Some students find that the issues and questions that interest them most are not adequately addressed by a single disciplinary approach, or by a double major, but require methods and knowledge from a variety of fields. In some cases, Winthrop University has already established interdisciplinary programs addressing those interests, such as the Environmental Sciences and Studies Programs or the Integrated Marketing Communication Program. However, some students may be interested in other areas of study that transcend disciplinary boundaries. The Individualized Studies major is intended to provide these students with an opportunity to design a structured and coherent course of study around a “theme.” Students will work with appropriate faculty to ensure that the courses selected adequately address their learning goals and fulfill all requirements.
Choosing An Appropriate Faculty Advisor
It is critical that you identify tenure-track or tenured Winthrop faculty members who are actively involved in teaching or conducting research in the disciplines you are interested in. In order to identify these advisors, talk to professors of the classes that you have previously taken or plan to take in the future. Additionally, consider faculty members that you have a good relationship with or who have provided you with positive feedback on the direction you want to go. If you do not have anyone specific in mind, see who is teaching courses that you are interested in taking.
The Faculty Advisory Committee
Designing an individualized degree program will require you to work collaboratively with three faculty members who will make up your Faculty Advisory Committee. From these three faculty members, you must identify one who will serve as your primary advisor and two additional members who will form the rest of the committee. Your primary advisor must be an Arts and Sciences faculty member. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this degree program, you will need to recruit your advisors from at least two different departments.
Timing of Application
It is your responsibility to begin communicating with your potential advisors as soon as you possibly can. It is likely that your plan will change when they give you feedback. When you have finalized your Statement of Purpose and completed your proposed Plan of Study, you will need to meet with each of your faculty advisors again.
Working With Your Faculty Advisory Committee
In order to be successful within this degree program, you will have to work closely with both your primary advisor and the two other members of the Faculty Advisory Committee. You must meet with the Faculty Advisory Committee before you apply in order to discuss your statement of purpose and your potential Plan of Study. This meeting will be most effective if you bring along an unofficial copy of your transcript and any additional information/materials that you think may be relevant. Collectively, this will help your faculty advisors to see what your goals are for the individualized degree program, what your academic interests and strengths are, and what coursework you have completed to date. The clearer you can be in articulating what it is that you want to do, the easier it will be to get productive feedback from faculty members. Make sure that you do your best work even before you meet with your Faculty Advisory Committee members.
During this first meeting, the feedback you receive from the Faculty Advisory Committee will be most important so come prepared with questions to elicit their thoughts about how to formulate your statement of purpose and Plan of Study. Some potential questions may include:
- Does my statement of purpose effectively convey my plans for my major? Are my goals and motivation for pursuing this individualized degree program clear? Do you have suggestions for revisions?
- Have I included the most relevant courses within my individualized degree program? Are there alternative courses that you think would be beneficial to include in my Plan of Study?
- Do you think that this Plan of Study will help me meet my career goals and/or prepare for graduate school?
In addition to these questions, here are some basic tips for establishing a successful rapport with your Faculty Advisory Committee:
- Communicate effectively with your advisors both via email and in meetings.
- Be punctual.
- Respond to communications in a timely fashion.
- Use office hours as you may find that you achieve better results if you approach your advisor in person and at a time that s/he has set aside for student consultations.
- Be punctual and follow up on any agreements.
- Take ownership of the work that needs to be done to complete this program.
Remember that your relationship with the Faculty Advisory Committee doesn’t end after they approve the Plan of Study. They will continue to be good sources of advice and information as you pursue your studies, choose internships and study abroad programs, and make plans for employment or graduate school.