Individual Degree Concentration

The Individual Degree Concentration offers students the opportunity to develop an individualized degree program that transcends the scope of a single academic discipline. It allows the academically strong, self-motivated student to design her or his own major with the help of faculty members from different departments/disciplines. The major concentration exists to help a student integrate her or his academic interests by pursuing an interdisciplinary program of study by using existing academic resources at UNC Asheville. An individual degree concentration requires the student to assemble a committee consisting of at least two faculty members from two different departments who, with the help of the Interdisciplinary Studies director, will help design a course of study.  The student and faculty will design a rationale for the proposed program of study, indicating how this particular program will meet the educational goals of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, and how the program differs from existing programs at UNC Asheville.

Students who are interested in the Independent Degree Concentration should contact the Interdisciplinary Studies Director to discuss complete application guidelines and for guidance in creating a successful proposal. Proposals must be submitted and approved before a student completes 75 credit hours. In exceptional cases a student may petition to have this rule waived. Deadlines for submission of proposals are set each semester, normally occurring midway through the semester.

For more information, please contact the IDC Coordinator, Dr. Renuka Gusain,
Students may also look at examples of successful past student proposals HERE.

Requirements for an Individual Degree Concentration

1. There must be a persuasive rationale for the individual program.

The student and faculty will design a rationale for the proposed program of study, indicating how this particular program will meet the educational goals of the IST program and how the individualized program differs from existing major/minor programs at UNC Asheville. This would include an explanation of the need for an individualized degree concentration. A persuasive rationale must also include the reasoning behind the focus of the proposal and what the course of study is intended to accomplish. It is expected that the proposed course of study will be academically sound and intellectually defensible. The following types of proposals are not appropriate for an Individual Degree Concentration:

  • Proposals for majors that the university does not have the resources to provide.
  • Proposals that are based on the specific requirements of a professional program or are narrowly tailored for a specific career.
  • Proposals that modify or substantially reproduce an existing degree program.
  • Proposals that combine existing majors or that combine a major with an existing minor.

Students should make an appointment with the Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Dr. Jinhua Li, at for guidance in creating a successful proposal. Deadlines for submission of proposals are set midway through fall and spring semesters.

2. A specific statement of the learning objectives of the proposed Individual Degree Concentration and how the learning objectives of the IST program are met

This statement should include references to course work as well as to individual work. A proposal that relies heavily on special topics or research with one professor is unlikely to be approved. The learning objectives of the IST program are included in the application packet available from the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies.

3. A specific statement of how the objectives will be assessed

The IST program requires all Individual Degree Concentration majors to create an on-going student portfolio that reflects her or his academic progress in the major. The development of the student portfolio is guided by regular meetings with the faculty mentors and the Interdisciplinary Studies director. Summary statements from faculty committee members to the IST director indicating progress towards and achievement of concentration goals are required at least once a year. The student portfolios may be used in assessing program learning objectives.

4. Description of capstone project or coursework

Students are expected to complete a substantive research paper or project, for which the Major Faculty will serve as mentor(s). The capstone experience should synthesize and summarize the major, and demonstrate major, oral and computer competency.

5. Listing of courses required for the major

A specific list of required courses must be submitted and placed into appropriate subcategories.

  • The major must total 36-45 credit hours.
  • Courses must be from at least three different disciplines available at UNC Asheville.
  • No more than one-half of the required credit hours may come from any one department.
  • At least 21 of the required hours must be at the 300-level or above.
  • Students must have completed or be enrolled in IST 290 to apply for an individual concentration.
  • IST 495 must be included in the list.
  • At least two-thirds of the major must be taken while a student at UNC Asheville.
  • Students seeking an Individual Degree Concentration cannot seek a double major.
  • None of the hours used to fulfill requirements for a declared minor may be used for the Individual Degree Concentration.

6. Timetable for completion of degree

The timetable should be based on reasonable expectations of course offerings and should demonstrate that the degree can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. It may be necessary to consult with department chairs about recent patterns of course offerings. Individual Degree Concentrations often take more than four years simply because of course scheduling. Curricular substitutions can be made after degree approval, but are not always appropriate or possible. Students who are not enrolled for two consecutive semesters must have their Individual Degree Concentration reviewed when they return. Students who are not enrolled for three or more consecutive semesters must reapply for an Individual Degree Concentration.

7. Statement of Faculty Support

Each faculty member on the student’s committee should write a statement of feasibility and support of the concentration and its objectives. It is expected that faculty will work with the student to develop all parts of the proposal, but a separate statement of support is required. Faculty members agree to fulfill the function of an academic department for the student, which includes not only establishing and assessing learning objectives, but also supervising the student’s capstone experience. Faculty who are unsure of the requirements should contact the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Declaration of Major or Minor

Students can declare their major or minor online.

Declaring an Individual Degree Concentration major in Interdisciplinary Studies requires the student to develop a proposal that meets the requirements listed above. When the Interdisciplinary Studies director determines that the submitted proposal is consistent with the university’s mission and has met all the program requirements, the student can formally declare a major in Interdisciplinary Studies. Before declaring a major, a student must satisfy the LANG 120 requirement. This declaration is contingent on the Office of the Registrar’s certification that the proposal meets all graduation requirements. No changes may be made in the approved program without written authorization from the IST director. The title of the individual degree will be identified on the student’s transcript at the time of graduation. The student will be awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies.