The disciplinary depth component of the curriculum provides students with the opportunity for sustained study in an academic discipline. Students learn to think deeply about a set of linked topics and the methodology of academic investigation in a specific field or a set of subfields, and within these categories they extend and develop their own ideas with more sophisticated and informed analysis. They acquire the intellectual confidence that comes from mastery of a body of knowledge and develop the skills to apply their learning beyond their coursework.
The academic major provides students with a framework for focused disciplinary study. Through a set of linked courses defined by faculty in departments and programs, students develop expertise in their discipline. Students in major courses have common academic backgrounds, and therefore upper-level major courses can address academic material at a sophisticated level.
The College faculty has identified writing, speaking, and information literacy as essential intellectual competencies that need to be mastered by competent graduates. In-depth and discipline-specific study affords students an opportunity to practice these activities at a high level; therefore the curriculum of each major helps students meet the learning goals of speaking, information literacy, and writing through a variety of means.
Speaking: Students will develop skills in formal presentation at a level reasonable for a college graduate in the particular major. Ways in which this skill can be obtained and practiced include but are not restricted to a course with student presentations, honors thesis defense, talk in a student colloquium series, presentation at a conference, or presentation of significant course projects.
Information Literacy: In the Foundation Seminar and in many other courses students have achieved basic competency in finding, analyzing, evaluating, and effectively using various sources of information. Courses in the major will build on these skills and introduce students to field-specific information retrieval techniques and to critical evaluation of content as customary in the field.
Writing: Students develop their writing abilities through coursework in the University Writing Program. Courses in the major will allow students to apply their writing ability to address and investigate issues at a more sophisticated level due to their mastery of the subject matter. These courses will allow students to write on topics they know best.
Majors may be pursued in either the bachelor of arts degree program or from among the several bachelor of science and professional degree programs offered by the College of Arts & Sciences. When a major is available in more than one degree program, the choice of degree will likely depend upon the student's overall educational objectives: those seeking to emphasize a broader grounding in the liberal arts may choose the bachelor of arts degree program; those seeking to emphasize more sustained study in the major field may choose one of the bachelor of science or professional degree programs. Regardless of the choice of degree program, however, students will have the opportunity to fulfill all of the objectives of a liberal education and of specialization and to prepare for future endeavors, including advanced study.
In addition to completing a body of specialized coursework, students in each major will complete an approved culminating experience in their senior year. The successful culminating experience will draw together a student's disciplinary experiences and provide a more coherent appreciation of the major's academic discipline. The structure of the culminating experience is left to the discretion of the faculty in the department or program offering the major (subject to the review of the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee). Types of culminating experiences will vary by major, but they may include a senior seminar, interdisciplinary course, independent study project, service learning, or an honors thesis.