Create your own major
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
When Rachel Rabinowitz came to UB, she was undecided. It wasn’t until she took a nutrition class that she had any idea of what she wanted to do with her life. But UB doesn’t offer nutrition as a major.
Rabinowitz changed that.
Rabinowitz, a sophomore chemistry major with a special major in nutrition, is just one of the students at UB who is creating her own major in the special studies program.
The special studies program started in the ’70s and approximately 25,000 students have graduated with their own special majors. Every year, there could be anywhere from 15 to 40 students in the program, according to Michael Kustreba, a senior academic advisor for the College of Arts and Sciences. Kustreba works with students to help them create their own majors.
Students who are interested in the special major program must first come up with an idea or a field of study they want to major in. In Rabinowitz’s case, it was nutrition.
Students must then come up with a list of courses they think will best prepare them for a career in their field.
For each of the courses chosen, the student has to write a proposal or justification as to why it is relevant to their chosen subject. This was the most stressful part of the process for Rabinowtiz. She was worried about coming up with her own curriculum and electives.
After the classes are picked, a board of professors reviews the curriculum.
The board comes from different departments at UB, according to Kustreba.
The student must find two faculty mentors to help him or her through the program. These mentors can also suggest courses appropriate to the field the student wants to study.
Rabinowitz approached Peter Horvath, a professor in the department of exercise and nutrition sciences, to be one of her mentors.
“It is hard, but I want to have this major,” Rabinowitz said. “It can pay off in the end.”
Freshmen aren’t allowed to apply to the special major program because, according to Kustreba, they aren’t aware of all 140 majors UB has to offer. He thinks freshmen will use this program as an easy way out of exploring their options.
He also thinks the ideal time for students to pursue creating a unique major is during their sophomore year, so they have enough time to complete the curriculum.
Students work closely with Kustreba to come up with the appropriate title for the special major degree.
Some students may think of transferring to another school before they realize they can create something entirely their own, according to Kustreba.
“Some of the programs that are designed are so unique that they may not be available at another institution,” Kustreba said. “We have had majors that were so highly specialized that you would not find it anywhere in the 55,000 colleges in the U.S., so that’s one reason. Another reason why is students would not be likely to find it somewhere else, and I’m talking about majors such as the title of physiology, psychology and marketing of martial arts for specialized population.”
Rabinowitz would never think of transferring. She likes her life and friendships at UB. According to Rabinowitz, even though developing her own major takes a lot of work, it will add uniqueness to her degree.