- Bachelor in General Studies
- Joint Degree
- Choosing a Major
The first step in thinking about an Individualized Major Program is to get a firm grasp on your educational goals. What issues are you most interested in studying? Why are you interested? How did you become interested in this topic? In what ways is the topic not covered by existing majors or minors? How does the proposed course of study relate to the life and world you intend to create?
The next step is to investigate the best way to accomplish these goals within the LSA curriculum. In making your plans, keep in mind that your LSA major is not identical with your LSA degree as a whole. Your major is only one of your degree requirements and typically comprises no more than 30-35% of your total curriculum. Moreover, your total education at U-M is more than just your LSA curriculum. Much of what you learn comes from co-curricular activities such as research, internships, volunteering, working with clubs and organizations, etc. In designing an Individualized Major Program, as in choosing any other major, you are only designing one part of your overall educational plan.
Keeping this in mind, look through the list of existing LSA majors and minors. Which are closest to your own educational goals? Could your goals be achieved through some combination of existing programs (e.g., a double major, a major plus a minor, or a major plus a well-chosen set of electives)? The default assumption is that students should choose a combination of existing LSA majors and minors whenever possible, but sometimes these combinations are not feasible or come with opportunity costs that make proposing an Individualized Major Program a better choice. The program advisor can help you sort out these questions.
Also keep in mind that many LSA majors offer a high degree of flexibility in choosing elective or cognate courses, allowing you to tailor the existing majors to your specific interests. Some, such as the Residential College’s Social Theory and Practice major (now open to all LSA students), include a substantial self-designed unit - essentially a small IMP included in a larger major framework.
To be approved by the Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies, Individualized Major Program proposals must fall within the basic parameters of other approved LSA majors. They should have an appropriate scope, being neither too narrow nor too broad. A helpful way to gauge the scope of your proposed program of study is to think about its title and compare this with existing programs. Consider, for example, "Human Trafficking Between North Africa and Europe" -- the scope of this proposal is too narrow. It would be appropriate as a senior thesis, but not as a plan for the major. A more appropriate proposal might be something like "International Justice," which places human trafficking within the larger question of human rights, refugee and immigration policy, etc. However, a student proposing an Individualized Major Program with this title should also take a close look at the International Studies major options to see if their goals might best be achieved through that interdisciplinary program.
An Individualized Major Program proposal must also fit within the liberal arts pedagogical philosophy of the College. Proposals that are narrowly pre-professional in focus (e.g., those that prepare a student to pursue just one particular career track) are not typically approved. Rather, proposals should be issues-based investigations of a particular field of inquiry. Proposed curricula are limited to a maximum of 6 non-LSA credits. In other words, of the 34 minimum required credits for an IMP, at least 28 must be LSA credits.
Similarly, although students are strongly encouraged to include service learning and fieldwork opportunities in their program curricula, these must be grounded in classroom-based coursework that introduces them to the history of a topic, relevant theoretical issues, appropriate methodologies and research techniques, etc. Although there is not a formal limit, most approved programs have no more than 8 credits of experiential coursework in their curriculum proposals.
If your proposed curriculum doesn't coalesce around a single focal issue, or if you'd like to include more than 6 credits of non-LSA coursework, you may want to investigate the Bachelors in General Studies program.
Finally, students should be aware that there is more than one Individualized Major Program in LSA. Students who know they want to pursue an Honors IMP should make an appointment to meet with Donna Wessel-Walker, associate director of the LSA Honors Program. Students in the Residential College will want to talk with their RC academic advisor about RC-IMP.