Echols IMP Program

The Echols Interdisciplinary Major

All students within the College, including Echols Scholars, are required to declare a major by the start of the fifth semester. Since the Echols Scholars Program is founded upon the principle of academic motivation and intellectual creativity, students in the program have the opportunity to define a course of study that will permit attainment of academic and career goals that fall outside existing majors or interdisciplinary programs within the college. The principle underlying the Echols Interdisciplinary Major is that no existing major, or combination of majors, fully satisfies a student’s broader interests.  Thus, students declaring the Echols Interdisciplinary Major do so with the provision that it will be their sole major.

Application Process:

Students seeking to declare the Echols Interdisciplinary Major must submit an application that includes the following documents:

  1. The Echols Interdisciplinary Major Application Form  [Echols IMP Application 2017] with signatures by three faculty advisors.
  2. A course plan comprising at least 30 graded credits to be taken at the major level in three academic fields.
  3. A proposal (2-3 pages double-spaced) describing the program of study and its goals.
  4. A current unofficial transcript printed from SIS.

Applications should be submitted to the Echols Program Director, Kelsey Johnson, no sooner than the student’s third semester of study at the College, and no later than the start of the fifth semester. In exceptional cases, we will consider applications from students in their fifth or sixth semester who have already declared another major and wish to switch to an Echols Interdisciplinary Major.

While applications are accepted on a rolling basis, interdisciplinary major plans ideally should be formulated well in advance in order to allow proper time for review. Following review, and any requests for modifications to the program of study, students will be asked to complete a major declaration to be approved by the Echols Director, and the student’s major will be entered into SIS as “Interdisciplinary Major – Echols Scholar.” The Echols Major does not currently have a Distinguished Major option or a minimum GPA requirement.

Selection of Advisors and Formation of the Academic Plan: 

In order to initiate the process of designing the Echols Major, students should first select a primary faculty advisor who will help them in the development of an academic plan for the major. The academic plan needs to identify three areas of study (generally corresponding to three separate departments) that will comprise the interdisciplinary component of their plan. In addition to the primary advisor, students need to identify two secondary faculty advisors--one from each of the other two disciplines/departments encompassed within the academic plan. In addition to the Echols Director and Association Dean, these three faculty members will form an advisory committee for the student. 

The academic plan will consist of a proposed course list comprising no fewer than 30 graded credits distributed among the three areas (departments) of interdisciplinary study. The coursework must be taken at the 3000 level or higher or count toward major credit within the department in which the coursework is taken. Students should aim to distribute coursework evenly across the three areas, with at least two courses taken at the major level in each field.

When selecting their courses and writing the major proposal, students should reflect on the rationale for their unique program of study, addressing questions such as: How will my program bring together the three academic fields in order to address questions that cannot be pursued by studying these different disciplines separately? How does this self-designed major meet academic goals that cannot be met through any existing departmental or interdisciplinary major?

The Echols Thesis:

A written thesis or capstone project is not strictly required, but is highly recommended.  Such a final project helps to provide cohesion to the major and offers substantive evidence of the course of study – a point of particular interest to graduate schools. Students who wish to pursue this option must enroll in IMP 4600, “Echols Thesis.” IMP 4600 is a one-semester, graded course that can be taken for two consecutive semesters in order to provide credit for a year-long project. No more than two semesters of IMP 4600 may be counted for credit. The designated instructor of IMP 4600 is the Echols Program Director (starting in Fall 2015). Working under the general supervision of the IMP 4600 instructor, students are responsible for selecting a thesis advisor (usually one of the three advisors for the interdisciplinary major) who can provide expert guidance on the thesis or project. IMP 4600 does not have a scheduled class time; rather, students should plan to meet regularly with their thesis advisors at a time to be scheduled by mutual agreement between the student and advisor.

Echols Interdisciplinary Major Contacts:

Kelsey Johnson, Echols Program Director (kej7a@virginia.edu)

Sarah Cole, Echols Association Dean/Assistant Director (src2j@virginia.edu)

Program mailbox: Monroe Hall 101, c/o Echols Program Coordinator

A note about selection of academic major(s):

Professional schools, graduate schools and employers are often less concerned about a student’s undergraduate major and more often take into consideration a student’s analytical and quantitative abilities, written and verbal communication skills, and overall preparedness using a variety of criteria.  No major or majors alone regardless of the number of courses taken in the discipline automatically provides all of the skills needed post-graduation. Therefore students should anticipate complementing their major (Echols IMP or other) with internships, externships, independent studies, research work, study abroad, leadership positions and a portfolio of writing. Students may wish to contact University Career Services [http://www.career.virginia.edu/] for additional guidance and resources in how to best achieve one’s' career-related goals.