Independent Concentrations

What is an IC?

An Independent Concentration (IC) is a concentration of a student's own design that covers an area of study not currently offered through a standard concentration at Brown but which can be supported by existing course offerings. An IC requires students to think carefully about the trajectory of their education, considering both how their courses will build on each other over time and the scholarly methods they will use to approach their work. 

Check out a recording of an IC information session, watch our IC panel during Spring 2020 Virtual ADOCH, and come visit a coordinator during Open Hours at the CRC!


Why do an IC? 

ICs are a wonderful way to take full advantage of the open curriculum, think deeply about your learning goals, and explore classes that interest you within a field you are passionate about. Developing an idea, writing and revising the proposal, and actively crafting your education all translate into skills that are applicable to life after Brown. 

Good reasons to pursue an IC:

  • Your idea is interdisciplinary, rather than just a subset of an existing field.
  • Brown doesn’t currently offer what you want to do, but it has the capacity to fill the scope and depth of your interests through existing courses and faculty.
  • You want to spark a conversation between fields rather than just study the fields as they are (for example, majoring in philosophy and biology won’t give you the same experience as a bioethics concentration). Instead of doing two distinct fields you have interests in, the IC should combine both interests into one coherent field of study.

Rethink your IC idea if:

  • You are dodging concentration requirements or rigorous scholarly engagement. 
  • It is focused on pre-professional training. (For instance, a student cannot complete an IC in “pre-med.”)

What do ICs look like in practice?

ICs can be either A.B. or Sc.B. degrees. There are different course requirements between these two programs, with ~11-15 courses for A.B. and ~15-20 courses for Sc.B. (Please see this page for more info about the difference between A.B. and Sc.B. ICs.) You are allowed to use as many independent study courses (GISPs, ISPs, DISPs, AIs, research) for your IC as makes sense for concentration credit, pending approval from your advisor(s). You can also double-concentrate with an IC and a standard concentration, just as with two standard concentrations, including through the 5 year combined A.B./Sc.B. program if applicable.

Take a look at our IC Database of past proposals to see what has been done before. You can request to view past proposals by emailing [email protected] with the title of the IC, the name of the ICer, and the year.

What does an IC look like after Brown?

IC alumni have gone straight from Brown to win fellowships, join large companies, found start-ups, attend graduate/professional school, serve in government positions, and more! Both conventional and innovative career options are easily accessible to IC graduates because of how interdisciplinary the IC process is. In fact, a degree in an Independent Concentration makes you interesting as a job candidate. Employers come across candidates in standard concentrations all the time; chances are, degrees like yours are more unusual and demonstrate your creativity, ability to work independently, discipline, and entrepreneurial spirit. Further, after advocating for your own curriculum to Brown, it becomes quite easy to “sell” your concentration to employers post-grad. Many independent concentrators simply refer to their IC by its title rather than presenting it as an “independent concentration in [x field].”

Family members can sometimes be skeptical of a non-traditional degree. However, we encourage you to have a discussion with your family about the success of IC alumni in the working world, the many benefits of the personalized advising network and close relationship you will be with faculty, and the ownership of your time at Brown in having this discussion. We are also happy to help you plan out ways to talk to your family about the IC process.

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