UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Individual Major

Objectives of the Major
The individual major offers students in the College of Letters and Science an opportunity to achieve a sharply focused academic goal that cannot be met by an existing major, a double major, or a major and a minor. Consulting extensively with the College of Letters and Science individual major advisor and with faculty advisors, a student will develop and complete a detailed, comprehensive, and thematically coherent major consistent within the liberal arts and science traditions of the College of Letters and Science.

Admission to the Major
Since the academic goals of most students can be met by opportunities provided by the wide range of existing majors and academic minors offered in the College of Letters and Science, individual majors are rarely approved. Applicants for an individual major to must demonstrate that their educational goals cannot be achieved within parameters of existing majors and minors. Students should consult with the Letters and Science individual major advisor along with departmental advisors about the options available within the college’s majors and minors before beginning an application for an individual major.  Pre-professional majors will not be considered. A proposed individual major will be expected to meet the same standards for academic and intellectual rigor and coherence met by the existing majors within the College of Letters and Science.

To be eligible to apply for an individual major, a student must

  • have earned at least 36 units in residence at UC-Santa Barbara,
  • have an above average record of scholastic achievement (in most cases, this would mean a student would need to have at least a 3.2 grade point average),
  • submit the proposal for the major no later than the end of junior (3rd) year.

A student considering applying for an individual major should have extensive and ongoing discussions with faculty who will be willing to advise them as they develop the central theme, objective, and learning outcomes of the major; assist the student in choosing courses that will help the student meet the objective and outcomes; and supervise the student’s senior thesis.  The student will need two faculty sponsors, each holding the rank of assistant, associate, or full professor, with one serving as the primary advisor.  As the student develops the list of courses for the major, he/she should meet with the department advisors to discuss course availability and course prerequisites.

With the faculty sponsors and in consultation with the Letters and Science individual major advisor, a student will apply to the major by preparing a proposal that includes the following:

  1. Name, Perm Number, Email Address, Phone Number;
  2. Title of Major—reflects the theme of the major;
  3. General Description of the Major—describes the theme of the major, explaining how it fits within the context of the liberal arts and sciences;
  4. Scholarly Objective of the major—defined in intellectual and not vocational terms major and includes a detailed explanation why these goals cannot be met by an existing major, a double major, or a combination of major and a minor;
  5. Preparation for the Major—details a list of lower division courses by number and title (numbered 1-99) that provide the background necessary to undertake the major;
  6. Upper Division Major—provides a list of upper division courses by number and title (numbered 100-199), encompassing 36-48 units, including a one-quarter, 1-5 unit, 199 or another independent studies course which will serve as the senior thesis;
  7. Student Learning Outcomes—describes the knowledge and skills the student will develop in pursuing the major and includes a map demonstrating how the courses applied to the major will assist the student in achieving these outcomes;
  8. Faculty Advisor’s Statement—the advisor should
    1. Affirm her/his support for the proposal and the objectives and goals of the major,
    2. Attest to the student’s competence and preparation for taking on the major,
    3. Formally consent to serving as the advisor;
  9. Endorsement by Second Faculty Sponsor;

The proposal is submitted to the Dean of Undergraduate Education who reviews it on behalf of the Letters and Science Executive Committee. The dean will notify student via email whether the proposal is approved or denied.

Senior Thesis
The senior thesis provides an opportunity for students to synthesize what they learn in their courses in the individual majors. The student completes a thesis as part of 199 (in most departments) Independent Studies course under the supervision of the primary advisor. After the thesis is read and approved by the primary advisor, it is sent to the dean with a statement from the advisor stating that the student has completed the final major requirements. Individual majors who have cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.5 and successfully complete their senior thesis or research project will be awarded departmental Honors upon graduation.