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Academics in the Independent Scholars major 

Students in the Independent Scholars major develop an area of inquiry tailored to individual interests, design and complete a curriculum, and pursue experiential learning. Progress in the major is demonstrated through curation of an e-portfolio, presentations, and completion of a capstone project.

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 links coursework, independent research, and hands-on learning experiences in fulfilling these goals.  

Self-designed curriculum. Crafted with faculty supervision, the 36-credit hour curriculum moves from foundational courses toward courses of greater depth and complexity. Specific courses provide concepts, methods, perspectives, and other knowledge relevant to the student's inquiry. 

Independent research. The major culminates in a six-credit capstone project that integrates the knowledge gained in a student's curricular and extra-curricular experiences, either in a portfolio, research paper, or creative project. Senior projects often draw from real-world learning experiences, such as internships or study abroad.

Experiential learning. Every student completes hands-on work related to their inquiry, through experiences such as study abroad, internships, volunteer work, or other work beyond the classroom. These experiences may be incorporated in the curriculum where appropriate. Past examples including teaching in a foreign university, publishing original writing, directing plays, designing photographic portfolios, volunteering with first responders, presenting at academic and professional conferences, completing museum internships, and more.

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Special opportunities for IS students

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

For Honors students: the IND 200 course counts towards the Honors seminar requirement, the IND 300 workshops satisfy Honors electives, and the senior project doubles as the Honors Capstone Project.

Scholarships: 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 field experiences as courses within the self-designed major. 

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