Photo of the three thematic major students. In the photo from left to right: Annalyse Friday, McKenna Lewis, and Zivya Sutton.

Uncommon Majors Founded Here: W&J Students Use the Thematic Major to Forge Unique Paths

Created: November 23, 2021  |  Last Updated: August 10, 2022  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

WASHINGTON, PA (November 23, 2021) - At Washington & Jefferson College, highly customized, intellectually engaging educational experiences are Founded Here. Annalyse Friday ‘22, McKenna Lewis ‘22, and Zivya Sutton ‘23 all forged their unique paths with W&J’s thematic major.

Thematic majors provide a creative opportunity for students to build an individualized curriculum around a particular theme and explore relationships between academic disciplines. The thematic major embodies the true spirit of the liberal arts, combining multiple disciplines into a robust academic program.

Friday combined W&J’s Arabic, religious studies, and political science programs to create her unique major: Middle Eastern studies.

“W&J’s broad requirements not only gave me all of the tools and offerings that I needed to succeed, but it also encouraged me to take Arabic,” she said. “Our small classes and one-on-one relationships with professors allowed me to approach my professor about the thematic major.” Friday developed the major with help from Dr. Buba Misawa, professor of political science and Director of International Studies.

Lewis also created an interdisciplinary program, combining the psychology, sociology, and computing and information studies majors into a psychosocial data analysis program. This program allows her to examine research and data trends in psychology and sociology.

Lewis initially started on W&J’s pre-health track, but she realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do.

“We don’t have to declare a major until the end of our sophomore year, which gave me time to explore our programs in sociology, psychology, and computing,” she said. “W&J’s liberal arts approach gave me something broader than just a major or minor, helping me to achieve a well-rounded academic background.”

The liberal arts philosophy also introduced Sutton to a variety of new interests, inspiring her to combine W&J’s conflict and resolutions studies, public policy, economics, and political science courses into her thematic major: peace, justice, and development studies.

“Our breadth requirements forced me to take classes that I wouldn’t normally choose, and this exposed me to new topics, such as several social justice issues that we discussed throughout my gender and women’s studies class, along with other courses I have taken at W&J,” she said. “The thematic major provided me a unique opportunity to discover what I was passionate about through the process of creating my own major, which I think is truly reflective of the liberal arts process itself.”

When you apply to W&J, your own major can also be Founded Here.


About Washington & Jefferson College 
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.