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Dean's Scholar Program

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What is a Dean's Scholar?


While the educational needs of most undergraduates can be readily satisfied through the selection of an appropriate major or combination of major(s) and/or minor(s), the University recognizes that for a select subset of unusually talented and motivated students, this will not be the case. Such exceptional students, driven by an overarching passion or curiosity that transcends typical disciplinary bounds and curricula, often have intellectual aspirations that would be difficult to accommodate within four years by conventional means. These interests may lead to broad interdisciplinary explorations of an issue, or to more intense, in-depth studies in a single field at a level akin to graduate work. In either case, such studies are likely to require an unusually large amount of individualized work, extensive interaction with faculty mentors, and often the academic resources of more than one college.

Because students in this program require administrative arrangements that can be made only at the college level, the students are designated as the responsibility of the college dean, hence the designation "Dean's Scholar" in recognition of the special efforts made on their behalf by the college.

What is the Dean's Scholar Program?

The Dean's Scholar Program exists to serve the needs of  extraordinary students by allowing them to design, in consultation with faculty advisors, imaginative and rigorous individual plans of study to meet the total credit hours required for graduation. It is expected that the course of study outlined by the Dean's Scholar candidate will represent a program that cannot be effectively achieved using other options already available within the University.

Given the high degree of independent study that will normally accompany a Dean's Scholar program, candidates for this program must present clear evidence before appointment of their ability to pursue such a program successfully. This evidence may include, but is not limited to, excellent grades at the University of Delaware, as well as information from instructors and advisors that indicates extraordinary motivation, insight and ability. As a result, students will generally be selected as Dean's Scholars during their third or fourth semester at the University (ideally, in time to develop their second semester sophomore schedule).​

The Dean's Scholar Program is available in the Colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Arts and Sciences; Business and Economics; Engineering; Health and Nursing Sciences; and Human Services, Education and Public Policy. Ordinarily, it is difficult, however, for students who are seeking professional certification in fields such as accounting, education, engineering or nursing, among others, to become Dean's Scholars if they intend to graduate within four years. 

PLEASE NOTE:  The material here refers only to the Dean's Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. For becoming a Dean's Scholar in another college at the University of Delaware, consult the dean of the relevant college.

Policy Regarding Majors and Degrees

A Dean's Scholar must have a major approved by a University of Delaware academic department or college. When a Dean's Scholar's individual program of study crosses two or more traditional disciplines, that program must provide the same depth in a discipline that is achieved in an existing major. Sometimes, the Dean's Scholar will earn an existing major, having requested modifications only in the general college requirements. Often, the "spirit" of an existing major is fulfilled even though some course substitutions are made. In cases where the "spirit" of a major is fulfilled, the Program Director will request that the department in which the traditional major is offered allow the Dean's Scholar to graduate with that major on the transcript.

Within the College of Arts and Sciences, when the Dean's Scholar's program of study does not closely resemble an existing departmental major, the Scholar will graduate with a major in Liberal Studies. When the liberal studies major is used, it is given a content title to be recorded at graduation on the transcript, e.g., "Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, with primary emphasis in [list areas]."

It is often the case that Dean's Scholars have more than one major and one or more minors. Sometimes a master's degree is earned in the course of a Dean's Scholar Program. If a student wishes to earn a Master's Degree, the student must apply and be admitted to a master's degree program no later than the first semester of the senior year.

Changes to the program of study and graduation

It is likely that a Scholar's individual program of study will undergo some changes from the set of courses submitted with the student's application to the program. Any such changes are to be made in close consultation with the student's committee of Dean's Scholar program faculty advisors, who must approve the changes on a "Dean's Scholar Change-in-Program" form. This form is submitted to the associate dean for approval. If the student intends to fulfill the "spirit" of an existing major, the chairperson of the department offering that major must also approve the changes.​

For a Dean's Scholar's senior check out, the Program Director will review the student's record in comparison with the student's most recently updated proposal and will certify to the Registrar's Office that the student is cleared for graduation.​

What does an outstanding proposal address?

​The attached document is a recent Dean's Scholar proposal in the College of Arts and Sciences. While the program you hope to put in place might not have any of the same focus that this one does, what this student demonstrates is precisely what the Dean's Scholar Program requires of its students: the imagination and drive to create a program that pulls coursework, professorial resources and support, passion and drive together in a compelling and meaningful way. 

Sample Dean's Scholar Proposal.docx

This student has more than a good idea; she has the tenacity, conviction, and entrepreneurial spirit to seek out support from key faculty in diverse departments, articulates her ideas and goals persuasively, and therefore provides significant evidences that she will succeed in her endeavor.

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