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2012 Archives

Creating Your Own Major, From ‘Keeping It Real’ to ‘Grand Romantic Gestures’


The following story ran on The New York Times blog The Choice on Feb. 6, 2012.

February 24, 2012

By Lily Altavena

Elizabeth (Coco) Limberakis started reading her mother’s romance novels — “the kind with Fabio on the cover” — when she was 11. While bodice-rippers aren’t usually the fodder for academic study, Ms. Limberakis chose to earn a degree in “Grand Romantic Gestures.”
Ms. Limberakis graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study last year, after spending four years studying the concept of love in literature. Now, she is interning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, applying for a graduate program at Southern Methodist University to simultaneously earn an M.A. and M.B.A., and writing her blog, Coco Curvy, a fashion blog for curvy girls.
“I chose to study love because it is the thing I believe in the most and most importantly because I’ve always had more faith in passion than reason,” she said in an e-mail.
Individualized studies programs give students the option of designing their own major. Students usually choose this option because they have several interests they hope to study simultaneously. Most programs even require a self-designed major to be interdisciplinary — combining up to three or four topics.
Currently, Gallatin, a school within New York University, has almost 1,500 undergraduate students and 206 master’s students. Individualized studies programs are offered at other schools, including the University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Hanover College in Indiana and the University of Washington.
“The students usually start the program with three or four varied interests and they often feel they don’t want to give up on one of their interests,” said Susanne Wofford, who has been the dean of Gallatin since 2007....