Contract Major

The purpose of a Contract Major is to allow highly motivated students to follow a course of study outside the boundaries of established majors. Students have an opportunity to draw from the wealth of offered courses to develop a major that corresponds to their particular interests and goals.

Pursuit of a Contract Major should begin as early as possible first semester of sophomore year.

Considerations

A Contract Major cannot be pursued in conjunction with another major or concentration.

Alternatives:

  • two majors
  • major + concentration
  • major + coordinate program
  • major + courses of special interest

Identification

A Contract Major is:

  • A coherent study of an interdisciplinary subject not covered by a regularly offered major or concentration, consistent with the liberal arts mission.
  • A cumulative study that moves from an elementary to an advanced level.
  • A course of study that is appropriate for the undergraduate level—not so narrowly defined where it would be considered a graduate level course of study.

A Contract Major cannot consist of minor modifications to an existing major or concentration.

Advising

Unsure about a Contract Major? Take the Contract Major quiz.

Before deciding to pursue a Contract Major, schedule an appointment with Amanda Turner, Contract Major Advisor (CMA) prior to November 15. This advising session will help determine if a Contract Major is a good fit and also serve as an overview to the Contract Major approval process.

Process

  • Secure Faculty Advisors

    You will need to secure three faculty advisors—two official faculty advisors and at least one alternate advisor.

    Speak with full-time faculty from different departments who:

    • specialize in your areas of interest, and
    • are willing to endorse your Contract Major proposal and undertake a central role in supervising its implementation, criticism, evaluation, and ultimate validation.

    To account for faculty leave patterns, either planned or unanticipated, it is important to identify at least one additional faculty member who is willing to act as an alternate advisor.

    Faculty play a critical role for Contract Majors and are in lieu of a major department. They undertake a central role in supervising the implementation, criticism, evaluation, and ultimate validation of the Contract Major. The benefit of a traditional major is having a variety of faculty for guidance and advice. Therefore it is in your best interest to secure multiple faculty advisors when pursuing a Contract Major.

    Schedule Advising Session

    Prior to November 15, schedule an advising session with Amanda Turner, CMA.

    Submit Contract Major Application

    By November 15, submit a Contract Major application—this form declares your intent to officially pursue a Contract Major.

    Develop a Written Proposal

    In conjunction with your faculty advisors, develop a written proposal.

    The proposal should include:

    • Sound and persuasive rationale for proposing a Contract Major
    • Description of the proposed major area of study.
    • Minimum of nine courses to complete the major:
      • Include brief course descriptions for your list of courses.
      • Courses must demonstrate a cumulative study that moves from an elementary to an advanced level (e.g. 200 → 300 → 400 level).
      • One course must be designated a "Capstone" that will be taken senior year—this should be a 400-level course or an independent study.
    • Four alternate courses that could be used to complete the major, in the event some of the originally proposed courses are not offered.
    • If planning to study away, please propose a secondary set of courses based on the program you are considering.

    When mapping out courses to complete the major, we understand that catalogs for future academic years are not available. Please make your best guess! Draw from the wide variety of courses taught in recent years and take into account leave patterns for faculty you may want to work with.

    Please note, rules governing course grades and grade point average apply for entry into and continuation in a Contract Major.

    Here's a Contract Major Proposal template to help you get started.

    Submit First Draft of Proposal

    By February 15, completed first draft of your proposal is due to Amanda Turner, CMA, for review.

    Submit Final Proposal

    By March 15, submit to Amanda Turner, CMA:

    • Final proposal
    • If you are proposing to transform an existing coordinate program into a Contract Major, the chair of that program should submit a statement attesting to the validity of the proposal.
    • Online endorsement forms from faculty advisors.

    Important—there will be no extensions and no exceptions to this deadline!

  • Students pursuing a Contract Major must be highly motivated, possess the ability to work independently, and have the support of two primary faculty advisors, and at least one alternate faculty advisor.

    Advisors must be willing to undertake a central role in supervising the proposed major's implementation, criticism, evaluation, and ultimate validation.

    By March 15, faculty advisors must submit an endorsement of the student and their proposal.

    This endorsement should be approached in the same manner as a formal letter of recommendation.

    Also, when the CEA reviews Contract Major proposals in March, faculty advisors will be invited to address any questions that the committee may have.

  • The Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) reviews and approves Contract Major requests.

    Amanda Turner, CMA, will submit to the CEA:

    • written proposal
    • current academic progress report
    • faculty advisors' endorsement forms
    • other relevant materials, if applicable

    The CEA, after consultation with relevant departments and programs, will vote on individual proposals and notify students and their advisors before the spring registration deadline. In making its decisions, the CEA considers the student’s academic record, the coherence and feasibility of the plan of study, the degree of support expressed by faculty advisors, and if appropriate, chairs.

    If a Contract Major is not approved by the CEA, there is no appeal process.

  • Once approved, during the fall of junior and senior years, Contract Majors should be in touch with faculty advisors and Amanda Turner, CMA, about courses they are taking and general progress in the major.

    Not having a formal department can be difficult—for any issues that may arise Contract Majors should reach out to either the CMA or the Dean's Office for support and guidance.

    Because catalogs are not available to accurately predict course progression at the time a Contract Major proposal is submitted, the expectation is that substitutions will occur. Changes in the courses originally proposed for junior and senior years need to be approved by faculty advisors and the CMA.

    If there are substantial alterations to the major, these changes will need to be approved by the CEA.

  • Honors Requirements

    In addition to completing the required nine courses, a student may elect to pursue a thesis and receive a degree with honors in the Contract Major.

    A Contract Major thesis, which is determined in consultation with faculty advisors, is either:

    One Semester and a Winter Study

    • CMAJ 493 + CMAJ 31, or
    • CMAJ 31 + CMAJ 494

    Full Year

    • CMAJ 493 + CMAJ 31 + CMAJ 494

    Also required, a solid record of honors caliber work, defined as maintaining a B+ average in Contract Major courses.

    Honors Admission

    Contract Majors who intend to write a thesis, and will be studying away spring semester, should submit their intention in proposal form, to faculty advisors by November 15 of junior year.  

    Otherwise, proposals are due April 15 of junior year.

    Admissions to honors depends on assessment by faculty advisors of the

    • qualification of the student, and
    • feasibility of the project.

    Upon admission, select three faculty readers (at least one should be a faculty advisor) in consultation with the CMA. These readers determine highest honors, honors, or no honors.

    Honors Candidacy

    Contract Majors pursuing honors should submit a draft of their thesis to their three readers by January 15. The readers shall determine prior to the start of spring semester of senior year whether the student can continue as an honors candidate.

    Final thesis is due April 15.

    After the thesis has been completed, the work is publicly presented and readers determine highest honors, honors, or no honors.