School of Graduate Studies and Research
Barge Hall, room 214
Mail Stop 7519
See website for how this program may be used for educational and career purposes.
Kevin Archer, Interim Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Research
Individual Studies, MA
Individual Studies, MEd
Individual Studies, MFA
Individual Studies, MS
Purpose: The purpose of the Individual Studies Master (ISM) Program is to afford highly qualified and motivated applicants the opportunity to create sound master’s degree programs that do not already exist at CWU. These programs may be interdisciplinary in nature or focus on unique subject areas, but a student may only propose such a program when the curricula of regular graduate degree programs cannot be adjusted via Individual Studies 596 courses to meet the individuals’ career objectives and/or needs. The approval of such programs is dependent upon:
- The evidenced qualifications of the applicant and evidence the applicant has the ability to complete the proposed ISM
- The institution’s ability to provide a sufficient number of currently available relevant graduate level courses
- A sufficient number of faculty qualified and committed to work with the student
- Adequate scholarly and/or creative resources.
CWU will offer ISM programs only in fields where appropriate expertise and other resources exist as determined by the dean of School of Graduate Studies and Research and the Academic Standards Committee (ASC) of the Graduate Council.
Each ISM program must be as academically sound as traditional master’s degrees programs housed in regular academic departments. Thus, it must demonstrate the quality, breadth, and depth normally associated with master’s degrees and must be as intellectually rigorous. The capstone project of the ISM degree may be a traditional thesis or project so long as the capstone project is allowed by the department that houses the chair of the ISM candidate’s committee. Projects are broadly defined and can range from works of art or artistic expression to computer and engineering projects.
ISM programs may be created under the master of arts, master of education, master of fine arts, and master of science degree titles.
ISM Committee Chair Duties: The ISM committee chair must be involved in the application process, helping the student complete all requirements, including but not limited to filling in the Course of Study form, discussing the quality of the ISM, researching the necessary courses, and establishing an achievable time-plan. The committee chair must ensure that he or she has full workload considerations from the department chair and college dean for the time it normally takes a student to complete a graduate degree. In addition to committing to the time and work necessitated by the ISM, the committee chair must ensure the student’s timely progress through the program, keeping quarterly contact with the student even if the student is not taking courses with the chair during this time. The ISM committee chair must inform the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research of any problems that arise in a timely manner, so that solutions may be sought.
The ISM committee chair must provide a letter to the student that functions as a form of contract between the ISM student and the faculty member, ensuring each party knows in advance the study and time obligations to which they are committing; the letter must include a sentence stating that it functions as a form of contract between faculty members and the student. This letter must name the other two faculty members who have agreed to work with the student as committee members and detail the committee chair’s
- Duties within the ISM (teaching, mentoring, facilitating, etc.)
- Anticipated time commitment to the student and his or hers studies
- Evidence of expertise in the field of study being proposed in the ISM via teaching and/or published scholarship.
Once a year, the ISM committee chair must accompany the student to a meeting with the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council to report on progress in the degree. If the ISM committee chair is also the chair of the ASC, the annual meeting will include the dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
For a traditional thesis ISM or a project ISM that contains a heavy writing component:
The ISM committee chair must ensure that the student’s Course of Study includes a Preparation for Thesis course:
- This course generally must occur by the end of year 1.
- The ISM committee chair may use an established course within his/her department or create one for the purposes of this particular student, but not both.
- If this course is created as a 596 course, it will not count towards the 6 units of 596 credit permitted within the ISM Course of Study.
- During the course, the student will write a proposal that defines the scope of the thesis and identifies the research requirements. The proposal will be forwarded to the other members of the ISM committee and the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council after completion of the course. If the ISM committee chair is also the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council, the proposal will be forwarded to the chair of the Graduate Council.
- During the Preparation for the Thesis course, the ISM committee chair will mentor the student in writing the proposal, performing the research, assisting in developing a timeline, and assisting in any other issues necessary for a timely completion of the thesis.
For an ISM project evolving creative expression (creative expression is broadly defined and can include art exhibitions, dance, computer or engineering projects, etc.):
The ISM committee chair must make sure the student’s Course of Study includes a course designed to aid the student in organizing the project into a meaningful work of creative expression:
- This course generally must occur by the end of year 1.
- The ISM committee chair may use an established course within his/her department or create one for the purpose of this particular student, but not both.
- If this course is created as a 596 course, it will not count towards the 6 units of 596 credit.
- During the course, the student will write a proposal that defines the requirements for successfully completing the creative expression project. The proposal will be forwarded to the chair of the ASC at the end of the course.
- During the course, the ISM committee chair will mentor the student in writing the proposal, performing the research, assisting in developing a timeline, and assisting in any other issues necessary for a timely completion of the project.
Application Requirements, Materials, and Procedures: The applicant must submit all the required application items listed by the School of Graduate Studies and Research catalog in addition to all of the items required by the department or program that houses the ISM committee chair. In cases where the department or programs that house the ISM committee chair have more or higher standards for admission, the student must submit or meet those standards. In cases where the department or programs that house the ISM committee chair have fewer or lower standards, the student must submit or meet the School of Graduate Studies and Research requirements.
The applicant’s undergraduate transcript must show evidence of coursework in each of the fields from which the student proposes to draw for the ISM. The transcript grades for these courses must be a B or above. In cases where applicants have significant work experience in the subject area of their proposed ISM, the work experience may be used in place of the course work. In such cases, the student must be prepared to submit evidence of a strong work history (i.e. letters of recommendation from supervisors, examples of work done, etc.) It is up to the student and ISM committee chair to present a convincing rational for the substitution of work experience for academic course work.
As part of their application, the ISM student applicant must:
- Complete and submit a formal application, in accordance with the instructions in the School of Graduate Studies and Research application packet, including any required application fees.
- Have the minimum GPA necessary for admission to graduate school as outlined in the graduate catalog for the last 90 quarter or 60 semester credit hours elected.
- The general GRE must be taken if the home department of the ISM committee chair requires the exam for admission to the home department graduate program. The dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research and/or the ASC of the Graduate Council reserves the right to request GRE scores from an ISM applicant.
- For international applicants from non-English speaking countries, the TOEFL or IELTS test must be taken. The applicant must achieve the minimum score for the respective test outlined in the graduate catalog. If the home department of the ISM committee chair requires TOEFL or IELTS scores higher than what is required by the School of Graduate Studies and Research, then the applicant must meet those higher standards.
- For a traditional thesis or an ISM project that will be writing intensive, the applicant must include a minimum 5-page writing sample in the field/one of the fields being proposed for the ISM. The proposal should be double-spaced with 12-point font. For an ISM project proposal, evidence needs to be submitted to the ASC of the Graduate Council that the student has the ability to complete the ISM (e.g., if a student wants to produce a film for an ISM project, then submission of a short film the student has done would meet this requirement).
- Work with the ISM committee chair (see below) to complete and submit a Course of Study form (obtained from the School of Graduate Studies and Research website) that lists every course the student intends to take to complete the ISM:
- at least 30 units must be 500 level and above and a strong argument must be made for including the courses chosen in the course of study.
- these must be established courses within actual and current programs at CWU. No courses at the 300 level or below may count towards the ISM.
- only 6 units of course work may be Individual Studies or Special Topics courses (e.g., 596s). Any such course must provide outcomes and assessment, and be vetted by the ASC if the Graduate Council.
- one (1) of the courses must be a course that prepares the student to write a thesis or to define the parameters of their project (see above).
- the Course of Study must include six credits of 700 for thesis work or four 700 credits for the project option.
- the Course of Study must add up to a minimum of 45 credits.
- only 15 units of graduate-level course work may be transferred to an ISM course of study. Reasons for transferring this course work must be justified.
- Work with the ISM committee chair to write and submit a letter of application or Statement of Intent that:
- provides a rationale for the proposed ISM.
- identifies similar or relevant programs within graduate programs of American universities, and discusses in detail the one which the CWU student and the ISM committee chair (see below) will use a template for the Course of Study.
- explains the aptness of the degree to the student’s objectives after graduation.
- justifies the role of each course being proposed to the ISM template as a whole.
- provides evidence of some expertise in each of the fields of study being proposed for the ISM. Relevant undergraduate coursework or relevant work experience would satisfy this criteria.
- provides evidence of a culminating experience (e.g., thesis, research project, exam, capstone course, etc.) in the undergraduate career that demonstrates the ability ies to organize, research, and express orally and/or in writing, complex and developed ideas. Relevant work experience may be substituted for the culminating undergraduate experience.
- Submit short commitment letters obtained from the non-chair ISM committee members from their department chairs stating support for the workload effort being expended by the committee members.
- Submit a letter from the ISM committee that will function as a contract between the student and ISM committee chair (see ISM committee chair duties section).
- Work with the ISM committee chair to devise and submit a Statement of Learner Outcomes. Learner outcomes are critical to the success of CWU degree programs. As a result, each ISM candidate is expected to prepare an acceptable goals statement in which anticipated learner outcomes are specified. These will be measured at the completion of the program as a partial means of determining whether each student has met degree requirements.
Other Application Procedures: Only a student may propose an ISM. Faculty members may not propose an ISM but must be included in the application activities as detailed above. Each approved ISM program can only be proposed once. An ISM is considered to be a truly individual project proposed by a student and thus, by definition, each ISM may be offered only once. The decision to approve an ISM resides with both the ASC of Graduate Council and the dean of School of Graduate Studies and Research. Both the ASC of Graduate Council and the dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research must approve the ISM proposal before it can move forward. These bodies may request more information from the applicant and/or ISM committee chair, or invite an outsider’s opinion in making their determinations.
Program Procedures: All decisions, changes, requests, appeals, etc. must be performed in writing, with a copy going to the School of Graduate Studies and Research to ensure that the student’s file is complete and up-to-date. The student must meet with his or her committee chair at least once per quarter, if not more. Once a year the student and the ISM committee chair must meet with the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council or the dean of the School of the Graduate Studies and Research to report on progress. If, at any other time, either the student or the ISM committee chair feels the program is not advancing as designed or anticipated, one or both must contact the chair of the ASC of the Graduate Council or dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research for support in identifying the issues and establishing strategies for the solving them.
Note: A student may implement two (2) changes to an approved ISM Course of Study, justified in writing. Should the student require more changes to the approved ISM Course of Study, he or she may petition the ASC of the Graduate Council to implement further changes. All petitions must be in writing, and the ASC of the Graduate Council must approve or reject the request in writing. All written communication will be included in the student’s file with the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
Departmental Credit for ISM Degree: The department that houses the ISM committee chair will be acknowledged by the School of Graduate Studies and Research as graduating the candidate so long as the ISM candidate successfully completes the degree.
Additional Application Information: Each applicant is encouraged to apply using the self-managed application process. This will insure efficient and rapid processing of the application. If he or she is unable to use the self-managed application system, he or she may file the application materials separately. The application file must be complete before the graduate school can act upon it. The applicant must follow all instructions included in the application packet and mentioned above. Materials submitted in support of an application cannot be returned nor will they be for other purposes.
Examinations and Assessment: An oral final examination is required on work completed in partial fulfillment of the ISM degree requirements. The examination standards must be aligned with that of the department that houses the ISM committee chair. Some graduate committees may also require a written examination as well. The examination process is intended to assure that the student has met the objectives of her or his goal statement and that the learner outcomes have thus been achieved. If the student performs satisfactorily on the examination, the student’s ISM committee will write a summary statement of the student’s accomplishments and competencies for inclusion in the student’s permanent file.
Application Deadlines: The deadlines for submitting all application materials are as follows:
February 1 for fall quarter
April 1 for summer quarter
October 1 for winter quarter
January 1 for spring quarter
Applicants must meet these deadlines or risk jeopardizing their admission for the quarter requested.
ProgramsMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CoursesIndividual Studies (IS)