The following steps will help you write a successful CIS proposal. All Davidson students declare a major at the end of second year; accordingly students apply to the Center during their second year at Davidson. Most Center majors apply between October and January, though the final deadline is the Friday before spring break at noon. Unlike other majors at Davidson, a Center major occurs through an application process. Not all proposals are accepted. Those that follow these guidelines carefully have a better chance of acceptance.
1) To schedule an initial inquiry meeting contact the CIS program assistant at 704-894-2385, CIS@davidson.edu). Then depending on your area of interest, you will meet with either the CIS Director, Professor Scott Denham or the CIS Associate Director, Professor Dave Wessner.
Professor Denham will oversee all proposals in the humanities, some social sciences, historical and area studies - East Asian studies, comparative literature, history and literature, medieval and renaissance studies, cognitive science (grounded in philosophy), Africana studies, education studies, ethnic studies, Latino studies, gender studies, film and media studies, cultural studies, etc., as well as majors in Russian, Arabic, and Chinese language and literature.
Professor Wessner will oversee all proposals in the natural sciences and mathematics and some social science proposals - public health, neuroscience, biochemistry, computational biology, environmental anthropology, biophysics, genomics, medical ethics and medical humanities, behavioral economics and cognitive science (grounded in psychology), etc.
Listen to some Center majors describe the application process on PodCats. (Start at the bottom of that page.)
Arrange to meet with prospective faculty advisers to discuss your interests and your plans for an interdisciplinary major through the CIS. There are usually two advisers, sometimes three, normally all from different departments, though in some cases (neuroscience, for example) there can be one adviser, or two from the same department. Begin drafting the proposal. Most students have several meetings at this stage, which normally take place in the fall of second year
2) Finalize your choice of advisers. Ensure that they are both able and willing to act as advisers for your major program. Your advisers must be full-time, tenure-track or permanent faculty; they must also be in residence at Davidson College during your senior year. Since the primary function of your CIS advisers is to direct your senior thesis, choose faculty whose areas of expertise are best suited for the senior thesis you will write.
3) Work closely with your director and advisers throughout the process of drafting your proposal. This will require many face-to-face meetings during the fall of second year. The proposal is a three to four-page document that consists of the following:
- A paragraph about your major field of study. What is it, how is it interdisciplinary, how is it configured and supported at Davidson. Include a few lines explaining why you wish to design your own major program, and why the work you want to do cannot be accomplished within a single department. This is about a page.
- A description of your proposed program of study, followed by a list of all courses, seminars and independent study projects that will count towards the major. A major in the CIS consists of twelve courses: ten curricular courses, at least five of which must be at or above the 300 level; plus two thesis courses during the fourth year, CIS 495 Thesis (fall) and CIS 496 Thesis (spring). Your list ought to include fifteen to eighteen courses, to allow for potential registration difficulties and changes in your major design. Please list both the course number (e.g. PHI 125, BIO 318) and title, and indicate with an asterisk (*) those courses you have already completed. Also indicate with a number symbol (#) any courses currently in progress. Pending registrar approval of transfer credits, courses taken elsewhere may count toward the CIS major. List potential study abroad courses with a brief description. This will take a page or two.
- A description (in as much detail and specificity as possible at this date) of the topic you have chosen for your thesis, the culmination of your major program in the Center. This is about a page.
- A brief note about a back-up major in another department with a list of major courses already taken. That is, show what your major will be if you do not major in the Center.
- Your pledge, which indicates that you have upheld the Davidson Honor Code and have met with all proposed advisers, and they have agreed to act as such.
- Include in a line in the header your name, class year, major title, the names of your advisers and the date of the proposal. (Don't forget to change the date when submitting later drafts.)
N.B.: Excellent oral and written communication skills are necessary for acceptance as a CIS major. The professors who will decide whether or not to accept you as a CIS major evaluate all aspects of your proposal, including your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely in error-free prose.
Proposals that do not conform to these standards and guidelines will not be accepted.
4) Send your draft proposal to both Center directors, the program assistant, and to your prospective advisers at the same time in one email. Chances are that you will be asked to revise it. Much of this work happens in October and November of second year.
5) When all parties (including you) are satisfied that your proposal is as complete as possible, submit your final proposal to both directors, the program assistant, and your advisers; as always in one email to everyone all at once.
6) With your proposal in hand, your director will circulate the proposal to the CIS Faculty Advisory Committee. They will respond within a week, and if they agree that the proposal should move forward, then we will begin the process of scheduling the proposal meeting, which can take another week or two. If not, you will be asked to seek out another major. Advisory faculty may also require revisions (known as "revise and resubmit") at this stage. As before, submit your proposal to both directors, the program assistant and your advisers (pledged). This revision process will take another two weeks at least: one week for your revisions and meetings with your proposed advisers; a second week for the Faculty Advisory Committee members to read your revised proposal.
7) At this point you may be asked to move to the proposal meeting stage, or to seek out another major in the College. If you are invited to the proposal meeting, you will then meet with your director, proposed advisers and a member of the CIS Faculty Advisory Committee. In this meeting you will present your proposal and discuss it in some detail. This group will also set your major curriculum, which becomes a binding set of courses required for the major and thus for graduation. At the conclusion of the meeting you will either be invited to join the Center or asked to develop a major within a single discipline at the college.
As you can see, the proposal process takes time and involves a number of different people. A CIS major cannot be proposed at the last minute or in haste.
Deadline for CIS proposals: the Friday before spring break at noon. (Some exceptions are possible; see your CIS director.)
You may submit your proposal any time before the deadline.