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Distinguished Majors Program

Mohammed Sawaie
Mohammed Sawaie: Distinguished Major Program Coordinator
(434) 924-7917

The Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) offers students who major in either the Studies degree or the Language & Literature degree, the opportunity to graduate with distinction by pursuing in-depth research involving analysis of issues and topics related to their major and culminating in the writing of a thesis. To qualify, students must meet satisfy the following requirements (in addition to all the normal requirements of their major):

  • During their 4th year, students must enroll in MESA 4998 (in the Fall) and MESA 4999 (in the Spring), which together comprise a six-hour sequence of tutorial work meant to guide them through the research and writing of their thesis;
  • Students must complete at least 6 additional credits of concentration courses at the 4000-level or above, including the Majors Capstone Seminar (MEST or SAST 4991);
    • DMP students are encouraged to utilize the capstone seminar course, and its writing requirements, to further their work on their thesis; 
  • Students are responsible for obtaining the agreement of two faculty members to serve as their thesis advisors. At least one of these faculty members must be from MESALC;
    • With the permission of the DMP Coordinator, one of the readers may be a faculty member from another University;
  • Students are encouraged to use primary language sources in researching their theses. The standards for admission, program requirements, and evaluation procedures are outlined below.

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Admission into the DMP occurs in the Spring semester of the student's third year. Applicants must have declared either the Studies major or the Language & Literature major. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.4 or above in both their major GPA and general GPA. Applications should include the following:

  1. A statement of interest explaining the student's desire to enter the program and his or her general area of research interest, mentioning which faculty member(s) the student might approach as advisor(s);
  2. A writing sample (ex: a strong paper written for a course);
  3. One confidential letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the student's concentration either sent directly to the Distinguished Major Program Coordinator, listed above, or sealed and submitted by the student with the other application materials;
  4. A copy of the student's most recent transcript.

All materials must be submitted to the DMP Coordinator by April 15th. The DMP Committee will decide on admissions to the DMP shortly thereafter. Applicants will automatically be considered for the Mastercard Scholarship, as well (see below).

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GPA Requirements

Students in the DMP must have a grade point average of 3.4 or better, both cumulatively and in the major, at the time of graduation.

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DMP Requirements

DMP Students are required to complete the following:

  1. Satisfy all the distribution rules for their MESALC major (including the relevant majors capstone seminar), as well as take 6 credits at the 4000-level or above.
  2. Complete a Senior Thesis (MESA 4998 and MESA 4999).
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The DMP Thesis

Students in the Distinguished Majors Program are required to write a thesis of high quality (in addition to completing all the requirements of their major, such as the capstone seminar course for the Studies major).

  • DMP students must enroll in MESA 4998 and MESA 4999.
    • MESA 4998 (0 credits) is offered during the Fall semester and consists of gathering sources and research materials.
    • MESA 4999 (6 credits) is offered during the Spring semester and focuses on drafting, revising, and finalizing the thesis.
    • By the end of the Spring semester, students will receive a grade for both MESA 4998 and MESA 4999.
    • Note that these courses can count towards the distribution requirement of the student's degree, but they are not a substitute for the capstone seminar.
  • Students are responsible for obtaining the agreement of two faculty members to serve as their thesis advisors.
  • At least one of these advisors must be a MESALC faculty member.
    • With the permission of the DMP Coordinator, one of the thesis advisors may be a faculty member from another University.
  • Students are encouraged to use primary language sources in researching their thesis.
  • The minimum length of the thesis is 11,000-13,000 words (approximately 40-50 pages).

Senior Thesis Advisor Form

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Program Evaluation

Students who successfully complete the requirements of the DMP program with a minimum GPA of 3.4 will be evaluated for commencement honors of Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction. Honors are awarded by the Departmental Council on the basis of overall academic performance as well as the recommendation of the first and second readers of the thesis.

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Mastercard Asian Studies Scholarship

The Mastercard Asian Studies Scholarship was established by Ms. Rebecca George and H. Eugene Lockhart Jr. to encourage undergraduate students to engage in in-depth study of Asia. Each year the Scholarship is awarded to one student embarking on a Distinguished Majors thesis project on a topic relevant to East Asia, South Asia, or the Middle East, and provides the full in-state tuition and fees (or the equivalent amount toward out-of-state tuition) for that student for their 4th year.

The two departments, DEALLC and MESALC, award this scholarship in alternating years, with MESALC granting the scholarship for the 2023-24 academic year (and every other year after 2023-24). The competition is based on merit, with the successful candidate showing excellence in language study, as well as creative approaches to topics in East Asian, South Asian, or Middle Eastern studies or languages. All Middle Eastern or South Asian Studies or Language & Literature majors who apply for the MESALC Distinguished Majors Program will automatically be considered for the Mastercard Scholarship. No separate application is required.

“The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at”