Faculty FAQs

Please see the FAQs for students for general information about secondary fields.

  1. What are the guidelines for proposing a secondary field?
    • Proposals should be sent electronically to Dean Noël Bisson (bisson@fas.harvard.edu), Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education.
    • All proposals should include the following (contact the Office of Undergraduate Education at oue@fas.harvard.edu for complete details):
      • A cover letter from the department or program chair describing the secondary field and the rationale for its structure. This letter should also include a statement about the use of faculty, advising, and administrative resources. Secondary fields must be undertaken using existing resources. The cover letter should also describe the process by which the proposal was developed, including subcommittees and dates of faculty meeting discussions and votes.
      • A short paragraph with a description of the secondary field program and its structure. This paragraph should be aimed at undergraduates who might be interested in the program.
      • A list of course requirements, including the number of courses, and of what type. Please list any courses or set of courses that are required of all students. When possible, it is better to list categories of courses (methods, themes, subfields) than to list specific courses that may change on a yearly basis. Programs should keep a list of specific courses that count towards secondary field requirements updated on their own websites.
      • Other relevant information. Please note in the proposal whether courses from study abroad (which count for Harvard College credit), Harvard Summer School, or other Harvard schools would count for the secondary field; whether there is a grade minimum for courses to count for the secondary field, etc. This section should also include a statement about whether or not students pursuing a secondary field will receive preferential access to limited-enrollment courses.
      • Advising resources and expectations. Please provide information as to when and how a student should contact the program for advising information and identify who will serve as the main secondary field adviser and a contact person for additional information if different from the adviser.

  2. Are there any guidelines for required courses for a secondary field?
    • Secondary fields should include between four to six required courses. Required courses should be offered on a regular basis, taught by ladder faculty, and ordinarily should not require the use of replacement or visiting faculty when regular faculty are on leave (unless the courses are required by the concentration regardless of the existence of a secondary field). If the secondary field is dependent on courses offered by another department, please confirm that the other department has been informed of your secondary field proposal, acknowledges the potential increase in enrollments, and confirms that the courses will be offered on a regular basis. Similarly, departments and concentrations should consult with related and adjacent fields to minimize duplication and overlap of secondary field offerings.
    • The Educational Policy Committee encourages programs to include courses that require students to participate in the production of knowledge, not simply its consumption. Thus, ordinarily, programs should not rely primarily on introductory courses wherein students do not engage actively in the methods or approaches in the field. Similarly, if a program is only four courses, the EPC suggests that all courses be letter-graded; Freshman Seminars should not count unless a program requires five or six courses.

  3. Is there a schedule and deadline for accepting proposals for secondary fields?
    • The Educational Policy Committee will accept proposals for review and approval on a rolling basis.

  4. Whom do I contact if my department or committee wants to offer a secondary field?
    • Please contact Noël Bisson, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education (bisson@fas.harvard.edu; 617-496-6976), for more information.

  5. Are additional resources available to departments and programs offering secondary fields?
    • No. Secondary fields must be undertaken using existing resources. Additional TF/TA support for regular courses whose enrollments have risen due to secondary field students will be considered part of the regular costs of courses and are not considered additional resources. However, the costs of additional tutorials or other small-group courses must be discussed with the Office of Undergraduate Education prior to submitting the proposal.

  6. What advising and administrative functions are required of departments and programs offering secondary fields?
    • Advising functions include intellectual mentoring and guidance on course selection, and should involve both faculty and staff. The Educational Policy Committee encourages secondary fields that are designed in such a way as not to be overly-dependent on individual advising for their coherence and structure, but is aware that different programs will be structured in different ways.
    • Administrative functions include reviewing student records and certifying the completion of requirements before graduation (including checking that no more than one course is double-counted). We hope to keep these functions to a minimum, but some staff time will be required.
    • The process for the tracking of requirements as outlined by the College is a minimum expectation. Some programs want to include students pursuing a secondary field in department events and advising; others want to develop a program that is largely self-administered.

  7. What responsibility does a secondary field program have for approving or reviewing student records?
    • Students will track their own requirements. If they have officially notified the program or filed for a secondary field, the secondary field adviser will have access to the student record through my.harvard.edu. The my.harvard.edu tool will also include a secondary field report listing all the courses that the student intends to count for the secondary field.
    • Once students have finished their requirements, they are required to print a form listing the courses they have taken. This form must be reviewed, approved, and signed by the secondary field adviser before being submitted to the Registrar. This signature is the official validation that the student has successfully completed the requirements as set out by the secondary field and as published on this website and in the Handbook for Students, including any restrictions on acceptable minimum grades, cross-registration, study abroad, etc. While occasional exceptions and substitutions are always allowed, it is the responsibility of the secondary field program to certify that the student has indeed completed the requirements. Secondary field advisers should keep a copy of this signed form for their own records. Students are required to submit their signed forms to the Office of the Registrar in person by the tenth Monday of their final term - no exceptions.

  8. What responsibility does a concentration have for allowing their own students to fulfill a secondary field in another area?
    • Concentrations are not required to accommodate students' requests to change what they count for concentration credit in order for the students to fulfill secondary field requirements. However, the policies and procedures in this regard should be made explicit to students. More courses than necessary are frequently marked as “conc” on the student record, indicating that they count for concentration and may not double-count for a secondary field (students may only double-count one course). The Registrar flags many concentration courses automatically, but concentrations are expected to update and correct the information on a yearly basis. Any additional changes must be made in writing to the Registrar.

  9. I cannot log into the Online Web Tool. Is there a way for me to see what the forms look like?
  10. How do secondary field advisers approve courses taken for Study Abroad for secondary field credit?
    • The Office of International Education has established procedures for students who want to count courses from Study Abroad for secondary field credit. This requires the provisional approval from the adviser before the courses are undertaken, and a confirmation from the adviser after the course is complete. For more information, see http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~oip/students/credit_in_a_nutshell_st05.html .