IMP program helps students with unique interests

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Feb. 23, 2007 


At first glance, interpersonal fulfillment might not seem to fit with Emily Jablon’s other academic majors – management and international business. Although the senior enjoys the flexibility and security of a traditional management degree, Jablon wants to bring a thoughtful and creative aspect to her business studies.

“When you understand yourself better and other people better, you become a much better leader, as well as a team leader, which is very relevant to the business world,” she said. “I’ve taken the initiative to study something I’m passionate about.”

Jablon – who wants to work in consulting, earn a master’s degree or MBA and possibly conduct research involving issues of confidence, security and sexuality – is able to pursue her interests through IU’s Individualized Major Program. The program allows students to draw on University resources and take a variety of courses from any department.

Director Ray Hedin said the Individualized Major Program is a College of Arts and Sciences program that gives students a “chance to put together majors of their own that can’t be accommodated in another department or major.”

“It’s a place to get the kind of degree that students need that they can’t get anywhere else on campus,” Hedin said.

Interested students usually begin the admissions process by setting up an appointment with an IMP faculty member to explore potential ideas and form a tentative plan of study. Each student writes an admissions statement explaining the coherence and feasibility of his or her program.

The student identifies which departments the courses will draw from, why an individualized major is necessary, and what the plausible ideas for a final project are. The student then must identify a faculty sponsor, form a list of courses for the major and schedule an interview with a board of three faculty members to present their case.

Once the student is admitted, the IMP provides full-time advising for the student, who is expected to meet regularly with a sponsor and undergo a mid-program assessment. The IMP also offers a plethora of resources and different opportunities for student internships and study-abroad programs.

Jablon spent her winter break in New Orleans for an intensive youth-leadership training program. The 10-day training process involved exercises aimed at helping participants change their self-perspectives, attitudes and behaviors in a positive way.

“The IMP has been so accommodating of every student’s desire,” Jablon said. “You can come with whatever idea you have, and they have always been supportive. I love that it embraces uniqueness and nonconformity. (The IMP) celebrates different kinds of student ideas.”

“There are always some students whose interests are not going to be met by a single department or program,” Hedin said. “Knowledge is increasingly multi-disciplinary, and we are matching a national trend. We’ve turned out to be a register for emerging interests for the University.”

Senior Jake Talve-Goodman transferred to IU from Long Island University in New York for the program. The IMP has allowed him to design his own major, soul of camping, which he defines as “character development through alternative education and spirituality in the outdoors.” Talve-Goodman hopes to use this major to achieve his goal of owning and operating a summer camp for children.

“The only way I’m going to be happy is if I get to spend all my time outdoors with children,” he said.

His course load is made up of classes from a variety of areas, including folklore and ethnomusicology, leadership development, philosophy, education and recreational studies.

Talve-Goodman spoke highly of the IMP and its available resources but said the most challenging aspect of the program is often finding a faculty sponsor, who will serve as a mentor. He found the task especially difficult as a transfer student who didn’t know many IU staff members.

He wasn’t easily deterred, however, and soon found his niche in the IMP.

“For someone like me, I never felt like I fit into any designated program,” he said. “I always wanted something different. I know what I want to do and how to get there. The IMP is perfect for me because I can illustrate what I want to study. I can sign up for anything.”


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