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Information for Prospective Faculty Sponsors

Welcome to the IMP program. This is an exciting program that provides an opportunity for all of us--faculty, professional staff, and IMP committee members-to work with some of the most creative and self-motivated students at Binghamton. Their energy, enthusiasm, and--in some cases--their genius, can be contagious. As an interdisciplinary program, the IMP program also allows to broaden or indulge our own extra-departmental interests. It gives us the chance to be scholars "at large," to momentarily step back from specialization and teach-and perhaps re-learn--principles of sound, general scholarship.

Our best faculty sponsors are advisers, mentors, and collaborators with their IMP students. It is not necessary for the sponsor to be an expert in the student's projected field of interdisciplinary study. Very few sponsors are. In fact, it is not likely that a student will be able to find anyone on campus who could be such an expert. Above all, the student needs someone who is capable of recognizing and communicating academic rigor, someone who can help bring focus to what may otherwise be disjointed or disparate objectives, someone who can help them design a major that provides both breadth and depth of experience.

More specifically, using the groundwork that the student will have done before approaching the sponsor, the sponsor helps the student develop a major and produce a proposal which will eventually come before the IMP committee. This often takes the better part of a semester, and the time-commitment for the sponsor may be analogous to that of a 2- to 4-credit independent-study section. The sponsor has a hand in each of the steps described under the heading “Creating Your Proposal”. In addition, the sponsor should be aware of a few crucial points:

  1. The essay has to be genuinely well-written. This is where the student justifies the major, generally and specifically. This is where the student explains that his or her objectives can only be met by the creation of an individualized major and by no other combination of existing majors/minors. The essay should be good enough that the sponsor would give it an 'A' if it were a class assignment. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation count. The well-written essay signifies a serious student and a legitimate individualized major. Faculty members should proofread meticulously and make recommendations as necessary.

  2. The list of major courses should reflect a truly interdisciplinary character and have breadth and depth. There should be substantial coursework from at least three different departments that has clear relevance to the overall major. If the coursework is based almost entirely in one or two departments, with only a couple of courses from a third department, there is plenty of depth but not enough breadth to be considered an integrative, interdisciplinary major. If a student includes coursework from too many different departments--say, six or seven- there is little if any opportunity for progress from beginning to intermediate to advanced levels in each area. Such a major is too broad, too thinly spread.

Faculty are in a good position to know the ebbs and flows of their departments. It is therefore important that they alert students to any courses that might be offered sporadically-or even every other semester, for example--and which might delay graduation. They should also warn students that similar ebbs and flows exist in other departments.

Once the student's individualized major has been approved, the sponsor should be available for occasional advising. Aside from this, the time/effort commitment is negligible until the student initiates an integrative (final) project. Studentscomplete the integrative project during their final semester. The faculty sponsor accommodates this project, which is proposed to the IMP committee during the next-to-last semester, by conducting an independent study course with the student. The proposal consists of a two- to three-page essay with a suggested bibliography and a letter of support from the faculty sponsor. As with the student's proposal essay, the integrative project proposal should be well-written and communicate a project that has a logical, academically sound purpose. The project must be truly integrative, i.e., it must integrate material covered through the major courses. Any research projects or laboratory experiments involving human subjects must have Human Subjects Research Review Board approval.

Finally, there is an honors option in IMP, but an honors option that does not necessarily require a significant increase in time investment on the part of the sponsor. Please consult the section “IMP Honors Option for Graduating Seniors” for a complete description of IMP honors.

The Individualized Major Program thanks you for working with one of our prospective IMP students. If you have any questions about the program, Please do not hesitate to contact the IMP coordinator in Harpur Academic Advising.

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Last Updated: 10/12/09