Is proposing an individualized major worth it?
I cannot answer this for you.
The idea of “worth” has variable and personal meanings. For some students, ‘Is it worth it?’ really begs the question of “Is the involved process of building an IMP proposal worth my time?” As the program advisor, I will provide advice on how similar proposals relate to yours; however, I can give no guarantees of your proposal being accepted. There is an element of risk involved in any proposal-based effort, and you never know unless you try.
I do, however, think there is value in clearly articulating your intellectual curiosities. In the event that your proposal is denied, you’ll have taken the time to vet your ideas which may help with later thesis topics, graduate school applications, or job interviews when someone asks about your central intellectual curiosities.
You must determine, for yourself, what this process is ‘worth.’
How many current IMP students are there?
Compared to most other majors in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA), the number of IMP students is small. The IMP was never intended to be a large program.
At a large Research I university where the numbers of majors and minors are increasing, it has become even more challenging for students to propose majors beyond what already exists.
Despite the increasing field of alternatives, the IMP still exists an opportunity for you to critique existing major and minor curricula and propose novel ways to study and explore a central question, topic, issue, or social problem.
May I propose a business-focused IMP?
You may propose what ever you like, but business-focused IMPs are categorically denied.
Why, you may ask:
- Proposals predicated on the accumulation of skill-based courses for a specific career are pre-professionally focused, and do not reflect the values of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts as a liberal arts college.
- The IMP is intended as an option for students to craft an interdisciplinary, liberal arts major, with a curriculum that permits only 6 non-LSA credits in a curriculum of at least 34 upper level credits. Such a limit would not allow students to include many courses from the Ross School of Business.
- Lastly, the faculty recommenders who endorse the student’s proposal, and later become faculty mentors, must have at least a partial appointment and teaching responsibilities in an LSA department (excluding University Courses and Applied Liberal Arts courses.)
Students wanting skill acquisition and career preparation, should consider applying to the Ross Minor in Business, or the Minor or Program in Entrepreneurship, or take select Ross courses as a LSA student. Such students should also consider Business through LSA (BxLSA) events and programming provided by LSA advising, which helps students in existing LSA majors prepare for a career in business.
May I propose an IMP on "Public Health?"
You may propose anything, but justifying a “Public Health” IMP is becoming more challenging for several reasons:
- The U-M School of Public Health will be accepting applications from LSA students for a sophomore transfer starting in fall 2016; when this option becomes available all students interested in a “Public Health major” should pursue the sophomore transfer to Public Health.
- Furthermore, in the proposal process, students must explain why existing major/minors, or other options, could not help them meet their central learning goals. There are several major and minor options relative to students' interests in Public Health and often these options allow for electives so that students can tailor the minor to their interests.
This is not to say that medicine- or health-related IMPs are an impossiblity, but if interested in this topic, you would be proposing in a field of crowding alternatitves. Your ideas would need to be much more developed than a recasting of PUBHLTH 200 or 350, and focus on a central issue or question in a way significantly unlike the existing health-realted curricular options.
How will an IMP be viewed by graduate programs and employers?
For graduate programs, it would perhaps be best to seek the advice of several faculty or advisors in the undergraduate department that most closely corresponds with the graduate program you are considering. Sometimes a more traditional major is viewed as better preparation for a specific graduate program. Many graduate programs list prerequisite courses or competencies rather than a particular major. Medical schools and law schools, for example, do not seek particular majors, but base their decisions on GPA and test scores, among other things. Ask.
Aside from job recruiters who seize upon particular majors because of the discrete technical skills taught in that major (e.g. Computer Science), most employers are more interested in how you discuss what you have learned through your self-designed major and how that experience contributes to the challenges faced by their institution or business. Again, you should ask someone 'in field' how such a major is received by employers.
Is there life after the IMP?
Many students ask, in various ways, how IMP graduates are viewed by graduate schools, employers, and other external constituencies; however, often the larger question behind this one is “Will I get a job?” or “Will I get into ‘X’ graduate program with a self-designed major?”
While completing an IMP should never be viewed as a Golden Ticket to employment or consideration -- because it is the student’s responsibility to make sense of their educational decisions to schools or employers -- IMP students have landed in some interesting places. Below is a list of some of the recent transitions our IMP graduates have made:
- Animal Outreach Specialist, Fort Worth Zoo - Fort Worth, TX.
- Outreach Coordinator for Jewish United Fund - Chicago, IL
- Ecological Restoration and Volunteer Manager at Golden Gate National Park - Bay Area, CA
- Lead GIS/Data Analyst - Detroit Building Authority
- Government Analytics Advisor at SAS - Los Angeles, California
- Masters of Urban Planning Program - Wayne State University
- Education Coordinator at Planned Parenthood - Detroit, MI
- Google Product Consultant - Bay Area, CA
- Ph. D. Program in Complex Systems - Indiana University
- Masters of Divinity Program - University of Kentucky
- Medical School - University of Michigan
- Medical School - Wayne State
- Masters of Public Health Program - University of Michigan
- Masters of Public Health Program - Brown University