Independent Study for Credit

Community Engagement & Independent Study

The founders of Brown's New Curriculum envisioned independent study as a cornerstone of the Brown academic experience. Through these structures, students have deepened their understanding of community issues, developed new components of their community programs, and connected their community work with their concentrations.  

Today, the Curricular Resource Center offers Independent Studies that include:

  • Group Independent Study Projects (GISPs) and Independent Study Projects (ISPs): collectively referred to as (G)ISPs
  • Academic Internships (AIs)

The CRC also hosts a Community Research Needs Database which helps connects students with Providence organizations around specific research projects.

Students may also participate in Departmental Independent Student Projects (DISPs) which are overseen by individual academic departments rather than the CRC and Dean of the College approval process. See the bottom of this page for more information.


Group Independent and Independent Study Projects

 In all forms of (G)ISPs, students and faculty work together to develop credit-bearing courses that are not a regular part of the Brown curriculum.  Participating students are responsible for researching the course topic, constructing a syllabus, and planning and conducting the academic coursework.  Each (G)ISP is sponsored by a faculty member who assesses the proposed study, provides advice during the semester, and evaluates the work of each student. GISPs are intended for multiple students while ISPs are for individual students.

Students may create (G)ISPs related to their community work, though these do not necessarily include a practical component and are based entirely on academic coursework.

Past community-related (G)ISPs include: 

For more information, visit:


Academic Internships

Academic Internships (AIs) are the most effective and direct way to receive credit connected to your work in the community. AIs allow students to combine an independent study with outside unpaid work experience to create a comprehensive semester-long experience.  In order to qualify for credit, the academic study and the internship must take place during the same fall or spring semester.  A strong, rigorous academic component must complement the work experience, and the work itself must be unpaid.  Participating students bear the major responsibility for both the planning and conduct of the academic internship.  A faculty member advises the project and evaluates the student's work. 

Past students have explored teaching, journalism, advertising, law, finance, elderly day care, computer programming, TV production, and many other fields.

Past community-related AIs include:

For more information, visit:

The Community Research Needs Database

A resource to help connect students with local organizations for independent study collaboration

The Community Research Needs Database connects Brown students to Providence based organizations to collaborate on semester, summer, or year-long research projects. Through the database, community organizations can take on student research partners to fulfill unmet research needs for specific projects or programs. Students may receive credit for their work through Departmental Independent Study Projects (DISPs), Academic Internships (AIs), Independent Study Projects (ISPs), final research papers, capstone projects, or theses.

Many Providence community organizations have great ideas and research needs but do not have the time, manpower, or resources to thoroughly pursue them. Many Brown students would like to make their work more meaningful and increase their engagement with the Providence community. The CRND provides a space for Providence organizations to list their research needs, to be searched by Brown students. Interested students are independently responsible for contacting and pursuing projects with community partners. Both parties are responsible for establishing direct communication and pursuing a meaningful collaborative relationship.

Contact information and brief descriptions of potential projects are available here. Individual research project expectations should be negotiated between the student research partner and the organization. It is integral that both parties are upfront and clear about the standards and ambitions for the work.


Departmental Independent Study Projects

For more information about other opportunities to do work in the community for academic credit, we encourage you to contact professors directly about standard courses within departments with a fieldwork component, or designing an IS through the department (“Departmental Independent Study”). Departments known to have information about fieldwork/research opportunities in the local community include (but are not limited to):

  • Biology Undergraduate Affairs Office (Dean Marjorie Thompson)
  • Science Center (Dean David Targan and Dean Oludurotimi Adetunji)
  • Environmental Studies (Professor Caroline Karp)
  • Education Studies (Carin Algava)
  • Public Policy (Jennifer Slattery)
  • CareerLAB Advisers (Jim Amspacher, Bev Erich, Ron Forman)
  • American Studies / Public Humanities - arts & culture (Professor Anne Valk)
  • Africana Studies (Professor Corey Walker)
  • Swearer Center of Public Service:  IMPACT Providence (Alan Flam), Social Innovation Initiative (Lizze Pollock & Alan Harlam), Engaged Scholars (Kerri Heffernan), Community Programs (Janet Isserlis, Dilania Inoa, Alan Flam)

For more information, visit: The CRC DISP Info Page