The individualized plan of study track requires a minimum of 36 s.h. of work for the major, all taken at the University of Iowa. Students who choose this track build their own study plan, creating a unique major that speaks to interests across departments and that integrates varied approaches to a particular topic (e.g., aging studies, international business, children's studies, environmental issues, health issues).
Students must submit a Plan of Study to the Academic Coordinator before declaring an Individualized Plan of Study major. The earlier in a student's academic career a Plan of Study is submitted, the more effective the student's program. Students must complete a minimum of 24 s.h. after the semester in which the Plan of Study is approved. This requirement encourages students to enter the program well before their senior year.
Students are encouraged to start talking with the faculty early in the process about their individualized major.
Students must complete 36 semester hours of advanced major coursework at the University of Iowa. Advanced-level courses are defined as 3000 or higher.
No more than 18 of the 36 semester hours may come from a single department. Students are encouraged to draw upon more than two departments for their coursework.
Students are encouraged to list several alternative courses within a given theme area. These may be needed in case the student has difficulty getting into a planned course.
Courses taken to satisfy requirements in the General Education Program may not be counted toward completion of the advanced-level coursework requirement.
Interested students should schedule an appointment with the program's Academic Coordinator.
Preparing your Plan of Study
Your Plan of Study should include:
- A Statement of Intellectual Focus
In the first section of your Plan of Study, name and describe the intellectual focus of your program. In other words, what is the major that you have created? You should mention the most important topics which you will explore in your program. The more specifically you can state what your individualized program centers on, the better your plan will be. You might want to include the origin of your interest in this topic, and previous or current experience you have in the field. Perhaps some of your related classes, research, papers, or projects would be worth explaining. If appropriate, you can discuss future career or graduate school plans and how this degree will help prepare you for succeeding in the field.
- Faculty Mentor
In this section, you will identify the name and department of your confirmed faculty mentor. A faculty mentor is a member of the University’s faculty, with an expertise in the student’s area of study. Describe what you learned from discussing your proposed area of study with this professor, such as recommendations of certain classes included in your plan, or advice on how your plan will lead to graduate school or specific career possibilities. Each student must identify a faculty mentor, and include a letter of support from this individual in his/her proposal. For more information, see Confirming a Faculty Mentor below.
- Your Reasons for Preferring Interdepartmental Studies
Interdepartmental Studies is an alternative academic program that allows you to develop an individually tailored course of study that could not be pursued in a traditional department. In this section, you must explain what is lacking in the departmental majors you choose not to seek, and why an individualized program is your best academic option. In answering this question, consider carefully whether a major/minor/certificate combination from two to three departments would better provide you with the structure and access to classes needed to pursue your academic goals.
- Interdepartmental Degree Course Pool by Theme
Some students find it helpful to identify courses that are of interest, and then look for the patterns that emerge. Others find it more helpful to think carefully about the intellectual focus of the plan, and then search for the courses that fit the focus. Choose whichever method works best for you. Consider the connections between the courses you have listed. How are they related to each other in terms of content, materials or skills? Find ways that the courses can be grouped by theme as the building blocks of your program. The courses you select should enable you to develop the major themes within your overall focus. You can tailor the form to include as many different themes as are necessary for your intellectual focus. For more information, see Selecting Classes for your Plan of Study below.
Complete the Course Pool by Theme form to easily type in your classes. Have your transcript handy when you fill in the form, as you will be including previous courses as well as those for the major. Be sure to include alternatives (that are, of course, still in line with the theme) in case of time conflicts or a course being canceled or closed.
Remember that a maximum of 18 s.h. may be taken in one department. If you feel there are some general education courses or electives that show evidence of your commitment to your area of study, you can list these as well. These classes are labeled “Support Work” under each theme-based heading. You may do the same with any experience you may have in the field, such as internships, practicum, volunteer efforts, paid work, research, or class projects.
- Course Pool – theme grouping with explanations in narrative
This section will mirror the theme grouping of the form, but will focus on the 36 s.h. being applied to the interdepartmental major. You will need to provide a rationale for why you are including a class or group of classes in your Plan of Study. You can include your explanation under each class or under a theme-grouped listing of classes. Describe how the class(es) fit within your intellectual focus and how the class(es) will help you meet your goals. Don’t simply repeat published course descriptions. Think about the purpose of each course, and how it fits with others in your course pool. If you need more information, talk to the instructor, ask for a course syllabus, or find out what books or other materials are used in the course.
- Course Pool – semester-by-semester grouping
The second grouping of classes is a semester-by-semester breakdown of when you plan to take the remaining classes you are including in your plan. Complete the Course Pool by Semester form to easily type in your classes.
- Interdepartmental Studies Program Requirement Exceptions
This final section should explain any proposed exceptions from stated requirements below, e.g., why you feel a class that is not 100-level or higher should still be included or why you are pursuing an interdepartmental degree when you have less than the required semesters left to graduate.
Plan of Study Checklist
- 36 s.h. of advanced major coursework (3000 or higher) at the University of Iowa.
- No more than 18 s.h. of the 36 s.h. can be from any one department.
- No more than 6 s.h. can be fieldwork (internship, practicum, etc.).
- None of the major’s 36 s.h. can be transfer courses, pass/no pass grading options, or courses for a minor.
- Maximum two class overlap if applying courses to a double major.
- Total degree requirements for graduation are 120 s.h. You are responsible for tracking your General Education and residency requirements.
- UI cumulative GPA, total cumulative GPA, and major GPA must all be at least 2.00 (or above).
- After your Plan of Study is approved, a minimum of 24 s.h. must be completed.
- Any proposed exceptions from above requirements must be explained in the Plan of Study.
How to Submit Your Plan of Study
You must type your Plan of Study, which should be between five and ten pages. Carefully edit your plan and remove all errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.
IMPORTANT: The Academic Coordinator, and your faculty mentor, are available for help with the content of your Plan of Study. If you need help with grammar and sentence structure, you can sign up for an appointment with the University of Iowa Writing Center at 110 EPB. You can also correspond via e-mail with a writing tutor. Visit the Writing Center for more information.
After your Plan of Study is complete, turn it into the Academic Coordinator.
Confirming a Faculty Mentor
One requirement of Interdepartmental Studies Program students is to identify and confirm the participation of an Academic Interest Specialist faculty member. This will most likely be a previous professor of yours with a background in your area of proposed study. Selecting a faculty member with expertise in your academic interest will prove beneficial in designing the best possible individualized degree in line with your learning goals.
You will be working with the Interdepartmental Studies Academic Coordinator, but your Academic Interest Specialist is also a resource person for creating your Plan of Study, selecting classes, and coming up with a name for the plan. Some questions the professor may be asking include:
Is the Plan of Study:
- Clear and articulate in its expression and presentation?
- Realistic in its projected goals?
- Cohesive, with clear connections made between and among courses?
- Thorough and specific in its discussion of course content and how that content applies to the student’s stated goals?
- Persuasive in arguing that no departmental program meets the student’s educational objectives?
- Accurate in its claims (e.g. regarding course availability, prerequisites, numbers of advanced-level coursework needed, etc.)?
Selecting Classes for your Plan of Study
- Access MyUI – Courses. You can search by titles, keywords or instructors. Or you can scroll down and choose “by college or department,” and then search a particular department.
- Read course descriptions online.
- Check out the department’s website and any information about courses.
- Browse the required textbooks for particular courses in the bookstore.
- Ask your faculty mentor, or other professors, for suggestions.
- If you have a long term career goal in mind, consult with possible employers and/or graduate schools, and inquire about coursework that they find desirable for candidates. Resources and staff at the Career Center may also be able to assist you with identifying this information.
- Check with the department to be sure the classes will be offered during the semesters you are proposing.
- Be sure that there are no “majors only” restrictions on courses you select. If there are, you can ask the instructor or department if they might be willing to make an exception. Save any correspondence granting you permission.
- Check to see if there are any pre-requisites that you will need before you plan to take the classes.
- If the course requires consent of instructor regarding any exceptions for enrollment (i.e. waiving pre-reqs), contact the professor ahead of time and ensure that you will be allowed to enroll in the course.
- Document your contact with professors and department secretaries, so you can include these in your Plan of Study.