Special Major

Division Undergraduate Studies
Dean: Gail G. Evans

Undergraduate Advising Center
ADM 211

Division of Graduate Studies
Dean: Ann Hallum

Division of Graduate Studies
ADM 254


B.A. in Special Major
M.A. in Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies)
M.S. in Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies)

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

The Special Majors (Interdisciplinary Studies) 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. Students pursuing a Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) program must develop a plan of study that draws on courses from multiple disciplines with the intent to integrate the concepts, perspectives, and methodologies of those disciplines into a focused, central theme which may lead to new ways of looking at a subject, issues or problem. Usually, courses must be selected from three departments bridging at least two 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. Determination of degree designation as an MS or MA is the decision of the major advisor and the Dean of Graduate Studies. This degree cannot be used to meet credential or licensing requirements. Students may not use courses from fields of study, such as, nursing, physical therapy or counseling which lead to licensure or certification unless a single course is specifically authorized by the department chair.

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


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/specialMajors.html.


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 3.25 grade point average in the baccalaureate degree or in the last 60 semester units taken, and a pattern of undergraduate course work which will provide the foundation for the advanced degree work. Students must demonstrate English competency and proficiency before beginning the program which can be met by: earning a score of 4.5 or better on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) analytical writing section (students with a business background may substitute the GMAT analytical writing score of 4.5), or earning a full passing score on the Graduate Essay Test (GET). Test dates are found at www.sfsu.edu/~testing/get.html.

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. This criteria can be met by demonstrating a full pass on the Graduate Essay Test (GET) or by receiving a 4.5 on the analytical writing sections of the GRE or GMAT before entering the special major program.. A student who fails to meet the writing criteria may not be admissible or the student may be required to take additional writing courses as prescribed by the advisor and 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. Students interested in the Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) program should meet with a graduate advisor in ADM 254. See the Graduate Studies website for advising information.

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. Developing a Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) degree takes a great deal of independent thought and follow-through by the student.

  2. You must first identify and meet with the primary faculty advisor and two additional tenured or tenure-line faculty members at SFSU campus who have the expertise and interest in advising and supporting you in the proposed program of study. The primary faculty advisor must be from a department that offers a graduate degree. Lecturer faculty may not serve on Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) committees because lecturer faculty may not be available each semester for advising .

  3. When the proposal form has been approved by all three advisors, submit the proposal with the faculty signatures to the Dean of the Graduate Studies for final approval. Following approval, you must be admitted to the University via the online CSU Mentor system. There are two ways this can be accomplished:

    1. If you are currently enrolled and attending classes in a graduate program at SFSU, complete the “Request for Change of Graduate Program” which is available online at www.sfsu.edu/~gradstdy.

    2. If you have completed the CSU Mentor application for another program and want to change to the Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) program, contact the Director of Graduate Admissions to have your major changed. (briang@sfsu.edu)

    3. If you have not applied through CSU Mentor, contact the Director of Graduate Admissions by email to gain access to the online application. Apply to Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) code 49993. Once the online application is fully processed, the Graduate Studies will formally notify you of admission to the Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) program.

  4. Once admitted, you should proceed to complete the proposed program requirements as approved, with the assistance of the major advisor and other committee members. Meet with the Graduate Advisor once each semester. It is the student’s responsibility to work with their faculty advisors to ensure access to classes leading toward the degree.

  5. Develop a Graduate Approved Program (GAP) (Advancement to Candidacy) form with the assistance of the identified committee members. Guidelines and requirements for the preparation of the GAP can be found in the University Bulletin and in a previous section of this document. Submit the GAP to the Graduate Studies office.

  6. Under supervision of your committee, complete the Culminating Experience proposal form which is available online: thesis (Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) 898), field research study (Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) 895) or creative work project (Special Major Interdisciplinary Studies) 894). If human or animal subjects are used as part of your culminating experience, you must file the appropriate forms for review by the University Institutional Review Board.

  7. Special Study (Interdisciplinary majors must complete two courses leading to degree each semester of enrollment and the degree must be completed within 5 years of the first course on the GAP. Students who do not maintain continuous progress toward degree will be declassified.

    Special Study (Interdisciplinary Studies) majors have the same responsibilities as all students to follow all graduate continuing student deadlines, policies and regulations and all registration and enrollment policies. This information is in the University Bulletin and on the Graduate Studies website.

  8. No significant departure should take place from the approved program of study (i.e., more than the change of one course) without prior approval of the student’s major advisor and the Dean of the Graduate Studies.

  9. Virtually all other requirements for the Special Major (Interdisciplinary Studies) are the same as those for other master’s degree programs, as specified in the University Bulletin. Special questions should be directed first to the approved graduate major advisor and then to the Dean of the Graduate Studies, as may be necessary.

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Last modified July 06, 2012 by bulletin@sfsu.edu