Major Expansion in Minor Options

Harvard undergrads will be able to choose among 36 “secondary fields,” or minors, this spring, pending the approval of a Faculty committee. That marks an almost twofold increase in the number of secondary field proposals submitted over the past three weeks.

The Educational Policy Committee, the panel of professors that created the new secondary field program, will reach a decision this fall on the 36 proposals submitted by yesterday’s deadline.

“I was a little shocked at how many proposals have come in so far,” said Assistant Dean of the College Stephanie H. Kenen, who just three weeks ago told The Crimson that she had received only about 20 proposals. “And they’re still coming in,” said Kenen, though she added that proposals submitted after yesterday’s deadline might not be approved in time for spring semester shopping period.

The proposals come from 32 existing concentrations as well as three interdisciplinary coordinating committees—archaeology, global health, and the Committee on Mind, Brain, and Behavior. A graduate program on the study of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia has also submitted a plan for an undergraduate track.

A dozen proposals—ranging from engineering and applied sciences to women, gender, and sexuality (WGS)—have come in the past week alone.

Thus far, the full EPC has reviewed about one third of all submitted proposals. All of those have required at least minor clarifications, according to Kenen.

“There are some proposals that are very highly structured. Other programs are very flexible,” Kenen said.

The government proposal, for example, requires students to take five courses in that department. The five may include graduate courses, and students may petition to count one freshman seminar, Harvard Summer School course, or course from study abroad toward the secondary field requirement.

The proposal lists “Models of Study,” ranging from the broad, such as “Government in General,” to the specific, such as “Chinese Politics.”

The Department of English will offer a single six-course track requiring students to take English 10a, “Major British Writers I,” as well as an American literature course and a small seminar, according to Marquand Professor of English Daniel G. Donoghue.

And the proposed five-course track in women, gender, and sexuality will require students to take one foundational class in the history, methodology, or theory of gender and sexuality studies. Students pursuing a secondary field in WGS will then choose their four remaining courses from among the varied course offerings in the program.

Advising remains one of the greatest obstacles to the successful implementation of secondary fields. “Advising may turn out to be a significant drain on our resources if the number of students electing Government as a secondary field is large,” the government proposal reads. “Our concentration advising system is stretched as it is, with close to 600 concentrators.”

Smaller departments and committees may have an easier time. All members of the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality will assist with advising and mentoring, according to Karen Flood, the director of studies. Flood added that she and the assistant director of studies would—between the two of them—review the particulars of every student’s plan of study.

The EPC recently started meeting in sub-committees of three to review submissions and provide initial feedback on proposals.

“I’m pretty confident that this process will speed up,” Kenen said. The sub-committees meet about once a week.

The EPC plans to post the first approved secondary fields to after Thanksgiving, but there might be a time-lag between approval and online posting, according to Kenen.

—Staff writer Johannah S. Cornblatt can be reached at

Departments or Concentrations that applied for approval (31):

Celtic languages and literature
Computer science
Earth and planetary sciences
Engineering and applied sciences
English and American literature and language
Environmental science and public policy
Folklore and mythology
Germanic languages and literatures
History of art and architecture
Molecular and cellular biology
Near Eastern languages and civilizations
Neurobiology, organismic and evolutionary biology
Romance languages and literatures
Sanskrit and Indian studies
Slavic languages and literatures
Visual and environmental studies
Studies of women, gender, and sexuality

Interdisciplinary committees and graduate programs that applied for undergraduate secondary-field status (5):

Health policy
Global health
Mind, Brain, and Behavior
Study of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia