Frequently Asked Questions
Courses and Credit
Proposing an IIM
All students are required to declare a major by the end of sophomore year. Even if you plan to propose an IIM or are waiting to learn if your IIM is approved, you must go ahead and declare a standard major. This can always be dropped at a later point. Students must have a realistic back up major in case the IIM is not approved.
Most Independent Interdisciplinary Majors consist of 12 courses (eleven courses and one independent study, IIM 98a/b, or ten courses and the two-semester IIM 99d, senior thesis courses). It is not to your advantage to list more than 15 courses in sections I and II of the Proposed Curriculum for Independent Interdisciplinary Major petition (pdf).
Yes, but at least 8 of the courses must be taken at Brandeis or through cross-registration.
As is true with any other major at the university, courses with a grade of “pass” cannot count toward completion of an IIM.
Language courses numbered 40 and above may count toward an Independent Interdisciplinary Major, but those numbered below 40 cannot.
Do select courses from three or more departments. Do not avoid the "hard" parts of a departmental major (i.e., Statistics, Organic Chemistry). Try to find a mix of introductory and intermediate or advanced courses. All selected courses should relate in a relatively obvious way to your topic, or you should explain the connection in your proposal. If you are able to review the curricula of similar majors offered at other colleges and universities, you will most likely find appropriate course topics to include. You must also be able to complete all selected courses in your time remaining at Brandeis.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of designing an IIM, no more than four courses may double count toward another major or two courses towards another minor. No more than six courses may be used toward any additional major(s) or minor(s).
Although your IIM has been approved based on the courses in your proposal, it is realistic that you may need to update your curriculum due to course availability or unforeseen circumstances. You may revise the requirements of your major with the approval of your primary advisor. Once you have talked through any revisions with them, you should submit a course substitution request so that your Workday audit accurately reflects your progress toward completing your major. Your primary faculty advisor will sign off on completion of your IIM during the degree audit process in your final semester.
The title should resemble those used for similar majors at other institutions. Because your title will be listed on your transcript, it should not be too specific (e.g., "Environmental Studies” is fine, but "Global Warming in the Developing World" is not). It will also be stated on your diploma at the time of graduation.
Normally, students must have their IIM proposals approved before the end of their fall semester junior year. However, in some rare cases, proposals from second semester juniors have been reviewed as long as the student will complete another regular major before he or she graduates.
Important note: It is more difficult for second semester juniors to gain approval because they typically do not have enough time to incorporate curricular changes suggested by either the UCC or by their own faculty committee.
Petitions are due either in mid-October or mid-March. Check with the Office of Academic Services or the IIM webpage for exact dates. Please note an Independent Interdisciplinary Major must be declared before the end of your fall semester junior year.
A subcommittee representing the four schools of the University (Creative Arts, Humanities, Science and Social Science), including two current or former IIM faculty advisors and two faculty members from the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee will meet once each semester to review your petition. You are welcome to meet with the committee. Meetings usually last about twenty minutes, and include a brief presentation by you, followed by questions from the committee.
There is no need to complete a major declaration form for your approved IIM. Academic Services will be sure that your IIM is added to your academic record. However, be sure to meet with your primary advisor at least once per semester to review your progress. You should also provide regular updates to the other members of your committee and meet with them as needed.
Ask your primary advisor to approve a temporary or permanent replacement to serve in his or her place while he or she is away. You must maintain a permanent committee of three faculty advisors throughout your Independent Interdisciplinary Major studies at Brandeis.
Yes. Refer to this page for the name and contact information of the UDR for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors. The IIM UDR(s) look forward to answering any questions you might have about the process!
Both a thesis and an independent study are different from a regular class in that they take place one-on-one with a professor. An independent study is for one semester, while a thesis is for two semesters.
The goal for both options is to delve into a project that allows you to engage deeply with a subject of particular interest, to build a collaborative relationship with a faculty member, and to contribute original scholarship to an academic discipline or disciplines.
Note: A thesis is required to be eligible for departmental honors for the IIM. After your thesis advisor and other readers have read your thesis, they will recommend whether your work merits one of three degrees of honors.
One of the biggest differences is the amount of time spent on the course itself. A thesis is a two-semester commitment, whereas an independent study lasts for one semester. The size and scope of the projects should reflect this difference. For instance, one who undertakes a thesis typically spends the majority of the first semester conducting research in preparation for writing in the second semester. For an independent study, the research and writing take place in the same semester.
If you are considering a thesis, it will be helpful to look at the guidelines for the department which most closely aligns with your major or the department of your primary advisor. For example, if your capstone advisor is in the Sociology department, review the departmental guidelines for theses on the Sociology website. Discuss with your advisor how your IIM procedures and standards will be similar or different from those of the advisor’s home department.
Students who wish to write a senior thesis for their Independent Interdisciplinary Majors enroll in IIM 99d, a two-semester course in which a senior honors project or thesis is produced. An independent study, IIM 98, is a one-semester course taken in either semester of the senior year. For either a 98 or a 99, you must identify a faculty sponsor who will supervise your work and assign the course grade. The academic requirements of an independent study usually include writing a paper and reading a selected set of books or other research documents. Review the guidelines on the back of the Independent Study Add Form, available on the Registrar Office's website, for more information. Students can only enroll in a 99 or 98 course by submitting a completed form in person to the Registrar's Office in Kutz Hall. Neither course can be registered for on the web.
Whether you are planning to do a thesis or an independent study, it is best to plan at least a full semester in advance. Talk with your IIM advisors about who might be the best fit as the advisor for your capstone and brainstorm possible topics for your capstone.
These courses are not automatically added to your schedule. To add either course, you need to complete a paper add form and to turn this into the registrar’s office during the registration period at the beginning of the semester.
An independent study requires a “98” add form while a thesis (numbered “99”) requires a regular add/drop form. Both forms can be found on the registrar’s office webpage.
Note: For the thesis — you need to add the course both in the fall and the spring (it will not automatically be added to your schedule during your second semester of the thesis).
The Senior Honors Thesis webpage outlines more about the thesis process.
It is expected that you will be in touch regularly with your advisor for your capstone while you are completing it. You will want to talk with him/her about the following details:
How often you will meet during the semester, and what is the best way to communicate with your advisor
What work is expected and when. Establishing checkpoints throughout the semester can be helpful so that you are maintaining progress and getting regular feedback
How the work will be evaluated
Projects vary widely, especially given the nature of the IIM program and the unique focus areas of each major in the program. Many independent studies take the form of a research paper. Others have been performative — for example, culminating in a presentation or theater production.
Some recent examples include:
Architectural Studies — senior thesis focused on social media’s influence on modern design
Urban Studies — independent study focused on a case study of present-day New Orleans, culminating in a research paper
Writing for Performance — senior thesis. Co-wrote and performed a play on campus
Social Justice Social Policy — independent study focused on the history of a former psychiatric hospital in Waltham and the treatment of people diagnosed with mental and physical disabilities; culminated in a presentation
Independent majors should achieve a 3.25 cumulative grade point average in order to be considered for "departmental" honors. You must also complete the IIM 99d option, a senior honors project in your Independent Interdisciplinary Major. Students enroll in IIM 99d for two semesters and receive the equivalent of eight credit hours (out of 128) or two courses (out of 32). After your thesis advisor and other readers have read your thesis, they will recommend whether your work merits one of the three degrees of honors to your permanent committee of three faculty advisors.
Towards the end of senior year, your primary faculty advisor will review your Independent Interdisciplinary Major declaration form (including documented changes) and ascertain whether you have met all requirements.
A diploma ceremony takes place during the commencement activities and is for a specific department or a group of departments. You would receive your diploma at the diploma ceremony of the department of your major.
Given the diverse range of IIM topics as well as faculty, the IIM program does not have a diploma ceremony. The Registrar's Office will contact you before graduation and ask you to select the mini commencement ceremony you wish to attend. Most students select the department of their primary advisor or the one in which they took the most courses.
Your name will be called with the department of your IIM primary faculty advisor. The title of your IIM would be read aloud and would be written on your diploma.