Campus & Community

College offers 28 secondary fields to undergraduates

3 min read

Ten months after professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to establish secondary fields as part of the ongoing Harvard College Curricular Review, the College has approved and is now offering 28 of the optional programs to undergraduates.

All 28 are available to this June’s graduates, making the current senior class the first in Harvard history with the option to list secondary fields on their transcripts.

“We hope that the option of a secondary field will offer students with an intellectual interest in two subjects the opportunity to pursue both,” said Benedict H. Gross, Leverett Professor of Mathematics and dean of Harvard College.

The number of secondary fields – known at many other colleges and universities as “minors” – is likely to grow on a rolling basis, said Stephanie H. Kenen, assistant dean of Harvard College.

“We’ve moved from zero secondary fields to 28 in just a few months,” Kenen said, “and various other academic departments, undergraduate concentrations, standing committees, and graduate programs are still weighing the possibility of creating their own secondary fields.”

As approved by the FAS faculty last April 4, all secondary fields consist of four to six courses. Within that broad framework, different departments have elected to structure their secondary fields in very different ways.

For example, the Department of Philosophy has created six distinct tracks – such as “Moral and Political Philosophy,” “Classics of Western Philosophy,” and “Philosophy of Mind and Psychology” – each of which prescribes a fairly structured sequence of six courses. The Department of Government, on the other hand, has just one track requiring any five courses; the only departmental limitation is that at least three must be advanced-level courses.

Some secondary fields exist across academic programs. The secondary field in mathematical sciences is jointly sponsored by the Department of Mathematics and the Applied Mathematics concentration in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The College is cautioning students not to regard secondary fields as Harvard’s latest “must-have” credential, emphasizing that pursuit of a secondary field will necessarily reduce the number of exploratory electives, and could affect important opportunities for research or advanced study.

“Students and their advisers should consider whether pursuing a secondary field will be, on balance, truly advantageous,” Gross said.

Per the legislation approved by the faculty last spring, only one course in a student’s secondary field may count toward any other curricular or concentration requirement, and students may elect only one secondary field. Students must select their primary concentration before filing for a secondary field following the successful completion of all secondary field requirements.