Individualized major serves students craving options

With advising for the spring semester only a month away, Butler University underclassmen soon will consider what course of action they want to take with their academic futures.

But when the most common major among incoming freshmen is the exploratory studies major, according to Tom Weede, vice president of enrollment management, some students struggle to settle on a path.

Butler University’s  individualized major program gives students the opportunity to pursue a degree in a field of study that might not necessarily fall within one of Butler’s pre-established degree programs.

While being a small, liberal arts college means a smaller variety of majors are available (just over 60, in Butler’s case), it also allows for programs like the individualized major to exist because the smaller size allows greater interconnectivity between the six academic colleges, said Stuart Glennan, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Large state schools like Purdue University, Ohio State University and the University of Illinois offer anywhere between 150 to 200 different majors, but their tremendous sizes prohibit them from managing a program that requires such coordination between colleges like an individualized major does.

Butler’s individualized major program has been in existence for more than 10 years and typically has less than 10 students involved in the program at a given time.

“It tends not to be the best option for a lot of people,” Glennan said.

He said that only about one in four students who show an interest actually end up doing the individualized major track.

Often, a student’s idea for an individualized major will not be approved if an alternative major and minor combination is available.

Although no permanent majors at Butler have come about as a direct result of popular areas of study in individualized majors, they have been used when proposing new majors.

This is the first year Butler is offering the gender, women and sexuality studies major, and the administration used the popularity of gender studies as an individualized major as evidence to support establishing it as a new major.

Individualized majors can range from Chinese and Italian to Egyptology and museum studies. Katie Crowe is a senior political science and Far East Asian studies double major and Chinese language minor.

Even though it required more planning and paperwork than a pre-established major at Butler, Crowe was confident in her decision. Her unique major allowed her to study abroad in China, which then landed her two internships in Washington, D.C., that may lead to future career paths.

“They were very clear about the difficulty of the process,” Crowe said.

She drafted her proposal for her independent major in April of her sophomore year.

“It just takes a lot of meticulous planning,” Crowe said. “It’s so hard to get [majors] approved by the committee.”

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