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Self-Designed Majors Help Students Follow Their Bliss


Some students have always seen themselves as future lawyers. Others know they're destined to be artists, Spanish professors, or chemists. There are forty-four majors to choose from, but what if a student wants something different, something more her own?

Majors at Mount Holyoke aren't one size fits all. Starting with a foundation in biology, for example, MHC women have constructed majors in sociomedical sciences (by adding anthropology), in scientific foundations of dance and physical actor's training (by adding theatre and dance), in human movement and behavior studies (by adding dance and psychology), and in sport science (by adding psychology and exercise physiology).

Current students are special majoring in African studies, developmental studies, Arabic studies, kinetic language, economics and statistics, performance production, peace and conflict studies, Holocaust studies, Francophone studies, literature and women, analytical psychology, urban anthropology, journalism, architecture ... the list goes on.

Building blocks for a special major abound, with about 600 courses per year at Mount Holyoke and thousands more at the rest of the Five Colleges (Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts).

Special majors shape their educations with the help of academic advisers, and have their plan of study approved by the dean. "Designing a major is a very rigorous process, not just something you throw together and get a degree for," says Jenny Daley '99. "You have to ask, 'What do I want to learn? What classes will help me reach that goal? Which professors will best help me?'"

In a typical year, about two dozen Mount Holyoke women design their own majors. Many combine existing fields, but students can also invent an entirely new field of inquiry. Sharron Jackson created a major in "The Search for African and Islamic Women Through History, Art, and Religion." Niqe Ware '99 found that no single academic department encompassed all her interests, and uses her major in media and cultural studies to make connections across disciplines. "One week I may think like an anthropologist and the next like an art historian," she says. "The best part is finding where all these things intersect."

A student's creativity is all that limits her choice of possible majors at Mount Holyoke. Click below to read about six students' combinations.

Designing one's self, part 1


Copyright © 1999 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Don St. John. Last modified on July 14, 1999.