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Seeking Faculty Sponsors

Students who successfully propose their own major typically seek input from department advisors and faculty at every stage of the process. This begins in the exploratory phase as they consider existing majors and academic minors.

  • What programs are available in your proposed area of study?
  • What are the goals of these programs? What are their requirements and limitations?
  • What flexibility do they allow?
  • Can you accomplish your goals within the parameters of that program?

In addition to researching the requirements on the major and minors index and departmental websites, you may find it helpful to talk with department advisors about these questions.

The process continues as you begin to draft the statement of intellectual purpose and curriculum proposal. What academic disciplines are most appropriate for this proposed course of study? What are the new trends of interdisciplinary research in this area? What prerequisite courses, skills, or knowledge are required? What courses should I be sure to include in my curriculum proposal? What research and other co-curricular opportunities are available on campus in this area? Are there other faculty members or students working on similar topics or issues? These questions are best addressed to faculty who research and teach in your proposed area of study.

Finally, for the Individualized Major Program proposal itself, students are required to get two recommendations of their proposal from LSA faculty members. Because the Faculty Proposal Review Form compares your curriculum proposal with the existing LSA plan for majors, you need at least two recommendations from faculty with LSA appointments. You can check to see a faculty member’s appointment information by looking her/him up in MCommunity. However, you are certainly encouraged to seek advice and input from non-LSA faculty where appropriate and additional recommendations from non-LSA faculty may be included in the proposal packet.

Note that the questions on the Faculty Proposal Review Form are primarily concerned with your curriculum proposal and not you as a student. Unlike traditional letters of recommendation, you are not limited to faculty with whom you have taken a course or worked on a research project. Rather, you should seek out faculty members who have the best knowledge of the topic you propose to study. Typically these will be the instructors for the core courses in your curriculum proposal, although you may also find it helpful to research faculty biographies on departmental websites.

Since you are proposing an interdisciplinary program, it is important that you get feedback from faculty working in two different academic disciplines. For example, a student proposing an interdisciplinary program on behavioral economics would want at least one recommendation from faculty in the economics and psychology departments.

Proper Etiquette

In all your interactions with faculty it is important to present yourself professionally. Your positive or negative interactions with a faculty member will greatly influence his or her willingness to work with Individualized Major Program students in the future. When emailing an instructor to request a meeting, always use a formal mode of address (Prof. or Dr.) until invited to be informal. Succinctly explain your project and why you would value his or her input. U-M faculty members have numerous demands on their time and are often wary of new commitments. If you are respectful of their time, however, you will usually find them very happy to help with your proposal. Schedule meetings well in advance and make sure that you arrive promptly. If you are seeking preliminary input, do your own research in advance and bring a typed list of questions to the meeting. If you are seeking a recommendation, email a draft of your intellectual statement and curriculum proposal at least a day in advance of the meeting and bring printed copies to the meeting. It may also be helpful to send the link to the faculty sponsor page so that they can see in advance what is required.

Meetings with faculty recommenders should be scheduled at least three weeks ahead of the IMP proposal deadline. Nothing is more likely to alienate a potential faculty mentor than requesting a recommendation the day before the deadline. If you are scrambling to get recommendations at the last minute, it would be better to wait until the next proposal deadline.

Faculty sponsors should email the completed form directly to Tyrone Stewart, IMP Advisor, at