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Programs and Degrees

Individually Structured Major (ISM)

The individually structured major (ISM) is an interdisciplinary major based on an individual contract rather than a preset list of courses. The flexibility of designing your own major affords liberal arts students an opportunity to pursue academic interests that cross traditional department or college boundaries. The ISM is attractive to students who have specific educational and career goals not satisfied with a traditional major or to students interested in a K-12 teaching career where breadth, more than depth, is valued to meet licensure requirements. SEE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS.

How the ISM Works

Students interested in the individually structured major work with faculty advisors in each discipline to create a program plan, or contract, to define the individually structured major. The ISM program plan must have an academic or career theme that ties course work together. Students are encouraged to complete the program plan before the end of the sophomore year.

To Begin the Process

Contact the CLAS Advising Office to schedule a time to discuss your academic plan (or how to develop one) and the ISM approval process.

Upon completion of graduation requirements, (ISM and CLAS core curriculum) students in the individually structured major program will receive a diploma that will read "Bachelor of Arts, Individually Structured." The University of Colorado transcript will read "Bachelor of Arts, Major: Individually Structured, Area: [ISM title selected by student and approved as part of the ISM program plan]".

Study Includes 2-3 Disciplines

The ISM program plan requires course work over two or three disciplines. A discipline is defined as a single department or program such as biology, ethnic studies, or math.

The ISM Program Plan

  • Between 48 and 54 semester credit hours are allowed for the program plan.
  • A minimum of 16 semester hours must be upper-division credit.
  • Each discipline requires a minimum of 15 semester hours, of which at least 3 must be upper-division hours.
  • A minimum of 6 semester hours in each discipline must be taken from downtown Denver campus faculty.
  • A maximum of one discipline may be outside CLAS.
  • A third optional discipline may be a mixture of course work, excluding courses from the first and second disciplines.
  • An ISM title must be consistent with the academic theme and disciplines in the program plan.

The ISM program plan contract is approved by faculty for each discipline and submitted to the CLAS Advising Office, NC 2024, for college approval by the associate dean. The ISM program plan must be approved before one-third of the ISM course work is completed. Typically, a maximum of 18-21 hours of previously completed courses is allowed.

Grade and Residency Requirements

Graduation requirements for ISM students include a minimum 2.0 grade point average for all ISM course work, a minimum 2.0 grade point average in each discipline in the program plan, and a minimum of 24 hours of course work taken from downtown Denver campus faculty. Honors


Liberal arts students interested in graduating with Latin honors in the individually structured major program should meet with the associate dean in the CLAS Advising Office to verify they meet eligibility requirements and to modify the program plan for the honors project. Students who successfully complete the ISM honors program will have the appropriate Latin honor designation placed on the University of Colorado diploma and transcript.

To participate in the ISM honors program, CLAS students must meet each of the following eligibility requirements:

  • have a declared ISM “major” with an approved ISM contract
  • possess a minimum 3.2 cumulative University of Colorado grade point average
  • possess a minimum 3.5 grade point average on all completed University of Colorado course work in the ISM contract

Eligible ISM students must complete an undergraduate research project and present the results to a faculty honors committee. The level of Latin honors awarded is determined by the faculty honors committee. ISM students are to complete 3 to 6 semester hours of undergraduate independent study over a period of two semesters in one of the disciplines that constitute the ISM contract. The faculty sponsor from the project discipline will serve as honors committee chair. The independent study research project is to produce a thesis-quality report to be presented orally to a three-member interdisciplinary faculty honors committee representing the disciplines in the ISM contract. Upon completion of the research report and oral presentation to the honors committee, the level of Latin honors will be determined by the following criteria:

  • cum laude—awarded upon completion of written report and oral presentation
  • magna cum laude—awarded by honors committee based on successful written report and oral presentation
  • summa cum laude—awarded by honors committee based on excellence in written report and oral presentation