Proposal Guidelines for Creating or Altering a Major or Minor

These guidelines are intended to assist in proposal development, and to maximize the likelihood that a complete, thoroughly vetted proposal for curricular change comes to the Committee on Courses and Degrees for review. All proposals for adding or modifying a major or minor should be prepared in consultation with the Dean of The College, who chairs the committee, and with the University Registrar.

"Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society." W&L expects every student, in pursuing a liberal education, to attain both "broad exposure to the principal areas of human knowledge (Foundation and Distribution Requirements) and intensive exploration of a single field or discipline (the major)." In addition, we allow for the completion of a limited range of specialized courses to count toward completion of a minor and to have this noted on the transcript at graduation.

The following guidelines should be used in preparing a proposal to create or modify an area of curricular emphasis (e.g., any major or minor) at Washington and Lee University.

Essential Requirements

  • Prepare a clear and coherent plan of study for the major or minor (see guidelines below). If modifying an existing course of study, clearly identify areas of proposed change, and provide all of the information requested in the guidelines below.
  • Include a draft of 3 to 5 student learning outcomes for the major or minor and a description of the preliminary Assurance of Learning plan
  • Proposals for a new major or a new minor should clearly reflect the support and thorough understanding of all those whose courses or departments will be most affected by the change. Letters of support or dissent from those affected should be provided. The proposal should include statements from those who are willing and qualified to serve as advisers to students in the new area. No curricular changes should be proposed unless all affected faculty members have been consulted.
  • Once a proposal has been approved, subsequent changes (e.g., course additions, deletions, or substitutions, revisions in requirements or lists of optional courses, or substantial modifications to key courses) must be approved by the Committee on Courses and Degrees.

Guidelines for preparing a proposal

For new majors or new minors, the proposal must be a clear and coherent statement demonstrating need, goals, and benefits not obtainable in an already-established major or program.

Modifications to existing majors or minors must be fully described and justified in relation to curricular or pedagogical goals.

Please include the following:

1. Background & Rationale

  • What is the impetus for the proposed curricular modification?
  • Provide information about student demand for the new curriculum.
  • What other schools with similar majors, minors, or other programs have you consulted?
  • What graduate programs or professional programs or work environments (in the case of pre-professional courses of study) have you reviewed to determine their expectations?
  • How does the proposal serve W&L's mission (refer to the Mission Statement above)?

2. Assurance of Learning plan for the major or minor

  • What are the new or revised student learning outcomes for the proposed curriculum? In other words, what do you want the students to learn as a result of completing the major or minor?
  • Which assignments, experiences, and/or student work will best exemplify what you want the students to learn? Describe how student learning data will be collected and analyzed in order to determine whether or not students are achieving the learning outcomes (e.g. course-based assessments, rubrics, tests, discipline-specific standardized testing, etc.).
  • When and how often will departmental/program faculty meet to discuss the results of student learning data analyses, and how will the faculty use the data to continuously enhance the major/minor and aim to improve the students' experience?

3. Courses in the major or minor

  • List existing and planned courses to be included in the program or major at the 100-, 200-, and 300-levels, and the frequency with which each has been offered in the past three years.
  • How do the courses at each level serve the stated goals of the major or program?
  • For existing programs, include revised catalog-style language.

4. Capstone course or experience

  • Describe any proposed capstone activity (or options), and explain the goals of the senior-level experience.
  • For interdisciplinary programs, which affiliated faculty members have been identified as potential capstone mentors?

5. Personnel

  • What W&L faculty have the appropriate professional credentials to participate in curricular development and teach within the major/minor?

6. Projected schedule and course availability

  • Because some courses are not taught during faculty sabbaticals or for other reasons, proposals will benefit from letters of support from department heads whose faculty members' courses will contribute to an interdisciplinary curriculum.
  • The department/program head(s) should elaborate on projected course availability over a five year period (e.g., when are the relevant faculty members due for sabbatical leave; how frequently the courses in question are typically offered; whether relevant faculty members teach the courses cited as relevant to the major/minor).

7. Ancillary resources

  • The proposal should be accompanied by a statement on the appropriateness of current library holdings for supporting the current or proposed major/minor, as well as a description of planned expansion of holdings related to the area(s) represented by the proposed curricular initiative.
  • In the event that the proposed initiative has implications for allocation of space to accommodate faculty or student projects or equipment set-up in the immediate or near future, those anticipated needs should be fully described.
  • What new faculty positions, classroom space, or technology will be required to fully realize the proposal's goals?
  • For new majors or programs, a sample budget designed to provide appropriate support for meeting the goals of the major/minor should be included with the proposal, for the appropriate dean's review.
  • NOTE any related grant proposals or submissions.

Committee on Courses and Degrees, Original: August 2006; revised: January 2013, January 2022