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Self-design majors create variety for students

By Hannah Fakhrzadeh

Struggling to decide on a major at the College? No problem.

The Self-Design Major Committee allows students to create their own major with the help of advisers. Alongside a faculty member, students can plan out their major course by course.

English Professor Jo Carney explained the process.

Students must file paperwork to design their own major. (Photo Courtesy of Kristen Capano)

“After we agree on a design and curriculum, the student submits a proposal to the Self-Design Major Committee for approval,” Carney said.

A self-designed major is not as structured as a traditional major because it allows students flexibility when it comes to the courses they choose to take. A self-designed major allows students to broaden their knowledge on topics that they may not have had the chance to explore if they had chosen a traditional major.

“Self-designing a major has allowed me to take a wide variety of courses,” said Jackie Delaney, a former member of The Signal staff and a junior English and publishing and editing major. “I’ve been able to take classes that I would not have normally taken if I was in a specific major or minor.”

Within her publishing and editing major, Delaney took a variety of courses in communications, English, creative writing and journalism.

Delaney never imagined designing her own major, but now she loves the path she chose.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue a degree in English, but it wasn’t until I came to the College that I realized I could design my own major alongside English,” she said.

Kristen Capano, a junior English and publishing and editing major, wasn’t aware that the self-design path was a possibility when she first came to the College.

Thanks to fellow students, Capano made the decision to design her own major.

“About halfway through my sophomore year, I met a few upperclassmen who were in the program and convinced me to join,” Capano said. “My main concern was, ‘What if I’m limiting myself to something too specific?’ But I decided if you know what you want to do and have a passion for it, then you should take the leap.”

Carney agrees with Capano and believes students should choose the self-design path, especially those who attend a liberal arts college.

“Students who take the initiative to design a major around an area of academic interest are demonstrating the best of a liberal arts mission: to explore an area of intellectual curiosity,” Carney said. “The second reason is more pragmatic. (Self-designed majors) are often a path to professional situations and employment post-college.”

Capano said the program is nothing like what she expected. In fact, Capano was uneasy when she initially thought about designing her major.

“The thought of (designing my own major) intimidated me because I thought it was going to be a long, painful process that would haunt me throughout my college career and be finalized just in time for graduation,” Capano said. “But, with the help of my adviser, the progression became much less stressful and even a little fun.”

While self-designing your own major is a lot of work, it can be extremely rewarding. Maria Printon, a senior cognitive science major, advises students to ensure a self-designed major is their best option before finalizing the details.

“It’s a lot of work,” Printon said. “Nonetheless, it is very rewarding because you’re designing your own path of study. Nobody has ever done exactly what you’re doing, and that’s a huge accomplishment.”

Capano agreed.

“Make sure you know what you want to do. It’s a lot of work and stress to decide later on that you’d rather work in a different field,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s a very rewarding experience… and it’s also pretty cool to be the only one in the College with your exact major.”

Capano also recommended the self-design program for students who feel their education may be lacking something essential for their desired career path.

“The people are so kind and just want to see you succeed,” she said. “I found my home in the self-design department.”


  1. Love it Hannah Fakhrzadeh! Because most students today have no idea what they really want to do and this gives them an opportunity to put together a program that will work for them now and in the future.


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