• Sierra Orr, 2018 Southern Regional Honors Conference

Chart your own path

Would you like to design your own major at JMU? The Independent Scholars program provides motivated students with the flexibility to pursue academic pathways tailored to their interests, when those interests are interdisciplinary in nature and cannot be fulfilled by existing majors. If you can't achieve your academic goals within an established major, or if you would like to add a second major that permits self-directed inquiry, the Independent Scholars major may be for you.

Area of Inquiry

The core of the Independent Scholars program is the area of inquiry, which is the intellectual focus for the self-designed curriculum. The area of inquiry is framed around a set of guiding questions that are intellectual in nature and clearly situated in historical, cultural, and scholarly context. Each student entering the major crafts their area of inquiry in collaboration with faculty mentors and devises a plan for coursework, independent research, and experiential learning that will allow pursuit of their questions in a thorough and feasible manner.

Recent examples of areas of inquiry include: Megan Ciszek's Theater for the Community and Social Change, which combined goals of community-based theater, education and outreach, and research on gender and identity; Zak Gordon's Mindfulness and Collaborative Art, which explored the intersection of spirituality, creativity, and interdisciplinary collaboration; and Andrew Parr's Healthcare in Public Policy, which studies how cultural variability in wellness perceptions influences public policy and national health standards.    


Why Choose the Independent Scholars Major?
  • The Independent Scholars (IS) major cultivates creativity, independence, and problem-solving qualities in high demand by employers and post-baccalaureate programs.
  • Students in the IS major have the freedom to explore ideas across disciplinary boundaries and apply their knowledge and skills in experiential settings, and acquire special expertise in evaluating and integrating knowledge from different fields of study.
  • The IS major works well in concert with other majors and minors at JMU; many of our students are double majors and incorporate coursework from minors in their curricula.
  • The IS major is a unique opportunity for goal-oriented individuals to shape the direction of their own education.  


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