Spotlight: Independent Major

A photo of Cornell Engineering student ShaneeShanee is completing the Independent Major with a primary concentration in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a secondary concentration in Applied Economics and Management. She is involved in the entrepreneurship community on campus and is part of the current cohort in eLab. She is Senior Corporate Relations Director for the Society of Women Engineers and is Electrical Team Lead for Cornell Cup Robotics. She is from Frisco, TX and her favorite Cornell Dairy ice cream is Triple Caramel Bliss.


I switched to the Independent Major in the first semester of my junior year. Electrical and Computer Engineering was a subject that would continue to excite me, but I felt a lack of knowledge in the business applications of it. I switched to the Independent Major to focus on Applied Economics and Management and build a stronger foundation in a business context. The Independent Major allows students to select two areas of concentration and provides an opportunity to dive deep into a non-engineering field. Think of it as a 2:1 split- 2/3s of the major (32 credits) is a subject in the Engineering school, and 1/3 (16 credits) is a subject of the student’s choice. The student selects the classes that make up the curriculum for each subject and the department approves and checks the list. The core engineering requirements such as chemistry and physics are still required, but everything else is the student’s decision. The curriculum isn’t set in stone and updates are allowed throughout the year.

This major has allowed me to apply my engineering background in a business context because of the availability in my schedule to take AEM-related courses. Many of the classes and the people in them have changed my perspective of non-technical majors, helping me realize the importance they contribute to a company and the difference they can make between success and failure in a team. Finding a bridge between two different fields is a challenge that we see increasingly in a tech-driven world, so I highly recommend pursuing this major if anyone has an interest in a non-engineering subject. The Independent Major gives students the freedom to explore two interests while maintaining a focus on engineering.

For many underclassmen, it can be difficult to know which two subjects to pursue when you haven’t even decided on one. As you navigate where your interests lie, if you find yourself pulled by more than one subject, the Independent Major is a great option.

~Shanee, independent major