Academic Catalog 2020-2021 
    May 24, 2024  
Academic Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Organizing Theme B.S. / B.A.

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The Organizing Theme Major is best suited for the self-motivated student who has a well-defined intellectual curiosity for a topic involving multiple disciplines and which cannot be accommodated by the already existing majors, double majors, or interdepartmental majors at Union College. The Organizing Theme Major encourages the exploration of thematically related connections across disciplines, and therefore must incorporate courses from at least three different departments, with no more than four courses from any one department to count toward the major. The student must choose and work with an advisor (or advisors) who is supportive of the student’s proposed Organizing Theme Major and has a clear understanding of what the project entails.

The Application Process

The Organizing Theme Major proposal requires the approval of the chosen Organizing Theme advisor(s) and then a faculty committee established by the Dean of Studies. It may be proposed no sooner than the spring term of the freshman year and no later than the sixth week of the spring term sophomore year (in extremely rare cases, this deadline may be extended to the first week of the fall term of junior year). For more information about the Organizing Theme Major and the application process, see the Organizing Theme Web page or contact the Dean of Studies.

To propose an Organizing Theme Major, students complete the Organizing Theme Application Form. The Organizing Theme Major proposal must be prepared with the guidance, input and approval of the Organizing Theme Major advisor(s) you have chosen to work with before it is submitted using the online form.

The Organizing Theme Major Committee will review the proposal and if necessary, suggest revisions for the student to make in consultation with the advisor(s).

If no revisions are required, the Organizing Theme Major Committee will consider the proposal for final approval. If revisions are required, the student along with the advisor(s) will make them, submitting a revised application form.

The committee reviews and officially approves the proposal, and gives it to the Dean of Studies who forwards it to the Registrar. The student then completes a Declaration of Major form and submits it to the Registrar. If all the paperwork in is order, the Registrar lists the student’s major as Organizing Theme.

Please note that this process often takes a month or more.

Requirements for the Major

The approved program must conform to the disciplines already established at Union. Your proposal may be submitted no sooner than spring term of your freshman year, and must be submitted, at the very latest, by week six of spring term of your sophomore year. It consists of a total of 12 courses that clearly relate to the organizing theme, at least two of which must be at the 300- or 400-level. In addition, the student must complete a one-term senior thesis or project (ORT 497). Or the student must complete 11 courses (at least two of which much be at the 300- or 400-level) and then a two-term senior thesis or project (ORT 498 & ORT 499). NOTE: When preparing the Organizing Theme Major proposal with the advisor(s), the student must identify these 12 courses, plus several (3-4) more that can stand in as alternates in case some of the courses you choose are not available at the time you wish to take them. It is the student’s responsibility to check with departments to verify that the courses are offered in the time frame required. The one- term project (ORT 497) or two-term senior thesis (ORT 498 & ORT 499) must demonstrate an integration of the knowledge and skills gained from the Organizing Theme Major courses that the student has taken. The advisor(s) will direct this senior thesis or project.

Organizing Theme Committee Procedures and Timeline


Initial proposals must be submitted by the end of week 3 of the term when they are to be reviewed, no later than spring term of a student’s sophomore year. Proposals will be reviewed by the Organizing Theme Committee in Week 5 and students will be notified of the committee’s decision. The committee may choose to 1) accept the proposal, 2) accept the proposal with revisions, 3) decline the proposal with the option to resubmit, or 4) decline the proposal without the possibility of resubmission. In the case of proposals that are accepted with revisions, revisions must be submitted to the committee chair no later than the end of week 7. Failure to return revisions by the end of week 7 may result in the proposal having to go through another review the following term.

If the proposal is declined with the option to resubmit, the proposal must be resubmitted no later than end of week 3 of the following term. After a 2nd declined attempt, students may ask for a meeting with the committee and their advisor(s) during weeks 8-10 of the term when they receive the 2nd rejection. Students who are not approved twice are strongly encouraged to seek another path for completing their major requirements. Students who are not approved by the end of their junior year may not resubmit their proposals.


  • Initial proposals must be submitted no later than spring term of sophomore year
    • Week 3: Proposal deadline
    • Week 5: Proposal review and committee decision
    • Week 7: Deadline for return of revisions to proposals accepted pending revisions
    • Week 8-10: Appeals meetings (if required and requested by the student and advisor after the second rejection of the proposal)
  • Students who do not receive final approval by end of junior year must find an alternate route for completing their major requirements

Changes to an Approved Organizing Theme Major

Any proposed changes to an approved Organizing Theme Major must be approved by the Organizing Theme Major advisor, then by the Organizing Theme Committee.  For a revised proposal, use the same online form and be sure to explain the reason for the changes.

If you have any questions or need further information, please contact the Dean of Studies at

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