Guidelines For Special Majors

Curriculum Committee Guidelines

The CAS Curriculum Committee has revised the special major instructions and forms and all proposals must use the special major application. Please follow the guidelines listed below and the procedures appropriate to the action you are seeking from the CAS Curriculum Committee for Special Majors.

Instructions to request approval of a Special Major

A Special Major can be created if the existing programs do not meet academic interests. Students who are interested in developing a Special Major must adhere to the following guidelines:

All material must be submitted to the Curriculum Committee for approval prior to completing 15 credits in the proposed Special Major.  The Committee usually meets once per month during the academic year.  Check with the Office of Academic Services (Lee Hall, room 206, extension 1010) for additional information regarding the application process.

General Requirements for a Special Major:

  • Students must work with a faculty advisor who is a member of the continuing faculty and who has expertise in the field of study the student wishes to pursue. The role of the faculty advisor in the special major is as instrumental as that of an advisor in an ordinary major, and both the faculty advisor and the student should bear this in mind when committing to the proposed special major.
  • The advisor and student should meet and thoroughly discuss all aspects of the proposal, verifying the completeness of the proposal as well as the feasibility of its timely completion.   The advisor and student should work together carefully to consider, among other things, the frequency of course offerings, appropriateness of chosen courses, prerequisite requirements, and the design of the required capstone course. The faculty advisor must sign the cover sheet of the special major outline. Special major applications submitted without a faculty adviser’s signature will not be considered by the Curriculum Committee.
  • Students must have completed 28 credits in order to request a Special Major. Students must apply as sophomores or juniors (i.e. before completing 90 credits).
  • The number of credits in the Special Major must be at least 30 credits but may be no more than 48. All of these must be graded credits. No more than five courses in the proposed special major may have been completed at the time of the application.
  • The proposed Special Major must have a clear title that is (a) no more than 24 characters long and (b) uses only reasonable abbreviations. (This is a restriction based on the limits of the size of the data field for “major” in the computer system).
  • Students must conduct an exhaustive survey of UMW’s course offerings to determine whether UMW can viably support the proposed Special Major program and to ensure that the strongest possible complement of courses has been included in the proposal.
  • Complete information about the courses to be included in the Special Major must be provided on the Special Major Course Outline. Specifically, the course number, course title, the number of credits, and any required electives for each course must be listed in the appropriate spaces on the Special Major Course Outline.
  • Students must include courses in the Special Major from at least two disciplines (i.e. 25% of courses must be from a second and/or third discipline).
  • Within the major, at least two-thirds of courses must be upper division (300-400 level).
  • The major should be designed with a core of required courses and elective courses. Students should list several options for the elective courses. The design of the major with required courses and elective courses, as other majors at Mary Washington, would provide flexibility in scheduling. Students are required to contact department chairs to ensure that the proposed courses will be offered before the expected graduation date. The student must obtain the signature of the chair of each relevant department on the Course Outline.
  • The Special Major must include a seminar or a suitable capstone course alternative. On the “Special Major Course Outline” sheet, the student should see the symbol (#) next to the course number that serves as the seminar or capstone course.
  • For students completing the general education curriculum adopted in Fall 2020 and following, a special major must include at least one Writing Intensive (WI) class and one Speaking Intensive (SI) class in its list of required courses.
  • In the case of double majors, the maximum degree of overlap between the majors is nine credits.
  • One-half of the Special Major program required credits must be earned at the University of Mary Washington.
  • All courses that are prerequisites for the courses that are included in the Special Major must be listed in the appropriate space on the Special Major Course Outline.
  • At least a 2.00 grade-point average in the major is required for graduation.
  • No more than 60 credits in any one discipline will counted toward the credits required for a baccalaureate degree.
  • Once the Special Major has been approved, the Office of the Registrar will complete the Major Declaration Card for the student.

Application and Approval Process for a Special Major:

  1. Students must email the required application materials to the Chair of the Curriculum Committee. All application materials must be in a single attachment to the email. The attachment must be in Word format. Required materials are: the Special Major Application and the written rationale for the Special Major. The attachment should be named Special_Major_Student’s last name.
  2. In addition, students must submit one printed copy of the Application, signed by the student, the advisor, and the chair of each relevant department. The signatures are to assure the committee that the student has discussed the future availability of courses with the department chairs.
  3. All materials must be received by the chair of the committee by 5:00 p.m. one week prior to the next meeting of the committee; this includes the original copy with appropriate signatures and an electronic copy (that does not need signatures).
  4. Special Major Application must be included (download documents from the Curriculum Committee website).
  5. The written rationale for the Special Major must state:
    •  The learning goals and objectives of the Special Major.
    •  Why the applicant is interested in this Special Major.
    •  Why the program outlined as a Special Major is an appropriate course of study in a liberal arts college environment.
    •  Why a Special Major will allow the applicant to accomplish learning goals and objectives that an existing major will not allow them to accomplish.
    • Why the specific courses chosen will help the student meet the goals laid out for the Special Major. Applicants should also provide an explanation for the chosen required courses and the elective courses. The student can strengthen the case for a Special Major by demonstrating that other colleges or universities offer major programs in the proposed discipline and that UMW can provide a comparable experience.

Submitting a revised Special Major proposal

If the Special Major proposal is not immediately approved by the Curriculum Committee, the Committee may request that the applicant submit a revised proposal incorporating specific recommendations for improvement. A rejected proposal for a special major must be resubmitted to the committee no more than two meetings after the latest rejection. A re-submission sent to the committee later than this will be considered a new proposal and thus subject to the same credit constraints as any new proposal: no more than 90 total credits and no more than five courses in the proposed special major.

If an applicant receives the request noted above, the following documents must be included with the revised proposal:

  • The original proposal
  •  All previous correspondence from the Curriculum Committee chair containing the Committee’s decision and recommendations for revision
  •  A statement summarizing how the proposal was revised based upon the Committee’s recommendations
  •  If applicable, a rationale statement explaining why revisions were not carried out as suggested by the Committee.

Failure to submit the requested revision by the deadline for the Committee’s next meeting will result in the original proposal being deemed as rejected.  Should the student still desire the proposal to be considered, it will be treated as a new initial proposal by the committee once it is finally received.  The purpose of this rule is to encourage students to submit revisions promptly.

Changes to the Special Major

After the committee has approved a Special Major, students wishing to substitute one course for another must receive prior approval of this action. Proposed changes must be made in writing and submitted with the faculty advisor’s signature. In order to request a change in the Special Major, the student must submit a proposal for the changes that include the following:

  1. A brief explanation and clear justification for the requested changes.
  2. A copy of the original Special Major Application.
  3. A copy of a new Special Major Application – this is where the faculty advisor will sign in support of the proposed change. Clearly mark “revision” somewhere on this sheet.
  4. Submit the proposal to change your Special Major to the Curriculum Committee chair according to the deadlines.

The committee must approve the changes in the major prior to the student enrolling in the courses.