Do you want to chart your own path? This major is for you.

Design your own major
Conduct research and a field study
1 to 1 mentorship


Independent scholars is a self-designed major open to students who are honors-eligible. In consultation with the IS faculty and a faculty mentor from another academic unit, each student devises a curriculum, plans research and field study, and conducts independent research. The major is aimed at students who are strongly self-motivated and research-oriented, and who cannot address their interests sufficiently within any of the existing majors or minors at JMU.

Degrees Offered



Declaring the Major

New Freshmen and Transfer Students

Do you feel like independent scholars may be for you? The next step is to compose a short essay (1-2 pages) explaining your interdisciplinary interests, including why they cannot be met by either another major or combination of major and minor currently offered at JMU, and describing your goals for the major. Please submit that essay to Dianne Fulk in Hillcrest House. The co-directors of the IS major will review the essay and meet with prospective students twice a semester to evaluate possible entry to the introductory proposal-writing class, IND 200, which is offered every fall.

Currently Enrolled Major Changers 

Admission to the Major

The mission of the Independent Scholars major is to provide students with a learning environment in which they develop and pursue self-designed curricular pathways and research goals, identifying unique domains of inquiry and interweaving multiple modes of thinking. Students are empowered to cultivate their own academic and professional interests in ways that foster the ability to comprehend and contribute uniquely and innovatively to a wide array of topics, questions and problems. 

IS majors will develop topic-based interests and inquiry strategies to pursue those interests; enhance creativity, self-directedness and perseverance required for inquiry; learn research, technical and communication skills relevant to their inquiry; situate their inquiry in relation to contemporary notions of disciplinary thinking; enhance aptitude and confidence in working independently and collectively; and apply knowledge and skills in experiential-learning settings.

Acceptance into IS is competitive and open to all JMU students with a GPA of 3.25 or higher, or by permission. Interested students will meet with one of the IS coordinators before the end of the first semester of their first year. Based on the advice of IS coordinators, students may then enroll in the IS exploration and major application course (IND 200), which is taught each fall. Students whose interests better align with existing JMU majors will be directed to those majors. Decisions about acceptance into IS will be made by the IND 200 instructor, IS coordinators and a faculty advisory committee at the end of each IND 200 course. 

Successful applicants will have a strong academic record that demonstrates exceptional motivation, curiosity, writing ability and independent research potential; have successfully recruited a faculty content expert to help the IS coordinators guide the student’s IS inquiry; and have performed well overall in the IND 200 course, which includes writing a convincing inquiry proposal and feasible curriculum. Students not accepted into IS at the end of IND 200 will be advised into other majors and can use the three IND credits as electives.

Progressing in the Major

Students must maintain good academic standing with at least a GPA of 2.0.

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