Students combine fields of study in special majors program

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Students looking to combine various areas of study into their own hodgepodge of degree requirements and classes can do so through CSUN’s special majors program.

“What a special major consists of are three different disciplines that a student chooses,” said Robert Danes, director of special majors in Undergraduate Studies. “So say if a student wants a customized major in art, music and history, he or she can choose to do so, having only several of the key core classes from each discipline.”

Special majors are offered only for students receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, Danes said. The CSU does not offer special majors under the Bachelor of Science degree.

Creating a special major, however, does not mean that a student will go through college with ease, Danes said.

The special major program was designed so that students could not opt out of enrolling into difficult classes offered in certain disciplines, he said.

“Special majors are very demanding for the student, so it’s not as easy as some people think it is,” Danes said. “Students in a special major have to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher. If they can’t maintain it, then they’ll immediately be dropped from the program.”

The discipline or subject area that has the highest amount of units specified in the special majors program will be the primary concentration area of the student, he said.

Advisement takes places both in Undergraduate Studies and in the academic departments of the disciplines, Danes said.

Enrolling in a special major requires a lot of commitment and effort, he said.

A student must first apply at the Undergraduate Studies office for the special major he or she wishes to create, then that student must write a letter stating why a traditional major does not meet his or her needs.

“Why does the student want those three disciplines (is what needs to be answered),” Danes said. “However, we want to avoid ‘likes.’ For example, we don’t want a student saying he or she wants history, music and art in the special major because he or she ‘likes’ those three subjects. If that were the case, it would be like a kid choosing only foods from the dessert cart as their meal.”

Students at this university, however, are not being called kids, Danes said.

Charles Jones, senior CTVA major, attempted to apply for a special major, but he was not successful. Jones tried to combine television entertainment, music and business.

“There’s a lot of leg-work involved in getting a special major,” Jones said. “I couldn’t get the right answers as to where I could follow through in getting the special major that I wanted.”

Jones said he really wants to work in entertainment.

He instead chose to stick with television while taking business classes along the way.

“We want students to think about what they’re doing when creating the special major that they want,” Danes said.

After the application is approved, the student must go to the department chair of all the disciplines he or she chose and acquire signatures for the application process to move forward.

The associate vice president of Undergraduate Studies, Cynthia Rawitch, gives final approval on the student’s admission.

Any student with 80 or more units will not be allowed to apply for the special major program, Danes said.

“It’s too late,” he said. “They’re more likely to graduate sooner if they choose a standard major with the credits that they have already obtained.”

Jiedson Domigpe, graduate student in linguistics, said he wished he knew about the program earlier.

“If I had the chance to construct a special major, I would combine linguistics, Asian American Studies and economics,” Domigpe said.

“Linguistics and Asian American Studies are in there because I want to teach students the Filipino language,” he said. “Economics would be in there because I’d eventually want to include how the Filipino economy is in some of the Asian American Studies classes.”

The special major is not available to be used as a double major and to students who are trying to acquire a second bachelor’s degree.

A special major is for students who are clear about what they want to do with their life, Danes said.

“I support special majors when a student has a clear idea what he or she wants and can find the right combination,” said Marta Lopez-Garza, chair of Women’s Studies Department. “The student should work with a set of faculty and advisors from all disciplines to guide him or her.”

Mark Solleza can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.