September 27, 2020

Senior takes education into his own hands

On March 7, the first self-designed major at the College was officially approved by the provost of Academic Affairs. Shaum Kabadi, a senior, is now officially a self-designed biochemistry major.

The College’s Self-Designed Major BA Program was approved by the New Jersey Presidents Council last fall. A self-designed major enables students to put together a course of studies on their own, especially interdisciplinary or greater-depth studies, that cannot be accommodated by existing degree programs.

“The self-designed major has long been a hallmark of superior colleges and universities,” Steve Klug, professor of biology and co-chair of the Self-Designed Programs Committee, said. Institutions such as Brown University, Northwestern University and Cornell University offer similar programs.

An outline of the program description says that to be eligible, a student must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and submit a proposal no later than the beginning of junior year. A proposal includes a statement of justification and goal of the major, a list of at least 12 courses – half of which are 300-400 level courses – and a description of a senior capstone project that unifies the study. Students also need to secure advisors from the related departments. After an interview and approval by the Self-Designed Major Committee, a self-designed major can officially be recognized.

Kabadi’s proposed major consists of 22 core courses from both the biology and chemistry departments.

Following endorsements by the chemistry and biology chairs and the Self-Designed Major Committee, the proposal was sent to the Committee of Academic Programs and eventually presented by College President R. Barbara Gitenstein to the Council of State College Presidents.

“I think if anyone has a real passion for some major, then it is possible to self-design it. As long as the intentions are genuine, that someone is not trying to create a major with a bunch of easy classes, it will go through,” Kabadi said.

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