Guidelines for the Bachelor of Arts &

Bachelor of Sciences in the Special Major

Description of the Special Major guidelines

Application for BA/BS in the Special Major

Checklist for Applcation for BA/BS in the Special Major




The Special Major is designed for undergraduate students whose particular interests, background, or professional objectives are not served by a traditional BA or BS degree program. The purpose of the Special Major is to make available to students who satisfy the prerequisites for the program the opportunity to design, with faculty approval, a flexible interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum. Admission to the Special Major is limited to students whose individualized programs can be organized around a special topic or a cross-disciplinary inquiry that is original and involves work in more than one department. Interested students should contact the Coordinator of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (ITDS), who initiates the screening and application process.

The Special Major is not intended to bypass normal graduation requirements and may not be used to duplicate formally structured undergraduate programs at SSU or other service area institutions. The reason for this restriction is that the Special Major program should be reserved for students whose special interests cross disciplinary lines and find appropriate faculty expertise at Sonoma State University and who cannot find similar programs that are established parts of the curriculum at other institutions in the area.

ATTENTION CREDENTIAL STUDENTS. At the present time, a Special Major cannot be used to satisfy the requirements for a teaching credential program unless the student passes the National Teachers Examination (NTE). For additional information the student should contact the Education Department. As a second major, a Special Major could be a distinct advantage to those with an approved teaching major. By itself, however, it might be too specialized unless it meets the criteria for approved majors commonly taught in the public schools.

CAUTION: This is a unique major that suits individual goals and is personally valuable, but may pose professional obstacles. Career goals and prerequisites for higher degrees should be considered carefully before proceeding with this major.




1. A grade point average of at least 3.0

2 Completion of at least half of your GE requirements

3. Junior status. Ideally, you should have completed at least 60 units but not more than 90 units toward graduation



For a course of study to be considered appropriate for a Special Major, it must meet the following criteria:

1. It must consist of a minimum of 45 units of course work in two or more disciplines.

2. It must consist of at least 31 units of work that are still to be completed at the time the program is approved. The remaining units may include course work that has already been completed, provided it is relevant to your Special Major program. (For exceptions to the 31-unit requirement, see p. 6 below, under Application Requirements)

3. A Special Major must be truly interdisciplinary. It may not be an individually fashioned degree in any single existing discipline.

4. It must be integrated: the course work must be coherent with respect to the program's topic.

5. The course work should consist of an adequate and appropriate distribution of courses in the disciplines involved in the program.

The guidelines that appear below have been developed to assure that these criteria are met and to assist you through the regulations and procedures that pertain to the ITDS Program.




In order to be accepted as a Special Major, you must do the following:

Step 1. Consult with the ITDS Coordinator.

Step 2. Form an Academic Advisory Committee.

Step 3. Complete an application to the ITDS Program.

Step 4. Submit the application for review.

Step 5. If the application is approved, you may register as a Special Major.





1. Before developing an application, you must consult with the Coordinator of Inter-disciplinary Studies, to explore your ideas for a course of study. At this meeting, the Coordinator will discuss with you the feasibility of carrying out your program and explain the procedure for applying to the ITDS Program. The Coordinator will also help you identify a faculty advisor from each of two departments in your program to serve as your Academic Advisory Committee.

2. Very early in the advising process, it must be determined if SSU has the courses necessary to constitute a program in the subject you wish to pursue. By your second meeting with the Coordinator, therefore, you should have familiarized yourself with the current SSU Catalog and compiled a list of courses from which a coherent course of study might be fashioned.

If the ITDS Coordinator has determined that your idea for a Special Major is ap-propriate for the Program and that you meet the Program's academic criteria, you are in a position to take the next steps:



3. Two faculty members, each from a different Department or program in which you wish to take courses, must agree to constitute your Academic Advisory Committee (hereafter: your Committee) and act as advisors for your program of study. The members of your Committee must be from disciplines found on your course list. Your Committee has three main functions:

A. To recommend courses appropriate to your program;

B. To advise you on any other matters pertaining to your program, such as University regulations or the career or academic potential for such a program;

C. To evaluate your Senior Project.

Once you have formed your committee, it is your responsibility to plan with its members a coherent, original, and feasible course of study.


4. CHAIRPERSON OF THE ACADEMIC ADVISORY COMMITTEE. One of the members of your committee must agree to be the Chair of your Committee and to advise you on your major course of study, GE, WEPT, and all other graduation requirements. In addition to the responsibilities mentioned above, the Chair has several special duties:

A. To advise you on your course of study as a whole;

B. To advise you in the writing of your proposal and application;

C. Once your proposal is accepted, to act as your regular advisor concerning your course of study and all other graduation requirements.

D. To oversee and assist you with your Senior Project.


5. The Chair of your committee must be a full-time, tenured or tenure-track member of the SSU faculty. Ascertain from a potential Chair whether he or she will be available during the period in which you will be working on your degree. If your Chair plans to be away for part of this time, as for instance on a Sabbatical, plan with your Chair well in advance for someone to take his or her place, or consider another faculty member to fill this important role.


6. CONSULTATION OF THE ITDS COORDINATOR WITH THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE CHAIRPERSON. Early in the student's application process, the ITDS Coordinator will contact the Chair of the student's Advisory Committee to discuss the latter's responsibilities and answer any questions he or she might have concerning ITDS procedures.



7. In consultation with the ITDS Coordinator and your committee, you must complete an application. (The requirements for the application appear below in these guidelines.) When the application is completed, submit it in duplicate to the ITDS Coordinator by an application deadline.



8. APPLICATION DEADLINES. There are three deadlines each semester for filing an application for a Special Major. Each semester's deadlines are posted outside the door to the ITDS Office. You are urged to submit your application by the first or second deadlines, so that if revision is required, the application can still be acted on during the semester it was submitted.

9. THE STUDENT'S FILE. Upon receipt of your completed application by the ITDS Coordinator, a file is established in the Coordinator's office. The file will contain, in addition to the application, a copy of all documents, such as memos, petitions, letters, and grade reports, that are related to your program.

10. THE REVIEW PROCESS. Filing an application with the ITDS Coordinator does not constitute or assure acceptance in the Special Major program. Each proposal must be reviewed by the ITDS Committee. After a program is reviewed, the Committee conveys its recommendation to the student through the ITDS Coordinator. The Committee may recommend approval or conditional approval of the application, may request that the application be reworked and resubmitted, or may reject the application. Applications approved by the Committee must then be approved by the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs. If the application is approved at both levels of review, you may register as a Special Major.

11. ATTENDING THE REVIEW. The Chair of your faculty committee may attend to the ITDS Committee meeting at which your application is reviewed. Information re-garding the date, time and place of the ITDS Committee meetings can be obtained from the ITDS Office.



12. Immediately upon approval of your program, file a Change of Major petition with the Registrar's Office. The petition must be signed by the Chair of your Committee and by the ITDS Coordinator.

13. DISTRIBUTION OF THE APPROVED PROGRAM. Upon approval of your proposal for a Special Major, the ITDS Coordinator provides you, your advisors, and the AVPAP with a copy of your approved program of study. A copy is also kept in your file in the Coordinator's office.



14. CHANGES IN THE MAJOR. Once your proposal is approved, any changes in the cur-riculum must be approved by the ITDS Coordinator and the Chair of your Advisory Committee. All changes are made through a letter of explanation that is signed by the Chair and the ITDS Coordinator and is placed in your file in the ITDS Office. If the changes substantially alter the focus of your program, they must also be approved by the ITDS Committee.

15. ACADEMIC ADVISING. At the end of each semester, you should be advised by the Chair of your Committee concerning your schedule for the next semester and your progress on GE and other graduation requirements. The ITDS Coordinator is also available for advising.

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In its consideration of your application for the Special Major, the ITDS Committee will look for evidence of your ability to pursue a self-designed program to completion and of your awareness to your major and other graduation requirements. The Committee will look for such evidence, not only in your rationale, but in the following areas:

1. GPA. The GPA required for admission to the Special Major is 3.0. Exceptions to this requirement may be made at the discretion of the ITDS Coordinator and ITDS Committee. You may be asked to submit a letter of recommendation and other supporting material, such as mid-semester evaluations, to support your proposal.

2. GE. At the time you apply for a Special Major, you should have completed at least half of your GE requirements.

3. TOTAL NUMBER OF UNITS COMPLETED TOWARD GRADUATION. Ideally, you should begin your Special Major early enough in your university career that you can graduate without an excess of units, i.e., without more than the 124 units required for graduation. Although a high number of units completed&emdash;c. 90 units or more&emdash;at the time you apply will not disqualify you from the Special Major, the inclusion into your proposal of courses already completed will be examined closely to insure the relevance of such courses to the focus of your Special Major.

4. NUMBER OF UD UNITS IN YOUR PROPOSAL. The courses for your major are divided into Core Courses and Supporting Courses. All of the 24-26 units in the Core Courses are to be Upper Division units (300 and above). The number of Upper Division units in the Supporting Courses must be sufficient to fulfill the goals of your proposal.

5. UNIQUENESS OF YOUR MAJOR. You must make clear in your proposal why you require a Special Major, and why a Bachelor's degree in an existing major, a double major, or a major and a minor would not fulfill your academic goals.

THE IDEAL TIME TO BEGIN A SPECIAL MAJOR. Given the factors discussed above, the ideal time for you to start a Special Major is at the beginning of your junior year. By your junior year, you will have had the opportunity to complete much of your GE, but will not have accumulated an excess of units toward graduation. You will also have had the opportunity to prove yourself academically and to develop the study habits that will help you succeed with your Special Major.

* * * *


The Departments of Art, Communication Studies, Dance, Drama, and Music have a large number of courses devoted to the development of skills. These skills include painting, film-making, writing, directing, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, and many more. Although such skills are an important part of a major in the creative arts, and although they are not to be excluded from the Special Major, the focus of your program must be on ideas appropriate to the academic tradition. Proposals that emphasize performance at the expense of intellectual content are not considered suitable for the Special Major.



The Special Major consists of a minimum of 45 units of course work in two or more disciplines. 24-26 units shall be in Core courses, with the remaining units in Supporting courses.

In order to be considered for the Special Major, you must have more than one full year (i.e., 31 units or more) of course work in the major still to be completed after approval by the ITDS Committee and your filing of the Change of Major form. Work in progress during the semester of the proposal's approval will count toward the 31 units. The application proposal includes your acknowledgment of this requirement. Exemption from the 31-unit requirement will be granted only in exceptional cases.

Your application consists of the information specified on the Check List to the application form and described in items I-VI below. Items I-III appear in the application form itself; Items IV-VI are to be submitted with the application form.



Your application form must contain the following information:

I. Your name and the title of your major (see the application cover sheet). (Note: Only 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation marks, are allocated to the title of a major on a diploma. In developing a title for your major, therefore, you will want to choose one that does not exceed this limit.)

II. A list of the Core courses (24 -26 units) and Supporting courses (the remaining units) that constitute your major

A. The courses must total no fewer than 45 units.


1. No more than two courses that you use to satisfy General Education requirements may also be included in the course list for your Special Major.

2. No professional courses in the Education Department, with exceptions specified by the Department, may be included in the program of study.

3. Only courses graded A-F may be applied toward major requirements.

B. Core courses must consist of upper division courses (300/400 level) only.

No student-instructed courses may be included in the Core courses.

The Senior Paper or Senior Project [ITDS 499 (3 units)] must be included in the Core courses. (See IVD, below, for a description.)

C. Supporting courses. Supporting courses may include lower division courses when appropriate.

III. Your signature, the signature of the ITDS Coordinator and the names and signatures of the faculty advisors for your major.



IV. A written essay must accompany the application form. This essay is the rationale for your program and is the most important part of your proposal; it is here that you demonstrate that the program you have developed is both interdisciplinary and of a content comparable to that of traditional academic programs of study. The rationale should be of no more than three double-spaced, typewritten pages in length.

It may be helpful to you and your committee to view the rationale as consisting of five components: A) a description of the basic idea of the program, B) a description of your objectives and uses for the course of study, C) a description and justification of the courses on the course list, D) an overview of the Senior Project, and E) a justification of your program as a Special Major.

A. The Basic Idea. Your program must have a focus that goes beyond that of a single discipline. The title of your program must express this interdisciplinary focus. Begin this essay by stating the subject of your program, showing how the proposed subject is appropriate as an interdisciplinary course of study and providing any information that would be helpful in understanding both the subject itself and your reasons for pursuing this study. The latter may include a description of the interests, experience, and training that provide you with a background for the proposed program.

B. Objectives and Uses. The rationale must contain a statement of your objectives and uses for the course of study, i.e., the knowledge and skills you seek from your program and how you intend to apply them. If you are undertaking this study to enhance your academic or career opportunities, state this clearly.

C. Courses. An interdisciplinary course of study requires the same substance and breadth found in an established Bachelor's Degree program in a single subject in a Liberal Arts Institution. In addition, an interdisciplinary course of study has a coherence that a double major or a major and minor in different subjects does not have. In a double major, there is no necessity to integrate the areas of study. In the Special Major, the necessity to integrate the disciplines from which you have selected courses is at the very heart of the program.

Describe the courses in your course list from the standpoints of how they meet the standards described above and of what they contribute to the study of the subject of your program. Be sure to describe the relationship between the courses selected for your program of study. The ITDS Committee attaches great importance to your ability to demonstrate this relationship and to show how each course supports the purpose of the program. List and explain supplementary courses that are not included in the List of Courses (Core and Supporting).

D. Senior Project [ITDS 499 (3 units)]. Your Special Major program must include a Senior Project. The topic of the Senior Project must be an obvious outcome of your stated goals and course work; it must bring together the various aspects of your course of study. It may be a research paper or a creative project. It must be limited enough to accomplish within the given time and unit constraints. It must be included among the Core courses.

The Senior Project is to be prepared under the supervision of your faculty committee. It will be graded by your faculty Committee and will be described orally to the ITDS Committee at the completion of your senior year.

Collecting Data from Human Subjects. If your Senior Project involves the collecting of data from human subjects, you must familiarize yourself with the regulations concerning human subjects and submit a form indicating details concerning venue, method of collection, etc. Approval for the collecting of such data must be given in writing before you begin collection. Data collected before written authorization is obtained may not be used. For more information, contact the Graduate Studies Office.


E. The justification for a Special Major. Your Special Major must be unique; you must show that it does not duplicate a program of study that can be pursued through a traditional department or program at SSU or at another university in the service area. It is your responsibility to consult the catalogs of SSU and other service area universities and to confirm that such programs do not exist.



In addition to your application form and rationale, your application must include the following:


V. Appropriate forms for all Special Studies and Internships included in the Core/Sup-porting List of Courses. The description of each such course must include the name and signature of the faculty sponsor and a statement concerning the purpose, mode of study and method of evaluation of the special study or internship. (NB. Special Studies are limited to a maximum of 4 units per course; a student may have in all areas for graduation no more than 12 units of Special Studies; a student may not pursue in Special Studies a course that is listed in the catalog and that is normally offered within a two-year period.)


VI. Copies of transcripts of all college work completed. It is your responsibility to make available the transcripts, including those concerning SSU course work.



A. The title of your program should not exceed 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation marks. (The reason for this limitation is that 65 is the number of characters that will fit on a diploma.)

B. Your proposal should not exceed three double-spaced, typewritten pages.

C. The pages of your proposal must be numbered.














rev. Sept., 1997