Patrick Wolande, Senior Staff Writer

Miami University will be offering an individualized studies major and interdisciplinary studies minor through the western program beginning fall 2010.

This will allow students to create a unique major that combines classes from their own interests.

“The opportunity to name and shape your own focus is an exciting one for those who are interested in taking a more active role in their own education,” said Mary Jean Corbett, interim director of the western program. “We seek ‘engaged’ students, as Dr. (David) Hodge would say, who are truly passionate about charting their own course.”

Nicholas Money, professor of botany, will become director of the program in August. He said the new major could benefit a Miami student as opposed to a traditional major.

“When we look at major corporations, they are really interested in students that have actually gotten a background in interdisciplinary thinking and critical thinking,” Money said.

The idea of an “individualized major” is not a completely new idea, as other colleges have been offering a similar program for years. Money said a number of schools helped model the program, but insisted that Evergreen College, a school with less than 5,000 students and a sole focus on interdisciplinary studies, gave a clear picture of what the western program wanted to create.

“We think we can offer a small college experience within a larger campus community,” Money said.

Students will sign a “learning contract,” a contract that is a plan for the student’s coursework, which will be designed closely with a student’s adviser.

Hays Cummins, professor of the western program and geography, gave his thoughts on the learning contract.

“The student takes responsibility for what they want to do and why they want to do it … that learning contract is a beautiful thing,” Cummins said.

Students will also have to do a senior project, Cummins said.

“You’ll actually develop a project that is related to your learning contract … We’ve made it loose in the sense of what students can do, but they are not alone, there is advising and it is part of you learning contract,” Cummins said.

Miami students had different responses to the individualized studies major.

“I think it’s a good idea because you can follow what you want and you don’t need to abide by the set of rules of a program,” sophomore Stephanie Rowe said. “I like how you can mix together two interest that might not normally go together.”

Sophomore John Bis, mechanical engineering major, had a different response.

“As an engineer, companies hire you based on your specialty … so if you’re a general engineer, you’re going to struggle when competing with other engineers,” Bis said. “For example, some companies need an array of engineers for certain projects that need an electrical, mechanical, manufacturing, software engineer, etc. So if you’re a broad engineer working on a team project, where does you’re role fall? You don’t really have one, unless maybe you’re overseeing the project.”