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The Individualized Degree Program (IDP)

A Guide for Faculty


What is the IDP?

The Individualized Degree Program (IDP) is an academically sound, interdisciplinary degree program developed by the student in collaboration with a faculty advisor and the Center for Individualized Learning to meet specific educational goals not met by other majors/minors at the university.

What are the requirements for an IDP?

  • All IDP students meet the university’s requirements expected of any degree seeking student – General Studies, residency, upper division, and other requirements as defined by the MSU Denver Catalog.
  • Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 before an IDP proposal can be approved.
  • Students propose an IDP major, minor, or extended major.
  • The specific policies and procedures for the Individualized Degree Program are available here.

What are the responsibilities of an IDP Faculty Advisor?

The faculty advisor must be a full-time faculty member who:

  • collaborates with the student and the student’s IDP advisor to design an academically sound and cohesive major or minor.
  • consults as needed with faculty from other disciplines, when those disciplines compose a significant part of the student’s planned program of study.
  • provides a communication link between the student and the chair of the department from which the student draws the majority of credit.
  • reviews and approves the student’s degree plan.  The CIL advisor and director, the chair of the department from which the majority of credit is drawn, and the appropriate dean also review the proposal. 
  • in collaboration with the students’ CIL advisor, the faculty member continues to act as advisor for the student throughout his/her enrollment and assists with program adjustments as needed.

Other Advisors

Additional faculty advisors from one or more additional disciplines may assist the faculty advisor and the student, reviewing the student’s proposal as needed.

The student may also invite a practicing professional with expertise in the student’s field of study to serve as a community consultant.

What are the ideal steps in the IDP process?

  1. The student views an Informational Video.
  2. Student meets with a CIL advisor.
  3. Student takes steps to clarify academic goals, exploring a number of avenues such as the suggestions listed below:
    • reviews his/her past education for courses relevant to the proposed major/minor.
    • searches the course catalog for courses potentially relevant to the concentration.
    • researches specific graduate school entrance requirements to ensure the IDP will facilitate his/her future educational goals.
    • may research similar undergraduate degree programs at other institutions.
    • investigates specific workplace and community needs and trends in his/her interest area.  The student may identify a practicing professional to serve as a community consultant.
    • consults with a faculty advisor.
    • consults with additional faculty advisors in other disciplines as needed.
  4. Student draws up a draft degree plan.
  5. Degree plan is reviewed by the faculty advisor, CIL advisor, and modified as needed.
  6. The student writes a rationale essay in consultation with the CIL advisor.  It is the faculty advisor’s choice if s/he wants to be involved in the development of the rationale.
  7. The completed proposal is submitted by the student to the advisor and department chair for review.  If approved, the advisor and the chair sign the degree plan and approval form.  The completed proposal includes:
    • degree plan signed by advisor and department chair
    • approval form signed by advisor and department chair and, if applicable, additional advisor(s) and community consultant(s).
    • rationale essay
    • unofficial transcript
  8. The student submits the proposal to the Center for Individualized Learning.  If necessary, the Center sends the proposal to other departments for review of the title.
  9. The proposal is submitted by the Center to the appropriate dean for review.
  10. The Center forwards the proposal with the dean’s signature to the Registrar’s office where it is entered into the Banner system so that an accurate CAPP report can be generated.
  11. Ideally, students should complete this process in 3-6 months and it must be completed the semester prior to anticipated graduation.

Frequent Faculty Questions

Transfer credit and the IDP 

In addition to transfer credit already accepted by the University, other credit from regionally accredited institutions that is appropriate for the student’s IDP  major or minor, may be approved for transfer by the faculty advisor, student’s chair, and the Center director even though it does not normally transfer. For example, credit in fire science from a community college, though it does not generally transfer to MSU Denver, can be approved for transfer as part of an IDP program with a concentration in Fire and Emergency Services Administration. This is currently an incubator or pilot program.

How are adjustments made to an IDP major or minor?

As in any major or minor, courses may be substituted and requirements adjusted using a “CAPP Adjustment” or “Degree Exception” form. The form must be signed by the chair of the department where the program was originally approved.  The adjustment form is submitted to the Center, reviewed by the director, and submitted to the Registrar. 

How is an IDP identified on the student’s transcript?

The transcript and the student’s diploma list “Bachelors of Arts OR Bachelor of Science in Individualized Studies: Title.” Titles are developed and approved as part of the proposal process. Titles may not replicate existing majors and minors. Titles must be approved by the relevant chair(s) of any disciplines implied or explicitly referred to in the title.

Identifying a Senior Experience

While approved senior experience courses listed in the MSU Denver Catalog may be appropriate for some IDP programs, another senior level course which meets the university’s criteria for a senior experience may be more appropriate for a particular IDP major and can be approved as such. Internships and independent study or directed study courses may also serve as a senior experience.

Internships and Undergraduate Research

IDP students often engage in internships and research as part of their IDP, working with the appropriate academic department and the Applied Learning Center.

Graduate Schools and the IDP

Our graduate surveys indicate approximately 30% of IDP graduates enroll, or expect to enroll, in graduate school programs or professional schools in medicine and law.  The surveys suggest graduate schools respond positively to an IDP student’s initiative to take responsibility for his/her own education.  IDP students are strongly encouraged to research specific graduate school requirements before finalizing their IDP proposal.

Employers and the IDP

Graduate surveys indicate approximately 70% of IDP graduates are employed in fields related to their fields of study.  Designing a major with specific workplace needs in mind can be beneficial in the job search.  In working with IDP students, we hope that faculty advisors will assist students in thinking about how to frame their learning skills to meet the expectations of employers. We also work closely with Career Services in this area.

IDP as incubator for new major/minors

Through the IDP, the university can respond more quickly and more flexibly to changing needs in the community through programs such as Aerospace Systems Engineering Technology, Aerospace Physics, Space Commercialization, Fire and Emergency Services Administration, and Health Care Information Systems. See: Incubators and Pilot Programs.

The IDP provides an incubator for new academic programs.  Using the IDP, faculty members develop programs, experiment with the curriculum, and chart the demand for new majors and minors prior to putting them forth for approval.  Some of the majors and minors developed through the IDP that are now formal programs in the MSU Denver catalog include Convergent Journalism, Genders and Sexuality Studies, and Water Studies. 

Resources for faculty advisors

The Center for Individualized Learning is glad to meet with any faculty member to discuss individual student needs or to clarify any questions regarding program policies and processes.  Center staff is also glad to attend any departmental faculty meetings to discuss how the IDP incubators and other Center programs can better support departmental goals. 


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