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Academics in the Independent Scholars major 

Students in the Independent Scholars major develop an area of inquiry with a strong intellectual focus, design and complete a curriculum, conduct research, and pursue experiential learning opportunities. Progress in the major is demonstrated through curation of an e-portfolio and multiple presentations.

Core curriculum. In IND 200 and IND 300, students plan their major and begin their inquiry, while acquiring skills and experiences relevant to their intellectual and professional goals. The proposal designed in IND 200 demonstrates the interconnectedness of selected coursework, plans for independent research, and real-world learning experiences in fulfilling these goals.  

Self-designed curriculum. Crafted with faculty supervision, the 36-credit hour curriculum is the heart of the major. The curriculum is dynamic, moving from foundational courses toward courses of greater depth and complexity. Specific courses provide concepts, methods, skills, and other knowledge relevant to the student's inquiry. 

Independent research. The self-designed major culminates in an original senior project carried out with the guidance of a faculty mentor. This project integrates the knowledge gained in a student's curricular and extra-curricular experiences. Senior projects are often based on the work done in non-traditional learning experiences, such as internships or study abroad.

Non-traditional learning experiences. Every student directly engages with questions and problems related to their inquiry, whether through study abroad, internships, or other field experiences beyond the classroom. These experiences may be incorporated in the curriculum where appropriate. In addition, each student designs a one-credit skill-enhancing workshop course aimed at gaining methodological competencies linked to their goals. Previous examples include creating photo-journal blogs, directing plays, developing artistic portfolios, attending academic and professional conferences, completing museum internships, and doing volunteer work.

For more information contact Dr. Matt Chamberlin at 

Special opportunities for IS students

For Honors students: the IS major dovetails with the Honors College curriculum. The IND 200 introductory seminar counts towards the Honors seminar requirement, the IND 300 workshops satisfy Honors electives, and the senior project doubles as the Honors Capstone Project.

For double-majors and minors: students in an existing minor at JMU may apply that coursework towards a self-designed curriculum in the IS major. In addition, for double-majors, a portion of the coursework completed for another major may be incorporated in the self-designed major where appropriate. 

Funds for research and non-traditional learning experiences: IS students can apply to the program for scholarship funds to support independent research and travel/study abroad related to their inquiry. 

Credit for experiential learning: IS students can incorporate study abroad, internship, and other credit-earning field experiences within the self-designed major. 

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