Overview of the Organizing Theme Major

The Organizing Theme Major is best suited for the self-motivated student who has a well-defined intellectual curiosity for a topic involving multiple disciplines and which cannot be accommodated by the already existing majors, double majors, or interdepartmental majors at Union College. The Organizing Theme Major encourages the exploration of thematically related connections across disciplines, and must therefore incorporate courses from at least three different departments (with no more than four courses from any one department to count toward the major).

The student must choose and work with an advisor (or advisors) who is supportive of the student’s proposed Organizing Theme Major and has a clear understanding of what the project entails.  The student who chooses to work with more than one advisor must be certain that the advisors are willing to work together with the student to create and carry out the Organizing Theme Major proposal.

Requirements for the Major: The approved program must conform to the disciplines already established at Union. YOUR PROPOSAL MAY BE SUBMITTED NO SOONER THAN SPRING TERM OF YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR, AND MUST BE SUBMITTED, AT THE VERY LATEST, BY WEEK SIX OF SPRING TERM OF YOUR SOPHOMORE YEAR.

It consists of a total of 12 courses that clearly relate to the organizing theme, AT LEAST TWO of which must be at the 300- or 400-level. In addition, the student must complete a one-term Senior Thesis or project (ORT 498). OR the student must complete 11 courses (AT LEAST TWO of which much be at the 300- or 400-level) and then a two-term Senior Thesis or project (ORT 498-499).

NOTE: When preparing the Organizing Theme Major proposal with the advisor(s), the student must identify these 12 courses, plus several (3-4) more that can stand in as alternates in case some of the courses you choose are not available at the time you wish to take them. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CHECK WITH DEPARTMENTS TO VERIFY THAT THE COURSES YOU WISH TO TAKE WILL IN FACT BE OFFERED IN THE TIME FRAME YOU WISH TO TAKE THEM.

The one- or two-term senior thesis or project (ORT 498-499) must demonstrate an integration of the knowledge and skills gained from the Organizing Theme Major courses that the student has taken.  The advisor(s) will direct this senior thesis or project.

The Application Process

The Organizing Theme Major proposal requires the approval of the chosen Organizing Theme advisor(s) and then a faculty committee established by the Dean of Studies. It may be proposed no sooner than the spring term of the freshman year and no later than the sixth week of the spring term sophomore year (in extremely rare cases, this deadline may be extended to the first week of the fall term of junior year). To find out more about the Organizing Theme Major and the application process, see the Guide to Preparing an Organizing Theme Major Application Web page or contact the Dean of Studies at deanofstudies@union.edu.

To apply for an Organizing Theme Major, download the “Organizing Theme Application Form.” The Organizing Theme Major Proposal must be prepared with the guidance, input and approval of the Organizing Theme Major advisor(s) you’ve chosen to work with before it is submitted to the the Dean of Studies (who then forwards it to the committee). 

Once completed, the advisor(s) will submit the proposal to the Dean of Studies, who will forward it on to the Organizing Theme Major Committee.  The Organizing Theme Major Committee will review the proposal and if necessary, suggest revisions for the student to make in consultation with the advisor(s). 

If no revisions are required, the Organizing Theme Major Committee will consider the proposal for final approval.  If revisions are required, the student along with the advisor(s) will make them, and the advisor(s) will send the completed revision back to the Dean of Studies who forwards it to the Organizing Theme Major Committee for final approval.

The Organizing Theme Major Committee members may also suggest revisions; if they do, the proposal will be sent back to the student and the advisor(s) to be revised in accordance with these suggestions. Working with the advisor(s), the students makes the suggested revisions, and the advisor(s) send(s) the revised proposal back to the Organizing Theme Major Committee.  The committee reviews and officially approves the proposal, and gives it to the Dean of Studies who forwards it to the Registrar. The student then completes a Declaration of Major form and submits it to the Registrar.  If all the paperwork in is order, the Registrar lists the student’s major as Organizing Theme.

Please note that this process often takes a month or more.

Please also note that any change(s) to your choice of courses listed the OTM application after it has been approved can only be made in conference with your OTM advisor.  Together, you and your advisor will have to write a request for the course change(s), including reasoning for the course change(s) and how this still fits into your overall project.  This request will have to be submitted by your advisor to the the Dean of Studies and may have to go back to the committee for re-approval.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact the Dean of Studies, at deanofstudies@union.edu.

*The Organizing Theme Major Committee consists of members appointed by the Dean of Studies, one from each of the four divisions who, when possible, have experience in Interdisciplinary Studies (such as Program Directors, for example (Women’s and Gender Studies, Environmental Studies, Africana Studies, Film Studies, etc.).