Student-Designed Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Minor/Major Program

One of the unique features of CIS is the opportunity it provides students to design their own minor or major in a field of study that lies outside the current discipline-based departments and Independent Multidisciplinary Programs, but still draws upon relevant coursework from across the College.  The CIS Director and Committee on Academic Programs  approves, monitors, and administers all self-designed minors and majors. (Note: Students must apply and have their minor/major application approved before they can do a Change of Academic Plan.) Student-designed programs of study are academically rigorous and depend on a combination of significant student initiative and close interaction with faculty advisors. 

The best fit for a particular type of program may depend on a student’s other plan(s) of study. Students are advised to consult with the faculty advisors listed below and the Director of CIS, Professor Knight, as they plan to apply for a CIS minor/major.

person speaking to a group of students a presentation is on the screen there are windows in the background
Beyond the Classroom

Given the range of interests covered in the concentrations and the student-designed majors and minors, CIS supports student and faculty interests through speakers and events that creatively cut across several disciplines and themes.

Planning Your Student-Designed CIS Minor or Major

CIS minors/majors fall into three broad categories:

  • Template minors/majors: Template minors/majors have an existing curricular framework designed by faculty to provide a basic structure for students pursuing their program. These often include pre-requisite and required courses, so enrollment advising is important.
  • Established student-designed minors/majors: These are long standing programs, and the minor/major is created by students in consultation with the designated faculty advisor for the program.
  • Unique student-designed minors/majors: Unique minors/majors are created by individual students in consultation with a relevant faculty member identified by the student.

CIS minors generally are composed of 6 courses drawn from at least three different departments; CIS majors generally are composed of 14 courses drawn from at least three departments (or 10 courses in the case of a double-major). Some of the template programs require a different, set number of courses.

NOTE: A CIS minor may overlap a maximum of 2 courses from all other plan(s) of study; a CIS major may overlap a maximum of 2 courses from another plan of study (e.g., your other major) or 3 courses from two other plans of study (e.g, your other major and a different minor). No single course may count for three plans of study.

Sample Template Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Minor/Majors include:

[Please note that four template interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary majors operate independently from CIS: Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, International Studies, Neuroscience. Neuroscience has a minor option as well. Contact the directors of those programs for more information about applying.]

Applying to CIS

To begin the process of designing your own major or minor, you must first meet with Professor Nadine Knight, Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, to discuss your plans.  If there is a key professor or designated advisor who is helping you with the student-designed minor/major you are proposing, you may also start your inquiry and planning with that professor.

After discussing your plans with the director and key faculty member(s) — including the advisor of your program, if one is listed — you may begin work on the CIS Major Application form or the CIS Minor application form The application portal for these forms opens on the first day of classes and there is one deadline each semester when all of your materials must be submitted. In the fall semester, the deadline is the first Friday in October. In the spring semester, the deadline is the second Friday in February. Note: Students must have their major/minor approved before they can do a Change of Academic Plan.

A major in one of the Concentrations or a Self-Designed Major generally requires 10 courses (if double-majoring) or 14 courses (if a single major). A minor has 6 courses.  Students should be prepared to address how their choice of minor/major fits their intellectual experience and future plans in the required statement of intellectual purpose. Other parts of the application include:

  • Short questions about your academic experience and plans for the major
  • An unofficial transcript and a resume (NOTE: please save these files with your name)
  • A 4-year course plan showing completed and planned courses
  • Contact information for your faculty recommenders (you need one for a minor, and two for a major.  At least one of these faculty sponsors should come from a department related to the proposed minor/major).

 The recommendations are electronic forms sent to the designated recommender that assess the planned program of study and/or the student’s abilities. If the plan minor/major application is approved, the faculty sponsor/advisor and the CIS director will advise and approve changes in the curricular plan and give guidance to the student undertaking the program.

Sample Self-Designed interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Majors /Minors Faculty Advisor
Architectural Studies * Amy Finstein and Michael Beatty
Business, Ethics and Society*** Karen Teitel
Catholic Studies William Clark, SJ
Ethics, Society, & the Institution of Business* Karen Teitel
Film Studies Steve Vineberg
Deaf Studies (Major only) Ying Li
Digital Media Studies Chris Arrell 
Health Studies** Tsitsi Masvawure
Medieval and Renaissance Studies Giovanni Spani
Middle Eastern Studies Caner Dagli
Rhetoric and Composition* Sarah Klotz
Russian and Eastern European Studies* Cynthia Hooper
Urban Studies* Amy Finstein

*Indicates a faculty-designed template
**Major only - faculty designed template
***This is a template minor and is currently only available to the Classes of 2022 and 2023

More Information

For more information and to get started, please contact Professor Nadine Knight, Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.