Major by Design

custom-designed majorPersonalized news. Jeans tailored to your measurements. Meals made to order. The hot thing right now is to provide people with individualized products, services, and experiences. Okay – so Pennoni's new Custom-Designed Major wasn't created to be on-trend. But it certainly fits in, allowing Drexel students to create majors closely tailored to their personal goals and exercise more control than ever over their college experience. 

This year, the Custom-Designed Major welcomed its first cohort of eight students, whose courses are pulled from across the university. The program is “breaking the mold of a traditional Drexel experience for an undergrad,” says Kevin Egan, the Program Manager of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry. “The students are embracing the notion of interdisciplinary study.”

The students' programs certainly reflect that. Junior Kevin Matthews is exploring Global Fashion Industry, “which is kind of looking at the alpha to the omega of the entire fashion industry,” says Egan, from textiles and labor to marketing and sociology. Freshman Emma Folwer is studying Paleontology and Paleo Art, and freshman Jeana Modley is focusing on Design Theory, exploring design in all forms, from fashion to architecture. Sophomore Dawn McDougall, meanwhile, has created a major called Environmental Advocacy, with the ultimate goal of, as Egan puts it, “Being a professional version of An Inconvenient Truth — making environmental issues accessible.”

As one might expect, the Custom-Designed Major students are very self-motivated, and many of them are creating their own opportunities not just at Drexel, but beyond. Kevin Matthews is doing a research co-op to better understand the marketing efforts of a Brooklyn-based fashion company, and even though she's just a freshman, Emma Fowler has already started working with the Philadelphia Museum of Natural Sciences.

An essential part of the Custom-Designed Major is the faculty mentors who guide the students in their studies. Thanks to these dedicated faculty members, the Custom-Designed Major has the distinction of being the only course of study on campus that provides one-on-one guidance throughout the program. Continued faculty involvement is integral to the program's growth and success, says Egan: “We're always interested in and excited for faculty who want to act as mentors — as the program grows, we'll need more and more.”

Egan is looking forward to watching the program expand – and not just with students who are new to Drexel. “It's not a program that's just for incoming freshmen. It's open for students at Drexel who maybe want to transfer to a different major.” But, he says, the plan is to cap the program around 50 students, so the Center for Independent Inquiry and the faculty mentors can continue to provide individualized attention to all the students, whatever majors they create.