Guide to Preparing an Organizing Theme
Major Application

Now that you are considering an Organizing Theme major, here are a few points to keep in mind.

The Theme Itself

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.

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.  The first step in preparing the Organizing Theme Major application will be to define your theme in a concise essay form, including details on how the courses you’ve identified for the OT major contribute to the exploration of your chosen theme.  Also, aim to create an Organizing Theme Major title that does not sound like a thesis title, but the designation of a kind of major (i.e., International Relations, Architectural Studies, Urban Studies, Sports Journalism, etc.).

The Courses

A. The OT major calls on you to make use of at least three departments (with no more than 4 courses from any one department.) This standard is in part what differentiates an Organizing Theme Major from a single, double, or Interdepartmental major. If your interest does not call on you to draw significantly from at least three different departments, the Organizing Theme Major is not for you.

B. It is perfectly acceptable to use more than three departments (again, with no more than 4 courses from any one department to count toward the major).

C. The Organizing Theme Major requires you to take twelve courses plus a one-term senior thesis or project. OR, you can take eleven courses plus a two-term thesis or project.

D. The OT major requires that AT LEAST TWO of your courses be upper level (300 level or above.) This requirement cannot be met with the senior project or thesis.

E. You should list at least 15 or 16 courses (though you need only take 11 or 12) in case some of the courses you choose are not available at the time you wish to take them. Please also note that some courses you choose will require prerequisites that will not necessarily count toward the major.

F. All of the courses you take to satisfy your Organizing Theme Major requirements must make sense in light of the theme you define in your proposal. The Organizing Theme Major application will ask you to explain how the courses you choose will contribute to the exploration of your theme in your proposal essay.

The Application and Approval Process

An Organizing Theme major first requires the approval of the advisor(s) you choose to work with, then the Organizing Theme Major Committee director, and then the members of the Organizing Theme Major Committee established by the Dean of Studies. It may be proposed no sooner than spring term of the freshman year and no later than the sixth week of spring term of the sophomore year.

To apply for an Organizing Theme Major, download and complete 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 have chosen to work with. 

Once completed, the advisor(s) must submit the proposal electronically 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 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

*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.).