and quality, it is imperative that you plan your project carefully. Of critical importance is close and frequent contact with your readers. You should consult with them at each major step: definition of a topic, initial readings and preliminary research, formulation of a hypothesis, rough outline, detailed outline and, finally, exposition of your research.

Completing the Thesis

In the last semester, each student must enroll in IMP 4971 for three credits. At this time, you will revise the preliminary draft, making appropriate changes suggested by your readers, and concentrate on producing a polished final draft of your project.

The design of the senior thesis is up to the student and the three readers. Essentially the student serves as the chair of the three-person group; the group will decide on the appropriate shape and length of the project. Given the wide diversity of the program, it is impractical to suggest any uniform size or method. For the social sciences and humanities, normally we would be thinking in terms of 50 to 60 pages.

Before an evaluation form is submitted to readers, you must submit an original copy of the thesis, in a binder, to Mr. Lyons. This non-returnable copy becomes a part of the thesis library, and will be available to faculty as well as other students.


The final thesis must be submitted to readers for evaluation--and to the Program chair--no later than thirty days before the beginning of the examination period. Plan ahead: the costs and time required for typing and photocopying need to be anticipated. Generally the date in which senior theses are due in spring semesters has been April 4 or 5; your readers may allow you flexibility in meeting this date so long as this flexibility will not effect any delay in the readers' forwarding their evaluations and recommended grade to Dean Lyons, the Program Chair. These must be received by the Dean prior to the first day of semester final examinations. Any extension of this deadline must be via written request of the student and written approval of both readers, and subject to the final approval of Mr. Lyons.

The IMP Board will meet once each semester. To have a hearing, applications must be submitted to Mr. Lyons by November 15 for the first semester; April 17 for the second.

Grading Procedures

Your two readers need to submit a mutually decided upon grade to Mr. Lyons at the end of your eighth and final semester.

Last updated: June 4, 2024
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