Independent Concentration

Students with academic interests that cannot be pursued adequately within an existing departmental concentration, certificate or interdisciplinary program may apply to the Independent Concentration Program. An applicant must have a strong overall academic record and is expected to develop a rigorous and coherent program of studies with the support of at least two faculty members.

If you are interested in pursuing an independent concentration, you should prepare a preliminary proposal (200 word limit) which explains your initial thoughts on your Independent Concentration and the names of the two faculty members you hope would serve as your advisors. Once the document is complete, you should schedule a preliminary consultation with Dean Clayton Marsh. Please contact the dean’s assistant to schedule this meeting. 

Finding supportive faculty members to help develop your ideas and your program will be an important step. Typically, independent concentrations are interdisciplinary in nature, and you might want to speak with faculty members in one or more departments to sound out your ideas. Eventually, you will ask two faculty members to serve as your advisers and to write in support of your application. The two faculty members who sponsor your application typically serve as the advisers for your two semesters of independent work in your junior year. They may or may not be your senior thesis advisers. You have the flexibility, in consultation with Dean Marsh, to identify other faculty mentors as your program evolves.

You must design a coherent program of studies, including at least eight upper-level courses and plans for junior and senior year independent work. In lieu of a departmental comprehensive examination, independent concentrators have an oral defense of their senior thesis — a discussion of the conclusions, methods and implications of the thesis research — with their two advisers. In addition, you must fulfill the University writing, foreign language and distribution requirements.

Some of the recently completed independent concentrations include: Quantitive Neuroscience; Epistemology, Cognition, and Intelligent Systems; Journalism and Media Studies; and Cognitive Science.

Dean Marsh acts as the departmental representative for independent concentrators. You will meet with him regularly to discuss your program. 

You are eligible to earn honors as an independent concentrator, based on your departmental courses, your junior independent work, your senior thesis and your oral defense. The dean will work with your senior thesis advisers and their departments to establish fair criteria for awarding honors.

Applications for the independent concentration program are due by April 2 of your sophomore year.