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Customize your education with the CLAM

On October 24, 2016


STUDENTS CONTROL THE SYSTEM The contractual liberal arts program, also known as the CLAM, provides an opportunity for students to design their own higher education curriculum. This new system will allow every student to design their own learning experience.


At every college or university there are students who feel as though they don’t fit into their major. These students may switch their major multiple times,  or remain undeclared, which can extend the four-year degree to five or even six years. There is a solution for this and it’s called a liberal arts major. In case you don’t know a liberal arts major is an independently designed, individualized program.

The top liberal art colleges in the United States, according to the U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings: Williams College, Amherst College and Wellesley College are all located in Massachusetts and have been offering liberal art majors since they were established. You might be wondering how this affects us since we attend The College at Brockport. Well, there is actually a contractual liberal arts major (CLAM) option available here as well. 

This program is not known by many students. It is not something the college uses regularly. In fact the paperwork for the procedures of designing a CLAM are still formatted for the 1900s. This program was created by the Delta College fraction on campus, although a student in good-academic standing does not need to be a part of Delta to pursue a CLAM. This is not an option for the light of heart, however, as it takes a lot of work to actually have your own major accepted. The end product of getting the education you want and need to excel in your prospective field as well as having your own major’s name on your degree and official transcript is well-worth it.

Before you put yourself all in or say, “no, this is not for me” here are the guidelines for designing and proposing a CLAM through the college. If you go to and search “contractual liberal arts major”, click on the second result “Academic Programs: The College at Brockport”, scroll down to Liberal Arts and click on “CLAM” you will get a short description of the program and who to contact to learn more information.

We have actually received a copy of the CLAM Student Information packet;  a summary of the procedure is as follows: Obtain a Declaration of Intent to Develop a CLAM form, a copy of the Guidelines and Procedures and a CLAM form, which can all be found at the Office of Academic Advisement. You must have two advisors who will represent at least two of the areas you will be combining to create the CLAM. 

For example, if the CLAM were to be a combination of Journalism and Broadcasting, Art and Sociology your advisors should be professors from two of your areas of study. You and your newly appointed advisors design the CLAM.

When the design of the CLAM is complete, this means a curriculum has been drawn up which contains a total of 36 credits, 20 of which are upper division, from all three areas you want to combine, the advisors both approve it and sign the CLAM contract.

Once the curriculum has been approved for your unique major you must draft a proposal for your CLAM which you will then take to the Dean of the College in which most of your curriculum falls under. In order for the curriculum to even be considered no more than two-thirds of the classes can be completed before the proposal is submitted. Once the proposal has been submitted to the dean they may suggest for you to make changes and then resubmit the proposal. Once the dean has approved the proposal the CLAM contract is filed in the offices your primary discipline, the Registrar for classes, and Academic Advisement.

There are specifics as to what combination of classes you can use to create your curriculum but the key takeaways here are that you choose one core area of study (one major under which most of your courses fall), then you choose two other areas of study which will enhance the core you have decided on.  All courses are already in place at the college. The CLAM allows you to take a variety from three different major tracks to create one major focused on the skills you will need when pursuing your career. Also, this is advised to be done within the student’s third or fourth semester. This means freshmen and sophomore students are the ones who have an opportunity to create a liberal arts major.

The CLAM is often an overlooked opportunity which can change a student’s life. With CLAM students can choose the courses necessary to gain the skills they will need to be in the top candidates for a job in the field. The liberal arts majors designed through this program directly reflect the student’s individuality and ambitions. 

For upperclassmen who no longer have the opportunity to develop a CLAM, the knowledge of its existence is both exciting and disappointing. On staff we have juniors and seniors who wish they had known about it when they were sophomores because their choice of a minor was for the sake of choosing a minor and not necessarily because it fit completely with their major. They wish they had the chance to take the classes they wanted and needed to take to become more affluent in their field all the while having those courses contribute to their degree. 

One of our staff members has actually developed her own CLAM and is now in the process of getting her proposal approved by the dean. She chose to combine journalism and broadcasting courses with art and sociology courses geared towards her end goal of becoming a photo-journalist. It is extra time and effort you have to put in but it proves the program is real, is available and should be undergoing a revitalization on the college’s end so that more students can take advantage of this opportunity.

The college should not only market this avenue more to benefit the students but to also benefit professors and prospective students. The idea of creating one’s own major for incoming undeclared students could be the reason they choose to come to Brockport instead of any other school where they will have to transition from being undeclared to following only one path. Colleges say the purpose of general education requirements is to ensure every student obtains a well-rounded education. 

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