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   from the issue of October 7, 2004

  Innovative major lets students create own programs

University Studies marks 30 years


Since 1974, UNL has offered University Studies, a degree program that allows students whose career or educational goals cannot be achieved through traditional majors and minors to create an individualized program.

On Oct. 15, University Studies will celebrate its 30th year with a day of events at the Nebraska Union.

The program began when the Ford Foundation gave a grant to UNL to develop innovative undergrad programs. Then and now, students can design an entire degree program through University Studies, taking classes in the College of Arts and Sciences and Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Students who develop a University Studies program do so because they are interested in a specific area of study or a career goal not addressed in an existing major. The program exists to satisfy a student's intellectual curiosity or to specifically target a particular career by meeting the required qualifications.

Robert Haller, a UNL professor of English who has been involved in the program since its earliest stages in 1972, said there's basically no limit as to what could constitute a major. A student applying for the program must submit a complete educational autobiography, a program proposal defining the discipline he plans to pursue, a listing of courses he plans to take to fulfill the major, and other requirements. The student must have a faculty adviser.

After a student proposes a plan, the University Studies faculty fellows decide if the proposal is appropriate. They need to be convinced that the program will accomplish the stated goal. Students must take 125-130 hours of class, with 30 hours above the 299 level. Students and faculty may need to locate resources from across campuses. For example, a recent major in experiential outdoor education required courses in geography, health and human performance, forestry and wildlife. Faculty who teach these courses need to be convinced to admit a student who may not have the prerequisites normally required. Students need to meet the spirit of integrated studies and essential studies requirements.

Current faculty fellows for University Studies are: Quentin Faulkner (music), David Forsythe (political science), Robert Haller (English), Kathleen Keeler (biological sciences), Mo Neal (art and art history), David Wishart (anthropology and geography), and Gordon Woodward (mathematics). Keeler is the program's director.

Because of the amount of work required for a student to create his or her own major, graduates with University Studies-created majors tend to be high-achieving, Haller said. Alumni of the program include former Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely, former Nebraska State Sen. LaVon Crosby and NU Regent Chuck Hassebrook.

University Studies anniversary events

The Oct. 15 events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the University Studies program will all be at the Nebraska Union.

• 1:30 p.m.: Welcome and a performance, "U Lit Up My Life," by humorist and writer Helen Crosswait.

• 2:15 p.m.: Panel discussion, "University Studies and the Rest of My Life." It will include former state Sen. LaVon Crosby; Rob Catlett, director of the Center for Economic Educations at Emporia (Kan.) State University; artist Jacqueline Lipsky; and Helen Greene, president of the Ashland Arts Council and former member of the State Board of Education.

• 3:30 p.m.: Bob Haller, original fellow and former director of the University Studies Program, will give a talk titled "Unique, American, Stimulating: Thirty Years of a Program."

• 4 p.m.: Panel discussion, "Bridging Fields." Panelists include Mark Hoeger, co-president of Oberon Entertainment; Tyler Sutton, president of the Conservation Alliance of the Great Plains; missionaries and artists Mark and Lori Marcuson; and lobbyist, consultant and former Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely.

• 7:15 p.m.: Lecture, "Creative People, Creative Majors - Past, Present and Future" by Chuck Hassebrook, University of Nebraska regent and executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs.



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