Independent Program: Goals and Objectives
As no courses originate in the Independent Program, its goals and objectives cannot be located in its curricular offerings, in any conceptualization of its disciplinarity, or in its specific contributions to the College's curriculum. The Independent Program exists to facilitate the study of subjects that can best be approached in a multidisciplinary way and for which Vassar does not already have a formalized departmental, interdepartmental, or multidisciplinary program. The variety of potential major concentrations is made possible both by the breadth of Vassar's curriculum and by access to courses at other institutions through various exchange programs. Students wishing to declare the major must make a formal application, usually during their sophomore year, to the Committee on the Independent Program, which consists of the Program Director plus one faculty member from each of the four curricular divisions of the College. Once admitted to the Independent Program, each student follows the agreed-upon course of study, and culminates the major by undertaking a senior thesis or project under the continuing guidance of two faculty advisers.
As the interests of Independent majors span the College curriculum, the Program does not articulate disciplinarily specific goals. In evaluating application statements, however, the Committee is mindful of a number of key objectives that guide Vassar's broader educational mission, and routinely rejects proposals that fail to adhere to them.
In particular, we insist that students develop a depth of knowledge concerning the field(s) of study relevant to their majors by asking them to work to the 300-level in at least two departments; our mandatory senior thesis or project requires that students conduct original research or artistic activity; and our inherently interdisciplinary nature insures that students develop integrative thinking across the curriculum.
We offer very few course units designed for non-majors. Our introductory course serves to present ideally freshmen, but frequently sophomores, to a multidisciplinary approach to learning, while the senior seminar is designed [ . . . (ed.: something is missing)]. We do, however, offer a series of 200-level courses designed to address issues of contemporary importance (e.g. terrorism, globalization, modernization) through a multidisciplinary lens. In addition, we offer the annual study trip which exposes students to other cultures. The trip usually includes a carefully designed six-week course with material from a range of disciplines. The climax is generally a 15-day visit to a foreign country. This project is open to faculty of all disciplines and students of all majors. The role of the program is to select among competing alternatives, to guide the academic project, and to list from the instructors as much of the institutional burden as possible. We feel that both this project and the campus based 200-level courses fulfill the College's mission of general education.