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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

CIS: 'Do-it-yourself' majors

By Jared Wall
Staff Writer

Friday, October 10, 2003

The Center for Integrative Studies (CIS) is a program dedicated to promoting diverse ideas at St. Olaf. In this department, located on the sixth floor of Holland Hall, students can talk with advisors about creating their own majors.

Why create a major, students may ask? A program that allows students to make their own major allows more academic freedom. Smaller private colleges cannotcompete with large universities for class diversity. By allowing students to name and create their own majors, they become more active in their educations. They are the architects and products of their own educations, and work toward predetermined goals.

Students interested in a major not currently offered by St. Olaf, must meet with a CIS advisor. The advisor generally talks through what the students believes his/her majors should be, and why it fits the student better than the established majors. Students must present sound reasoning as to why their newly created majors are better than the majors already established. They must submit a four–year plan detailing which classes their majors would consist of, as well as a tentative list of General Education courses (no, nobody can get out of those). Students must be able to describe why their proposed majors would make them more well–rounded citizens, how themajors define them as individuals, and how the majors adhere to the definition of a liberal arts school. The majors must also be suitable for St. Olaf, adhering to the academic and ethical values of the college. In order for majors to be suitable, St. Olaf must have the classes to support it – for instance, auto mechanic would hardly be a valid choice.

Aside from submitting a multiple page, detailed description of the proposed major and meeting with various faculty and CIS board members, students must draw out plans with David Booth, the CIS director, about long-term senior seminar projects. The projects vary from major to major, but ultimately conclude the majors, integrating all that students have learned into finished products. Students are required to submit detailed papers about the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s and why’s of the senior seminar, as well, and why and if it worked for them.

Susan Carlson, CIS program coordinator said, “The senior project forces you to lay out long and short term goals, and is something that carries forward whether someone goes on to grad school, or on to a job in the ‘real world.’” Helping students define, motivate, and apply themselves some of the goals of the CIS.

Students may ask themselves if making their own majors is a favorable option when compared to students who have previously established majors. When CIS students create their own majors, they are showing initiative – grad schools pay attention to this. It proves that students know what they want, and are willing to go out and work for it.

In the last two years, St. Olaf graduated 28 students who chose to create their own majors. The demand for the CIS option is not overwhelming, but it exists, and students should know that there is a program fashioned to support their ideals and interests.

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