Special Major

Undergraduate Studies
Dean: Daniel Buttlaire

Division of Graduate Studies
Dean: Ann Hallum

Undergraduate Advising Center
ADM 212

Office of Graduate Studies
ADM 254


B.A. in Special Major
M.A. in Special Major
M.S. in Special Major

Program Scope

Undergraduate Major

The Bachelor of Arts: Special Major is offered by San Francisco State University for those students who have unique academic goals which cannot be satisfactorily attained through one of the regularly offered undergraduate major programs of San Francisco State University or other colleges and universities in the Bay Area. The special major consists of a combination of courses planned in advance to focus on an integrative and coherent theme identified by the student. A written statement must be developed which describes the goals of the proposed major. The program must be compatible with the general objectives of the university. Courses must be chosen by the student from at least three different departments in at least two different colleges of the university. (Department means any program area of the university offering course work.)

A special major may not duplicate any existing major programs, by name or content, which are offered at San Francisco State University, nor may it be used as a means of bypassing regularly prescribed graduation requirements. It must be planned and approved in advance, not created as an afterthought to utilize previously completed courses.

Graduate Major

Budget restrictions by the State of California may close off acceptance of new students in these programs at any time without prior notice.

The special majors are offered both as a Master of Arts and a Master of Science by San Francisco State University in order to meet the unique needs and interests of students that cannot be met in a reasonable manner by one of the regularly offered graduate degree programs at SFSU, or by the offerings of other colleges and universities in the Bay Area. It is intended primarily for students who are already enrolled at the university. The special major is normally expected to be comprised of a combination of courses focusing on a central theme from three or more regular departments/programs, and bridge two or more colleges within the university. The courses to be applied toward the major must be carefully selected for their interrelatedness and general applicability to the objectives of the unique major being proposed. Only major themes that can be supported with integrity by existing course work and faculty expertise will be approved. The program must be pre-planned and approved before nine units applicable to the degree have been completed, must be based upon regular courses already offered in the university, and must be supported by members of the faculty with expertise in the area of the theme planned. The program cannot utilize independent study or transfer credits to meet the basic, minimum requirements for the program.


Admission to the Program

In order to apply for a special major, a student must first be admitted as an undeclared student at San Francisco State University. Special major status is granted only after consultation with an adviser and approval of the student's proposal. Students may apply for admission to the special major program during or after their first semester of attendance at SFSU.

Eligibility for the Program

Special major applicants are expected to have completed a minimum of 45 and a maximum of 90 semester units of university study with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B). Records of such work; e.g., unofficial transcripts, DARS report, and Advanced Standing Evaluation (if a transfer student), must be presented to the appropriate academic adviser in the special major program. In unusual circumstances, a student may request an exception to this provision.

Advising for the Program

Advising for students pursuing a special major is provided at the Advising Center by academic counselors designated by the dean of undergraduate studies who is responsible for the coordination and overall administration of the program.

To initiate the special major approval process, consult the web at www.sfsu.edu/~advising/specmaj.htm or students may obtain special major guidelines in the Advising Center.


Eligibility for the Program

All applicants for this program must first be able to meet the general requirements for admission to post-baccalaureate study as specified in the graduate admissions section of this Bulletin. In addition, a prospective special major student is expected to be eligible for admission to classified standing in one of the regular master's degree programs of the university. The applicant should present evidence of a minimum 3.0 grade point average in the last 60 semester units taken, and a pattern of undergraduate course work which will provide the foundation for the advanced degree work. Final approval to pursue such a program of study is made by the dean of Graduate Studies, after all outstanding problems have been resolved.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

The university has a requirement for written English proficiency that is to be assessed at two different points in a student's program. Level One: determined upon entrance to graduate study. A student in the special major program is required to demonstrate such proficiency by passing the Graduate Essay Test (GET) before, or during, the first semester of graduate study. A fee is charged for this examination. A student failing the examination is required to take a course or courses in English upon consultation with the major adviser. Failure to satisfy this requirement may be grounds for declassification from the special major program. The results of the examination are to be directed to the dean of Graduate Studies.

Level Two: determined toward the end of the student's program. At this point, the major adviser, in consultation with other committee members as necessary, must determine that the student has the ability to write in a "scholarly" manner in the subject area (theme) of the program. Most often the satisfactory completion of a master's thesis, or a written field research project, will satisfy this second level requirement. How this second level requirement is being met must be indicated on the Graduate Approved Program (GAP).

Advising for the Program

The applicant is responsible for developing the program proposal and obtaining the endorsements of three tenured/tenure-track faculty members of the university eligible to work in graduate programs as defined in the university Bulletin. The primary responsibility for academic program advising will rest with the members of this committee, especially the major adviser. The major adviser must come from a department/program in which a significant amount of the program course work is to be taken. At least one of the committee members must come from a different department/program than the primary focus of the student's proposal. The dean of Graduate Studies is responsible for the general administration of the program in lieu of the traditional college and department.

Program Requirements

While students in the special major program have several unique requirements as stated herein, most of the master's degree program requirements are the same as those specified for other master's degree programs offered by the university. These are summarized in the section on Master's Degree Requirements in this Bulletin. In addition, students in the program are expected to complete the following minimum requirements:

Graduate Approved Program (GAP)

The GAP must:

General Procedures for the Program

  1. A prospective applicant interested in the special major program should carefully follow the instructions and complete the form, Request for Permission to Pursue a Special Major Master's Degree Program, which is available from Graduate Studies. This form specifies that the applicant must initially seek out a potential faculty adviser and two additional tenured/tenure-track faculty members of the campus who have the expertise and interest in advising and supporting the applicant in the proposed program of study.
  2. If and when the proposed special major program is approved by the Graduate Studies Office, the latter will initiate one of the following actions:
    1. If the student is already enrolled at SFSU in some type of post-baccalaureate status, the dean prepares and signs the form Request for Advancement to Classified Graduate or Credential Standing. Once this action is taken, the student is admitted to the program.
    2. If the student is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student, the dean will issue a letter to the student that is to be attached to a regular application for admission to the university. The Graduate Studies Office does not accept an application for admission to the special major program without approval by the dean. Once the application is fully processed the Graduate Studies Office formally notifies the student of admission to the special major program.
    3. A new student who is interested in developing a special major must be admitted and attend one semester as an unclassified student. This  gives the student time to develop the Request for Permission to Pursue a Special Major Master's Degree Program and to become acquainted with potential faculty advisers.
  3. Once admitted, the student (with the assistance of the major adviser and other committee members) should proceed to complete the proposed program requirements as approved.
  4. A Graduate Approved Program (GAP) is to be developed by the student with the assistance of the identified committee members. Refer to Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures for guidelines regarding the preparation of the GAP.
  5. The thesis (Special Major 898), or creative work project (Special Major 894), or field research study (Special Major 895) registration is done through regular university registration, as long as the GAP and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement forms have been approved by Graduate Studies. A three-person committee similar to the program committee must be constituted by the student to assist with and approve this final work. The membership of these two committees need not be identical, but some overlap is expected. Special study registrations (Special Major 899) are to be registered for in the Graduate Studies Office.
  6. Special questions should be directed first to the approved graduate major adviser and then to the dean of Graduate Studies, as may be necessary.

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Last modified July 05, 2012 by bulletin@sfsu.edu