Definition of Major

At Berea College, the term “major” describes one of the three parts of each student’s undergraduate curriculum (the other two parts being the General Education curriculum and the student’s self-selected elective courses). The major is a set of courses selected to provide an opportunity for a student to undertake in-depth study. The College offers majors in discipline-specific departments, interdisciplinary departments (which draw upon a variety of departmental courses), and student-designed independent majors. A major field of study has these aspects:

  • a central core of method, theory, and content;
  • a formal integration of the diversity of topics and analytical tools within the field of study;
  • an intellectual sequence of study that moves to increasingly complex and sophisticated understandings; and
  • opportunities for students to demonstrate some mastery of the field of study's nature, tools, central questions, arguments, history, philosophical presuppositions, limits, etc.

It also is understood that a curriculum that represents a major cannot provide full coverage of all of that field of study, and that the major's size will be limited to respect the traditional eight-term duration of undergraduate study. Unless approved by Faculty action for exceptional reasons, a major consists of 8 to 12 course credits from a particular departmental rubric. Majors often require some additional collateral courses, with the sum of department offerings and collateral courses being no more than 16 course credits, unless additional course credits are approved by Faculty action. A student-designed Independent Major (see “Independent Major” in this publication) would be guided by the same principles.