B.1.e. Degree Programs & Projects
First-year seminars are thematic courses that approach an area of intellectual inquiry from a perspective that attempts to make connections among a number of the traditional disciplines. Normally, a first-year seminar has an enrollment of no more than 15 students for each faculty member in the seminar. The first-year seminars have an intensive writing component. All entering students register for one first-year seminar. The instructor of this seminar is the first-year faculty advisor for all the students enrolled in the course. Normally, first-year seminars do not satisfy departmental major requirements. They may, however, satisfy distribution requirements. Exceptions to this pattern are published in the catalog of first-year seminars. After successfully completing a first-year seminar, every student must complete by the end of the fourth semester or as determined by the student's major department or program, at least one course designated as a College writing course (CW). Students are responsible for completing both college writing requirements prior to graduation, and are strongly advised to fulfill their second CW credit before they begin their final semester at Middlebury. A College writing course should not be taken concurrently with a first-year seminar, and if taken concurrently, will not satisfy this requirement.
All students must complete two sets of distribution requirements:
(a) academic categories, and
(b) cultures and civilizations.
Courses that count toward the major or a minor may be used to satisfy distribution requirements. Winter term courses, Summer Study courses, first-year seminars, and College writing courses may also be used to satisfy distribution requirements.
Independent study courses (0500 and above) do not qualify for distribution requirements.
Students must take at least one course in seven of eight academic categories described below. Single courses can be listed with two distribution categories. A student may count a single course in no more than one academic category requirement. Courses taken under the Pass/D/Fail option (before Fall 2022) or the Credit/No-Credit option (Fall 2022 or later) may not be used to satisfy distribution, College Writing, First Year Seminar, or cultures and civilizations requirements.
1. Academic Categories
a. Literature (LIT)
Literature has been a central form of expression for many societies. Analysis and appreciation of the literary text give students insight into the minds and lives of other human beings, both their own cultural predecessors and people of different traditions, and into the process whereby human experience is imaginatively transformed into art. By studying literature in English and in other languages, students also sharpen their ability to express their own ideas with grace and precision.
b. The Arts (ART)
The understanding of the history, theory, and practice of the arts is an integral part of a liberal arts education. Courses in this category either emphasize the creative process through the making and performing of actual works of art (ranging from paintings and sculptures to plays, dances, creative writing, film/video, and musical compositions) or study the place of such works of art within a particular historical, cultural, or aesthetic context.
c. Philosophical and Religious Studies (PHL)
Courses in this category examine philosophical systems and religious traditions from a variety of viewpoints, including analytical, systematic, historical, sociological, anthropological, and phenomenological perspectives. Some courses deal with specific philosophical problems or theological issues; others trace the history of philosophy or of religious traditions; still others examine philosophical schools of thought or religious traditions during specific periods of history.
d. Historical Studies (HIS)
History is that branch of knowledge that seeks to account for the diverse ways in which human beings in different cultures and societies have all met and responded to temporal change. Courses in this area study the development of societies and cultures over time.
e. Physical and Life Sciences (SCI)
Courses in this category study inductive and deductive processes of science. Emphasis is on the methods used to gather, interpret, and evaluate data critically, and the placement of this information into a larger context. Fundamental principles of each discipline are discussed in a manner that illustrates the evolving relationship of science, technology, and society.
f. Deductive Reasoning and Analytical Processes (DED)
Courses in this category deal with one or more of the following: (a) basic principles of reasoning and the axiomatic method; (b) statistical methods for analyzing and interpreting data; (c) key mathematical concepts; (d) abstract symbolic manipulation or reasoning.
g. Social Analysis (SOC)
This category deals with the analysis of the individual in society. Courses in this area involve the systematic study of human behavior and the processes and results of human interaction through organizations and institutions, both formal and informal. Social analysis can be undertaken from a variety of perspectives: inductive (using data to make generalizations about human behavior), deductive (using principles to search for and to develop new theories), and normative (using values to recognize important questions and to evaluate alternative answers).
h. Foreign Language (LNG)
Speaking, listening, reading, and writing in a language other than one's own exercise and expand the mind. Because of the close interdependence between language and culture, study of a foreign language helps one gain insights into other societies and ultimately one's own. Courses in this category include many, but not all, of those taught in a foreign language or which focus on texts in a foreign language.
Middlebury College believes that students should 1) have educational exposure to the variety of the world's cultures and civilizations, where these terms are broadly understood to intersect with geography, history, ethnicity, gender and other factors, and 2) engage critically with sameness, difference, culture, and perspective. These goals are integral to most of the academic disciplines represented in the curriculum.
Accordingly, each Middlebury student is required to complete successfully four courses to fulfill the cultures and civilizations requirement. Specifically, every student takes at least one course in each of at least three of the following regions, focusing on some aspect of the cultures and civilizations of that region.
a. SOA: South and Southeast Asia, including the Pacific
b. NOA: North Asia including China, Korea, Japan and the Asian steppes
c. MDE: Middle East and North Africa
d. SAF: Sub-Saharan Africa
e. EUR: Europe
f. AMR: the Americas
plus one Comparative (CMP) course, focused on the process of comparison between and among cultures and civilizations, or on the identity and experience of separable groups within cultures and civilizations.
A single course may be listed as fulfilling one of the regional categories (SOA, NOA, MDE, SAF, EUR, AMR; as recommended by the course instructor and determined by the Curriculum Committee). Courses that satisfy CMP may also carry one of the regional area designations, however a student may not count one of these courses toward both the CMP and regional requirements. A student may count the same course toward both an academic category requirement, and one of the cultures and civilizations requirements. Courses that count toward the major and the minor, winter term courses, summer study courses, and first-year student seminars may be used to satisfy the cultures and civilizations requirement.
College Board Advanced Placement credits may not be used to satisfy distribution or cultures and civilizations requirements.
Students choose one of the following programs of study:
(a) 1 major (departmental, joint, or interdisciplinary**)
(b) 1 major (departmental, joint, or interdisciplinary**), 1 minor
(c) 1 departmental major, 2 minors
(d) 2 majors* (either 2 departmental or one departmental and one interdisciplinary**), no minor.
*A student who has declared two majors will have to choose to complete only one major should scheduling conflicts occur.
**Majors considered interdisciplinary include: American Studies; Black Studies; Environmental Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies; International and Global Studies; International Politics and Economics; Molecular Biology and Biochemistry; and Neuroscience.
A major requires a minimum of 10 fall and spring semester credits. Students may take no more than 16 fall and spring semester credits and, in addition, no more than two winter term and summer study courses, combined, in a major department or program (one of which may be senior work).
All students must officially declare a major by the end of the third semester. Any student who wishes to complete a second major must officially declare by the end of the fourth semester of study. After the fourth semester, students wishing to add a second major, or change majors, must petition and gain approval from the new department or program to ensure that the student can complete the major by the end of the eighth semester.
Some highly structured programs, particularly those involving study in the foreign languages or the natural sciences, are facilitated by a declaration of major by the end of the second semester.
A department may define standards for the admission of students to its major program. Students who do not meet these standards may be denied admission or may be admitted provisionally, pending demonstration of their qualifications for advanced work in the department.
In addition to specific courses required for a major, cognate courses may be recommended to further the student's particular academic interests or intentions. Departments offer different opportunities for senior work, adjusted both to the nature of the field and to students' needs. Students should consult the descriptions of senior work under each department or program for details on the available senior work offerings.
Major/Advisor Declaration/Change Forms are available online. The declaration Form must be signed by the chair of the major department or program (or designee).
D. Change of Major
To change a major, students must petition and gain approval from the new department or program (or designee) to ensure that they can complete the major by the end of the eighth semester. Upon gaining approval of that plan, the student must submit a Change of Major Form to the Office of the Registrar, signed by the advisor and chair (or designee) of the proposed major department or program.
E. Joint Majors
To complete a joint major, a student is required to:
1. Secure formal approval from advisors and chairs (or designees) in both departments or programs. To gain that approval, the student is required to work with the chairs (or designees) of both departments or programs on an academic program for completion of the proposed joint major. The minimum requirements agreed upon, and the overall program must be submitted in writing with the signature of the two department or program chairs (or designees) to the Office of the Registrar.
2. Complete a senior program which combines both majors and is agreed upon by the advisors and department or program chairs (or designees) involved. That senior work may include or exclude normal expectations regarding independent work and general examinations as appropriate.
A student declaring a joint major may not declare any other major.
F. Two Majors
To complete two separate majors (either 2 departmental or one departmental and one interdisciplinary), a student is required to:
1. Formally declare both majors according to procedures stated above, with the approval of the chairs (or designees) of both departments or programs.
2. Complete all the requirements for the major in each department or program. A course will meet the requirements of more than one major for the same student if that specific course is listed by number and name, in the departments' course listings, as specifically required for both majors. Up to two courses implicitly or explicitly listed as generic or categorical requirements of both majors will also meet the requirements of more than one major for the same student. No other courses will be counted as satisfying the requirements of more than one major for the same student except by specific action of the Curriculum Committee and faculty.
3. A student declaring two majors may not declare any minors.
Students may elect to complete only one minor if they are undertaking a major that is joint or interdisciplinary. Students may declare up to two minors if they are undertaking a departmental major. A student declaring two majors may not declare any minors.
Normally, all students choosing to declare a minor will do so officially by the end of the second week of classes of the 7th semester of study.
Minors will consist of four to six credits, at least one of which must be at an advanced level.
Departments and programs may designate configurations of courses that will constitute a minor (or minors) for that department, program, or major.
Students may not self-design a minor.
Faculty may design interdepartmental minors in those areas of the curriculum in which a major is not offered, subject to approval by the full faculty.
Minors will be listed on students' transcripts.
A course may count toward a student's major or minor, but not toward both. A course counted toward one minor may not be counted toward an additional minor.
H. Independent Scholar Program
The Independent Scholar Program is designed to meet the needs of outstanding students who have clearly defined educational goals that cannot be fulfilled within the framework of a normal departmental or interdisciplinary major. Independent Scholars plan their own curricular programs with the assistance of a faculty advisor. Independent Scholars cannot propose two majors, but can pursue an independent scholar major and one minor. For the 2023-24 academic year, application materials are due to the Curriculum Committee by Monday, October 9, 2023, for fall review; and Monday, February 19, 2024, for spring review.
Eligibility: For an application to be considered, a student must be in the sophomore year and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. If approved, students must fulfill all requirements for the degree using their approved Independent Scholar plan as their major course of study. Independent Scholar proposals will be evaluated in light of feasibility, academic disciplinary integrity, and demonstrated ability of the student. A successful proposal must articulate a fully developed program of study, must include a methods course, and must demonstrate compellingly that the student’s academic goals cannot be met through existing majors.
Application process: To be designated an Independent Scholar, a student must undergo a rigorous approval process overseen by the Curriculum Committee. The process begins with an interview with the dean of curriculum. The student must subsequently prepare and submit a well-defined program to the Curriculum Committee, covering a description of the aim of the program, the independent work, and the courses he or she proposes to comprise the major. The proposal must be accompanied by a written endorsement of a faculty member who is willing and qualified to supervise the student, as well as a statement of support from an alternate faculty member. Faculty member endorsements should describe a student’s readiness to partake in the independent scholar program and should include support for and evidence of the student’s capacity for serious, independent intellectual inquiry. The Curriculum Committee will review all submitted materials, and if warranted, convene a meeting with the candidate and advisors. Final approval rests with the Curriculum Committee. An applicant whose proposal is denied is entitled to meet with the dean of curriculum or the Curriculum Committee.
Oversight: The Curriculum Committee will solicit updates from each Independent Scholar twice a year. Changes to the program must also be submitted to the Curriculum Committee, and the faculty supervisor will cosign all registration materials. The Major Declaration Form and Degree Audit Forms will be signed by both the faculty advisor and dean of curriculum. Students who elect to withdraw from the Independent Scholar Program, or who have their independent scholar status withdrawn, may be allowed, at the discretion of the committee, to graduate in general studies, without a formal major in any department.
Senior work: The INDE 0800 is a culminating experience for this program of study. This project brings together the course work the student has completed and incorporates all aspects of the study into one final project. Students applying to be independent scholars are asked to provide an indication of possible INDE 0800 projects at the time that they submit their proposals. Students are able, however, to change the topic of their INDE 0800 project in order to respond to new interests and information acquired during the course of their study.
The INDE 0800 project is undertaken for one or two terms. Students who wish to be considered for honors must work with a thesis committee. Thesis work most typically follows the procedures for the department most closely related to the project. Others may choose to work with an individual faculty member, usually the student's advisor. The choice of senior project is flexible. For example, with permission from the advisor, a student in the performing arts might want to incorporate a dance performance, musical composition, or some other feature as part of his or her course of study.
Honors: In order to be considered for honors, independent scholars normally must meet two criteria: a minimum average of B+ in courses taken towards the major and a minimum grade of B+ on the senior work component.. The Dean of Curriculum oversees the first requirement and will inform the advisor of the student's eligibility. The senior work component must be evaluated by a committee of three faculty members (one of whom, at the advisor's request, may be a faculty member on the Curriculum Committee). Minimum thesis grades for each level of honors are B+ (Honors), A- (High Honors), and A (Highest Honors), but the determination of the appropriate level will be made by the thesis committee.
For more information about this program, contact Grace Spatafora, Dean of Curriculum.
I. 0500 Courses
The election of a 0500 project provides an opportunity for individual work in one's field of interest. It is a privilege open to those students with advanced preparation and superior records in their fields; exceptions will be considered by submitting a request to the Curriculum Committee. The 0500 projects in a student's major or minor department must be approved by the department, whether half-credit or full-credit. All 0500 projects proposed outside of the major or minor department must be approved by the chair of the department in which the work is to be done. Students who have earned 17 or fewer credits, not including pre-college testing credits, are normally not permitted to undertake independent work during the Fall and Spring semesters. Exceptions may be considered upon written request to the Curriculum Committee. Students with 8 or more credits may pursue independent work during winter term, or summer study, provided the 0500 course is offered then. A student is limited to four 0500 projects in any discipline, not including winter term or summer study independent projects. Independent study courses are graded on an A-F basis unless special arrangements are made through the dean of curriculum (e.g., occasional independent projects where the instructor decides that the special nature of the course is better suited to honors/pass/fail grading).
J. Senior Program
Departments may organize independent senior work to suit their students' needs under the general principle of encouraging students in independent work.
When senior independent work continues through more than one term, a grade of S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory) will be submitted for each term of the project. When a final grade is recorded, the S or U will be converted to whatever final grade is reported.
In addition to senior independent work, departments may also offer a general examination. If given, the general examination becomes a fixed degree requirement and may count as one or two course units, as the department shall determine. It may receive a grade separate from that given to the senior independent work.
Normally, general examinations will be held in a student's senior year. In certain cases, students may take general examinations at the end of their junior year. All reexaminations must be taken at Middlebury under the supervision of those in charge of the major program. Prior registration for such examinations must be made with the Commons dean and department chair.
Each department may, at its discretion and in accordance with its requirements, excuse students from final examinations in their major field if they achieve a specified grade in the general examination.
A maximum value of three credits may be assigned for senior work.