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6 April 2014

Independent majors lack breathing room

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This fall, students can begin creating independent majors, but they should not jump at the thought of majoring in underwater basket weaving just yet.

Given the dozens of existing departments and hundreds of courses offered in the College of Arts and Sciences, there are definitely new options that have never even been considered. However, the breadth of program options will ultimately be limited by the expertise of faculty and spectrum of courses available on this campus.

Pursuing an independent major will require either an above-average familiarity with the university and its faculty,­ or the drive to navigate through the bureaucracy of departments and figure it all out.

Next year, only five students will be able to start pursuing an independent major, and the university is wise to set that limit.

To handle an independent major, you need to be independent. Most sophomores don’t know enough about the faculty and resources at UM, or have a strong enough grasp of their professional ambitions, to be able to craft their own program of study.

Consider an independent study class. To take such a course, a student, at the very least, needs to have established a strong enough relationship with a professor for him or her to be interested in being a mentor throughout the semester. The student also needs to be imaginative enough to come up with something new and  know that the course has never been taught before.

Now multiply the preparation level for that potentially three-credit course, by 10. A 30-credit independent major will take a lot of planning and persistence.

Students may also encounter courses that are offered on a limited basis. Some professors choose to teach a class only in the fall or spring semester, or even on a whim. Unless there’s a way to guarantee when a class will be available, it’s a bad idea to incorporate it into your study track.

We don’t recommend this for everyone. Students should be certain enough about their majors so that a change of heart doesn’t throw them off track for graduation.

You have to know what you want and be sure of it. You also have to know how to get it and be ready to go after it. But for those who are up for the challenge, we are eager to discover what creative study paths you can come up with.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.