Colorado College’s “create your own major” program might not be as well-supported within CC as you might think.
Think about what a Liberal Arts education is, without the bias of your college counselor or your parents: Is it a small institution with a focus on dabbling in all the liberal arts disciplines including humanities, social sciences, and sciences? Is it a specific instructional type that teaches you how to think?
CC LAS—create your own—majors attempt to embody everything that is liberal arts, using an interdisciplinary major that tests the students’ ability to make connections between subjects. LAS majors are doing all this alone without much support from the administration.
Many remember when visiting CC and hearing a tour guide, admissions fellow, or CC representative talk to you about the opportunity to “create your own major” at the college.
The possibility of creating a major if no other department encompassed what a student was looking for sounded amazing, but after that, many students never heard from about the opportunity again.
The LAS major is not something that the school seems to promote within the student body. Students who embark on the journey of the LAS majors have an independent road ahead of them, but one that senior behavioral economics major James Silvester called, “the best thing you can do at CC.”
Silvester and fellow behavioral economics major Brian Hersh began their journey two years ago when they met with “the bouncer at the gate,” also known as former Dean Victor Nelson-Cisneros.
Before presenting their own LAS idea, they asked Nelson-Cisneros for the best proposal he had ever seen and then used that as a template for their proposal.
“We sat down in front of him with this solid proposal and instead of being really excited or interested, he just asked us why we couldn’t just be regular economics majors,” Silvester said. “He tried to convince us not to do it.”
The dean, apparently, didn’t want the students to take the easy way out.
“[Nelson-Cisneros’] theory was that people who want to do LAS majors just want to get out of the higher-level classes,” Hirsch said. “He thought we were just trying to get out of Econometrics but we took Research Design instead, which is just as hard.”
To become an LAS major, a student must submit an application to the Dean’s Advisory Committee during the second semester of their sophomore year. A student also needs the approval of two faculty advisors from different departments for a tentative program of courses for the final two years.
A thesis proposal also has to be submitted and the student must explain how each proposed course would help the student achieve a greater knowledge of their proposed major or thesis.
It is possible to apply after sophomore year, but the student must present “persuasive evidence that such a proposal is educationally advisable and that circumstances make it possible to achieve a satisfactory major.”
Still think that LAS is a cop-out major?
The whole process is a lonely one, as there is not a lot of support. The LAS major has no budget or physical department.
“[LAS majors] don’t have a place to Xerox their papers or hang out,” said Re Evitt, current Associate Dean of the College.
The school is discussing the possibility of allotting a space for the “LAS department,” but since places for students are at a premium, it does not seem like that will be happening anytime soon.
Senior Jess Meyer is also an LAS major. She began as a biology major until her advisor introduced her to the more specific topic of Public Health.
“[The process] is not meant to be easy, but it’s cool because I had to argue for all my classes and how they related to my proposed major, instead of just being told what classes I had to take to graduate,” Meyer said.
Meyer believes that LAS has some guidelines, but it is a very self-motivated process. No one is there to walk students through all the steps because in many ways the students are venturing into unchartered territory.
Sophomore Emily Naranjo is considering an LAS major but has been discouraged by her current advisor as well as by the process.
“I want to do some kind of LAS in holistic health. I thought I could do it by using philosophy, religion, and anthropology courses,” said Naranjo.
If Naranjo decides not to pursue the LAS major, she said, she would consider the traditional route.
“I would definitely do the psychoanalysis minor but as for a major, I really don’t know,” Naranjo said. “Being a philosophy major would just be too much and I’m not sure I would want to be an Anthropology major either. I’ve taken classes in all the departments that interest me but nothing has really stuck out.”
But to Naranjo the LAS path seems almost frictional.
“It seems like I’m going against the system, it feels like I’m doing something wrong,” said Naranjo. “I could see that happening at a more focused or specialized school but not at a liberal arts school like CC.”
The possibility of creating her own major was what initially drew Naranjo to CC, but now that she is trying to achieve and make the most of her education, the discouragement seems overwhelming.
The LAS major might be one of the most underrated at CC.
Without a lot of support that other students in specific departments, these majors are embodying the true spirit of liberal arts by taking different subjects and combining them in a way that not only interests them but is also truly a “unique intellectual adventure.”
Through the thick and thin, all these majors will attest to the difficulties and discouragement that they go through, but they all will also highlight that the independent process is definitely worth the extra time and effort.
“Creating a major in itself is a great experience,” Silvester said.
Evitt described an ideal LAS major student as “devoted and dedicated to a study that no other department will fulfill.”