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Doing a Major His Way, With a Little Help


In high school Gabe Rivas ’16 studied industrial design for two years, which later on kindled his decision to create his own major at Hamilton. Rivas combined courses in art, anthropology, art history and theatre to make a major he called Design, History and Culture. In it he examined the history and social relationship surrounding art, visual design and industrial design.  

 “Although it took an incredible amount of careful planning and coordination with four different departments, I was able to choose every single class I would take during my junior and senior year, including a semester abroad,” says Rivas, who studied in Germany in part because he loves German design, especially cars. He received a Fulbright to, post Hamilton, to teach English in Germany. Long term, Rivas wants to pursue a degree in industrial design or scene design.

“To all the students considering creating an interdisciplinary,” Rivas advises, “If you feel like you don't fit into one or two majors, think about carving your own path. That's the beauty of Hamilton, it's a place where you're encouraged to pursue new avenues with a number of resources to fall back on,” he says.

Tips from Rivas on making your own major:

  • You're going to have to work! It's definitely a path that requires a large amount of drive, determination, careful planning, and  – most importantly – constant communication and corroboration with your advisor and faculty! 
  • Your advisors are there to help you and guide you in the toughest of times. Fall back on them when you have to!
  • You don't have to know exactly what you're going to do with your Senior Project or thesis, but it does help to have a general idea of what you'd like to do while drafting your proposal for the concentration. Once again, talk to faculty and ask for advice - because all departments have to sign off on what you're going to do. 
  • Lastly, a lot of this comes down to compromise. You have to be flexible and ready to adjust your plans or coursework if they don't fly with certain faculty. Don't be discouraged if a department says no to something - work with them.
  • At the end, it feels incredible to know that you studied exactly what you wanted to study during college.
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