Majors, Minors, Certificates: the Interdepartmental Major

If your academic interests encompass two academic disciplines in Trinity College, you may wish to consider declaring an Interdepartmental Major (IDM). The IDM draws in equal measure upon two Trinity College departments or programs that offer a major. There are two types of Interdepartmental Majors in Trinity College: student-originated IDMs, which are individualized programs proposed by a student, and department-originated IDMs that students can declare similar to any other major.

A student-proposed IDM must meet the following requirements:

  • An interdepartmental major must consist of a minimum of 14 courses, split evently between the two departments (e.g. seven course credits in each).
  • At least 10 of the courses must be at the 200-level or above.
  • At least four of the seven courses required by each department must be taught within the department.
  • All courses must be among those normally accepted for a major in the two departments.
  • You will have an advisor in each department.  However, one of the departments must be identified as your primary department. Your advisor in this department will be responsible for advising in your primary program and will make you eligible to enroll each semester.  
  • Both directors of undergraduate studies must agree to the initial list of courses that you will take in the two departments and must jointly approve any subsequent changes to your course of study.
  • Students and departments should keep in mind that the IDM requirements as stated above and in the Bulletin of Undergraduate Instruction are considered a minimum set of requirements.  At the discretion of the director of undergraduate studies, departments may set more stringent and/or more specific requirements.
  • An IDM must be planned early in your undergraduate career; an IDM will not be approved in your senior year.
  • An IDM functions as a single major and as such, can be combined with a second major.  Whether such a decision is appropriate or feasible should be carefully evaluated.
  • An IDM cannot be combined with a major or minor in either of the two departments comprising the IDM.

If you would like to explore whether an IDM is right for you, you can talk with your college advisor, faculty in the area in which you might study, or the director of undergraduate studies in the departments you are considering. One of the questions to consider is whether completing an IDM is a better choice for you than declaring a regular major and minor.

To declare an IDM, you must develop a written plan for your program of study, give your IDM a descriptive title, and work with the directors of undergraduate studies in both departments to put together a cogent list of courses for the major that they will approve. You will specify which department is considered "primary." In considering your proposal, the Directors of Undergraduate Studies should collaborate to insure that your IDM is rigorous and coherent. After you complete the IDM application and worksheet below and have both directors of undergraduate studies and advisors sign the application, then submit the signed form and worksheet to Academic Dean Karen Murphy in 011 Allen Building for final approval, and then processing. 


Departmental IDMs

The Directors of Undergraduate Studies in two Trinity College departments or programs that offer a major may also propose an interdepartmental major (IDM). The proposed IDM will define a course of study covering core features of each discipline, such as theory, methodology and research techniques. The criteria are the same as those criteria for student-proposed IDMs above with the procedural qualifications set forth in the remainder of this paragraph. The directors of undergraduate studies in the two departments must agree to the required courses and elective options necessary for completing the IDM. Departments proposing an interdepartmental major must present a descriptive title for the major and a rationale for how the program of study fits into the educational mission of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Duke University. IDM proposals should be submitted to the Dean for Curriculum and the Chair of the Arts & Sciences Council, and will be evaluated by the A&S Curriculum Committee and subsequently brought by ECASC to the A&S Council for deliberation and possible approval as a new major. This three-stage evaluation and initial approval process is meant to ensure that the proposal (1) meets the coverage requirements stated above and (2) does not substantially duplicate an existing major. Upon initial approval of a new department-proposed IDM by the A&S Council, Trinity College will publish the requirements for this course of study to the website and provide similar support for monitoring completion of requirements as other established majors receive.

Successful proposals will be offered to students upon initial approval by the A&S Council for a two-year period and would gradually evolve into permanent courses of study following a three-phase sequence, with each phase requiring Council approval:

Phase One (“Experimental”/ “Exploratory” – a two-year term). POLICY: This is the stage at which the faculty figure out how the parts can be made to fit together and what new synergies are created across units and student cohorts as the 14 courses composing an IDM cohere into a more organic curriculum capable of attracting student interest while getting those students better equipped for future careers or for graduate and professional study. At this stage, no course co-taught across the two sponsoring departments will be required although it would be great if this offering could be part of the initial experimentation phase as well.

Phase Two (“Pilot” proper – three-year term). POLICY: After the initial two-year exploration just described, faculty have had time to figure out the personnel and financial implications of sustaining a new major across the two sponsoring departments and should be ready to offer a required co-taught course, either as a foundation piece (gateway) or a capstone – or in some cases maybe both. The co-taught course requirement also applies to IDMs that received initial approval in or before spring 2020.

Phase Three (“Major” created with a “will” to permanence after five years of conditional existence, two as an exploratory offering and three as a pilot IDM). POLICY: At this stage, there is no expectation that the now-permanent major will be sunset anytime soon because it has met the higher sustainability threshold for final approval by the A&S Council. 

Current active departmental IDMs and their dates of inception are as follows:

  • Ancient Religion & Society -  Classical Studies/Religious Studies (Fall 2018)
  • Data Science – Computer Science and Statistics (Fall 2018) 
  • Data Science – Computer Science and Math (Fall 2020) 
  • Global Gender Studies - International Comparative Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (Fall 2020)
  • Linguistics and Computer Science (Fall 2019)

See also: