Guidelines for Preparing Your Plan of Study

What Your Plan of Study Should Include:

1.  A Statement of Intellectual Focus
In the first section of your Plan of Study, name and describe the intellectual focus of your program.  In other words, what is the major that you have created?  You should mention the most important topics which you will explore in your program.  The more specifically you can state what your individualized program centers on, the better your plan will be.  You might want to include the origin of your interest in this topic, and previous or current experience you have in the field.  Perhaps some of your related classes, research, papers, or projects would be worth explaining.  If appropriate, you can discuss future career or graduate school plans and how this degree will help prepare you for succeeding in the field.

2.  Academic Interest Specialist
In this section, you will identify the name and department of your confirmed Academic Interest Specialist.  An Academic Interest Specialist is a member of the University’s faculty, with an expertise in the student’s area of study.  Describe what you learned from discussing your proposed area of study with this professor, such as recommendations of certain classes included in your plan, or advice on how your plan will lead to graduate school or specific career possibilities. Each student must identify an Academic Interest Specialist, and include a letter of support from this individual in his/her proposal. (See Confirming an Academic Interest Specialist )

3.  Your Reasons for Preferring Interdepartmental Studies
Interdepartmental Studies is an alternative academic program that allows you to develop an individually tailored course of study that could not be pursued in a traditional department.  In this section, you must explain what is lacking in the departmental majors you choose not to seek, and why an individualized program is your best academic option.  In answering this question, consider carefully whether a major/minor/certificate combination from two to three departments would better provide you with the structure and access to classes needed to pursue your academic goals.

4.  A transcript of your college coursework
In order to give the Faculty Advisory Committee the ability to access an individual’s academic background, students are required to provide a current transcript of their college coursework.

5.  Interdepartmental Degree Course Pool by Theme
Some students find it helpful to identify courses that are of interest, and then look for the patterns that emerge.  Others find it more helpful to think carefully about the intellectual focus of the plan, and then search for the courses that fit the focus.  Choose whichever method works best for you.  Consider the connections between the courses you have listed.  How are they related to each other in terms of content, materials or skills?  Find ways that the courses can be grouped by theme as the building blocks of your program.  The courses you select should enable you to develop the major themes within your overall focus.  You can tailor the form to include as many different themes as are necessary for your intellectual focus. (See Selecting Classes for Your Plan of Study)

Complete the Course Pool by Theme form, which you can download on the Interdepartmental Studies website, to easily type in your classes.  Have your transcript handy when you fill in the form, as you will be including previous courses as well as those for the major.  Be sure to include alternatives (that are, of course, still in line with the theme) in case of time conflicts or a course being canceled, closed, or rejected by the Committee. 

Remember that a maximum of 18 s.h. may be taken in one department.  Although the Committee is approving your 36 semester hours of advanced-level work, if you feel there are some general education courses or electives that show evidence of your commitment to your area of study, you can list these as well.  These classes are labeled “Support Work” under each theme-based heading.  You may do the same with any experience you may have in the field, such as internships, practicum, volunteer efforts, paid work, research, or class projects.

Successful plans of study from previous semesters included a “capstone experience,” providing hands-on learning in line with the students’ areas of study.  When selecting your coursework, you are encouraged to include a 3 s.h. minimum capstone experience, such as an internship, independent study, research or thesis.

6.  Course Pool – theme grouping with explanations in narrative
This section will mirror the theme grouping of the form, but will focus on the 36 s.h. being applied to the interdepartmental major.  You will need to provide a rationale for why you are including a class or group of classes in your Plan of Study.  You can include your explanation under each class or under a theme-grouped listing of classes.  Describe how the class(es) fit within your intellectual focus and how the class(es) will help you meet your goals.  Don’t simply repeat published course descriptions.  Think about the purpose of each course, and how it fits with others in your course pool.  If you need more information, talk to the instructor, ask for a course syllabus, or find out what books or other materials are used in the course.

7.  Course Pool – semester-by-semester grouping
The second grouping of classes is a semester-by-semester breakdown of when you plan to take the remaining classes you are including in your plan. (See Course Pool by Semester)

8.  Interdepartmental Studies Program Requirement Exceptions
This final section should explain any proposed exceptions from stated requirements below, e.g., why you feel a class that is not 100-level or higher should still be included or why you are pursuing an interdepartmental degree when you have less than the required semesters left to graduate.

How to Submit Your Plan of Study
You must type your Plan of Study, which should be between five and ten pages.  Discuss your Plan of Study in detail with the Interdepartmental Studies Program’s Academic Coordinator, and your Academic Interest Specialist.  This may involve several meetings.  Carefully edit your plan and remove all errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. 

IMPORTANT:  The Interdepartmental Studies Program’s Academic Coordinator, and your Academic Interest Specialist, are available for help with the content of your Plan of Study.  If you need help with grammar and sentence structure, you can sign up for an appointment with The University of Iowa Writing Center at 110 EPB.  You can also correspond via e-mail with a writing tutor.  Access for more information. 
After your Plan of Study is complete, turn it into the Interdepartmental Studies Program’s Academic Coordinator, who will in turn get it to the Faculty Advisory Committee.  Check the program website for submission deadlines.