In 2014, Barbara Piperata wanted to start a new major.
Piperata, associate professor of anthropology, had been teaching medical anthropology classes at Ohio State, such as Women’s Health in Global Perspectives and Introduction to Medical Anthropology, and saw students developing interest in learning how to understand the health dilemmas people face today.
After four years of creating a curriculum, writing proposals and making revisions, medical anthropology became one of five new majors this semester, in addition to integrated majors in Math and English; Italian studies; Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Statistics. While it’s simple for students to enroll in these new majors, their creation process was difficult for faculty.
Randy Smith, vice provost of academic affairs at Ohio State, said the process to create a new major begins at the departmental level, where faculty build upon the curriculum of a new or revised major.
“It may be because the field is changing; it may be because these faculty have come here wanting to do something a little differently than what’s been done before,” Smith said.
Smith said some majors might overlap with other majors at the university, which is called concurrence, and it’s something he talks to the department faculty about when they are building the curriculum.
Eric MacGilvray, chair of the PPE steering committee and professor of political science, said concurrence wasn’t an issue for a major like PPE, where the department chairs in the political science, philosophy and economics departments worked together.
“It literally never came up,” MacGilvray said.
After it leaves the departmental level, Smith said the proposal moves to the college, where it will receive another round of revisions.
From the college level, it goes to the Office of Academic Affairs, which provides faculty with a template of guidelines they should follow when creating a new major.
Smith said he brings those templates and the proposals to the Council of Academic Affairs, where they will add addendums fixing the proposals.
“It’s essentially looking at this template and saying, ‘Did they do what they were asked to do, why are you doing this, what’s the program actually look like, who’s going to be teaching it, do you have the resources to get it up and going and keep it going?’” Smith said.
Finally, once the proposal for a new major leaves the council, it goes to the Ohio Department of Higher Education for approval.
The process comes with some challenges, however. For PPE, MacGilvray said that while there were no concurrence issues, having multiple departments involved created a challenge.
“Nobody [was] really an expert in all of the areas and components of the major,” MacGilvray said. “We really had to learn from each other as we went through the process.”
Janice Aski, professor and director of the Italian language program, said the challenge for the Italian studies major was determining if faculty across campus were interested in contributing existing courses to the curriculum.
“It’s going around and making sure everybody’s on board, and it’s OK and that I crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s,” Aski said.
Smith said creating new majors is important for the growth of the university.
“2019 is not 1999 or 1980,” Smith said. “Fields are changing, and students have different interests, and so there’s been a growing interest by students for interdisciplinary majors.”