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Project Title:Incubation of New Majors/Minors through Individualized Degree ProgramInstitution Name:Metropolitan State College of Denver Innovation Category:Program Design and Delivery Project Director:Elizabeth Parmelee, Director, Center for Individualized Learning Contact Information:(303) 556-3112, eparmel1@mscd.eduWebsite:
Project Description:The Individualized Degree Program works with departments interested in developing new majors and minors, providing an option to incubate these new programs before submitting them through the formal curriculum process. This enables the college to respond to emerging community needs and promotes innovation within and across departments that see the need for a new program but are uncertain of its prospects or required curriculum. Examples of incubated programs are Aerospace Systems Engineering Technology, Aerospace Physics, and Convergent Journalism. Limited budgets and cuts do not encourage new programs, yet new programs are needed to meet the swiftly changing needs of our students; the incubator program addresses this dilemma.
  • To promote innovation and development of new programs through a “just in time” mechanism that allows for preliminary program development prior to curriculum review.
    • Success is measured both by the number of new programs developed that go on to become majors/minors, and by those programs that do not continue. Identifying programs that do not warrant a new major saves the college the resources that would be spent if this program had gone forward through the formal curriculum process.
  • To encourage cross-disciplinary ventures that will lead to new majors and minors.
    • Success is measured by the number of new programs that cross disciplines. 
  • Currently, there are three majors and two minors in incubation. Another two majors and one minor are under consideration. Student numbers and survey results are not yet available but will be gathered as each program moves towards “maturity” and decides to present a permanent curriculum proposal.
  • All of the existing incubator programs are interdisciplinary.
  • Although the incubator process has been more recently formalized, historically there are several majors and minors at Metro State that were developed in this manner. For example, Environmental Science (a major), Integrative Therapeutic Practices (a major), and Pre-Healthcare (a minor) grew up through the Individualized Program.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:The biggest challenge encountered is the difficulty of coordinating work across disciplinary boundaries. Although incubated programs do not have to be cross-disciplinary, they most often are. Despite faculty and chairs being eager to work together, the structural challenges entailed in this collaborative work can be daunting.  For example, the complexity of assigning multiple faculty from multiple departments (even multiple schools) to team teach a single course has made it difficult to offer these courses.
Evaluation Approach:Evaluation for this program is relatively straightforward but also relies on existing evaluation structures (of courses, for example). The need for evaluation of incubated programs lies in the need to assess whether or not the program has sufficient demand before submitting it for the curriculum review process. Thus, evaluation is based on student numbers, indicating whether or not a permanent major/minor is warranted. Student feedback informs adjustments that can be made to an incubated major or minor.  
Potential for Replication:This innovation could be fairly easily replicated at an institution that already has a structure for individualized majors and minors with a permanent staff. At institutions without such a program, it would be necessary to create an Individualized Program as a first step, or create a different structure to “hold” the incubated programs.
Additional Resources:

Examples of incubated programs can be found at:




CEO-to-CEO Contact:Stephen M. Jordan , President(303) 556-3022
Date Published: Friday, April 29, 2011