Individually Designed Major

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Program Overview

For qualified undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences, Fairfield University gives the unique opportunity to create and pursue a multifaceted, collaborative major not currently offered by the College. The Individually Designed Major allows you to develop an academic program to enable you to pursue a career path that coincides with your ambitions, values and passions. Our faculty guide students to ensure they’re ready to take the next step in their lives —whether that be gaining meaningful employment, or furthering their studies at a graduate or professional school.

Students have the liberty to choose their courses, but the path must follow a true major and include an appropriate number of upper division courses. It cannot merely be a collection of lower division elective courses. The major can, however, be an extension of a presently offered minor, or can be a wholly new subject such as Chinese Studies, Latin American Culture or Social Justice.

Designing your own major requires a senior project that pulls together and showcases the range of your studies. You are also required to maintain a portfolio to review, reflect, self-assess and document the progress made throughout your experience. Upon graduation, you will submit a final assessment of your major to a review panel.

Requirements & Curriculum

The Individually Designed Major allows qualified students in the College of Arts and Sciences, under appropriate direction, to design and pursue an interdisciplinary major presently not available in the College.

The Individually Designed Major is what its name implies, a major designed by a student. The major must be a true major, with a progression of courses, including an appropriate number of advanced courses. It cannot be a simple collection of introductory courses in several disciplines. The major may be an extension of a presently existing interdisciplinary minor, or it may be a wholly new subject (e.g. Nineteenth-Century Europe). Courses already taken may be included in the major, but the Individually Designed Major should be, as a whole, a planned endeavor, not simply the pulling together of courses already taken.

Required Courses

Ten (10) courses minimum.
The major must be truly interdisciplinary. While there may be a primary department, at least four (4) courses must be taken outside that department.
The major requires a suitable number of advanced courses.
The major also requires a senior project (seminar, capstone course, supervised lab, or whatever is appropriate for the relevant disciplines). The purpose of this project is to allow students to pull together the multiple threads of the interdisciplinary major.
The major requires that the student maintain a portfolio for the purpose of a reflective review and self-assessment of the progress and changes in direction, if any, of the major. The student will use these materials as part of a progress review with advisors at least once a semester. The student must also submit a final assessment of the major to the Individually Designed Major Committee as a requirement for graduation.
An overall GPA of at least 3.0 at the time of application with appropriate direction from at least two faculty advisors.
The application form must be submitted no later than the second semester of your second year. The application is to be made early enough for the application process to be completed before pre- registration for the fall semester.

Stag Spotlight

Jessica Caputo

Class of '15

Get to Know Jessica

Undergrad Degree: Individually designed major in Behavioral Neuroscience
Hometown: North Salem, NY
Extracurricular Activities: Student Phonathon, Stag Explorer and Peer Mediator, Peer Conduct Board

Describe a project done through the program that you are particularly proud of.

Through my program, I was able to present research at the Society for Neuroscience, a conference with 35,000 other neuroscientists. Presenting at one of the largest conferences in the field was incredible! My research explored an animal model for autism and the impacts on behaviors in male rats from birth to middle-age. I was able to work on studying the effects of prenatal exposure to an anti-seizure medication with Dr. Shannon Harding for two semesters as well as over the summer. I was exposed to behavioral tests, surgeries, exposure to handling animals, as well as the skills to critique journal articles and how to design an experiment. Dr. Harding and Chantini Pyatt explained every aspect of the animal study and exposed me all facets of animal research. Later, I was able to design my own study with the females based upon our findings. In addition to this conference, I was also able to attend several others and present at one smaller conference as well. 

Describe a favorite course and how it helped your academic growth?

One of my favorite courses was "Hormones and Behavior." It helped my academic growth by taking aspects of several parts of the course and being able to integrate them into one via critical thinking. It also taught me how to study more effectively. The course focused on how hormones impact human behavior and how hormones regulate behaviors. It convinced me that working in the field of behavioral neuroendocrinology was something that I definitely wanted to pursue. 

More About the Individually Designed Major

Life After Fairfield

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Life After Fairfield

Students who graduate with an Individually Designed Major at Fairfield University go on to develop careers as unique and personalized as they are. The process of designing your own major takes creativity and leadership, two highly marketable skills in today's challenging workplace.

Learn how Fairfield's Career Services can support your post-graduate goals, and how our tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

Visit the Career Center

Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

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Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

As a Jesuit, Catholic university, Fairfield is dedicated to diversity and inclusion; to radical hospitality in service of racial, social, and economic justice.

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The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff and budding scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the dedicated members of our Individually Designed Major program.

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