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Curricular Programs

Liberal Learning Courses

The Liberal Learning course list was created to assist students in undertaking a broad and coherent course of study consistent with the goals of a liberal education. Courses designated `Liberal Learning' (designated LILE) provide an introduction to the many ways of approaching knowledge that define a liberal education. Liberal Learning courses emphasize synthesis rather than survey and focus on the methods, concepts, and values employed in understanding a particular topic, theme, or issue. They may use either the modes of thought of a single discipline or an interdisciplinary approach, but they share the common goal of introducing students to distinctive ways of thinking and of constructing, communicating, and discovering knowledge. Building on Brown's conviction that liberal education requires that students be actively involved in their own educations, the pedagogical emphasis of Liberal Learning courses is on active student involvement; they therefore typically entail extensive student participation through such activities and exercises as papers, projects, reports, and class discussion.

Liberal Learning courses may be viewed in the Banner Class Schedule Search function by choosing that category in the “Attribute Types” selection menu.

The list of Liberal Learning courses is extensive and broadly representative of Brown's many such offerings, but it is not necessarily exhaustive. As you plan your program of study with your academic advisor, you may want to consult the Guide to Liberal Learning, published by the Office of the Dean of the College . Included in the Guide is a listing of the Liberal Learning courses organized according to a series of categories, goals, and principles that students should strive to meet when pursuing their undergraduate educations. These categories are meant to be used as advising tools and are designed to supply a suggestive framework for planning a program of study.

Diversity Perspectives

Courses designated DVPS, for Diversity Perspectives, represent the dedication of the Brown faculty to examine knowledge from perspectives of groups often not represented in traditional disciplines. Two kinds of courses have the DVPS designation:

Courses that treat, primarily or at least substantially, the knowledge and experience of previously underrepresented groups; or

Courses that examine the ways in which disciplines, histories, and paradigms of knowledge are reconfigured by the study of diversity-related intellectual questions.

Diversity Perspective courses may be viewed in the Banner Class Schedule Search function by choosing that category in the “Attribute Types” selection menu.

First Year Seminars

First Year Seminars (designated FYS) represent an ideal way to begin your education at Brown. They have few if any prerequisites; feature close relationships between students and members of the faculty; introduce you to challenging ways of thinking and sophisticated methods of research and problem solving; offer the opportunity to receive frequent feedback on your written and oral performance in the classroom and generally facilitate the kind of active learning and open intellectual inquiry characteristic of Brown.

Registration for First Year Seminars in the Fall of 2007 takes place exclusively through a joint summer mailing from the Office of the Dean of the College and the Registrar. For the Spring of 2008, registration will take place during the regular pre-registration procedure in November, 2007. Space is limited to a maximum of 20 students and enrollment should under no circumstances be considered obligatory.

Independent Study Options

The open curriculum at Brown places a high value on independent learning experiences for undergraduates. Chief among these are individual and group independent study courses. Brown supports three different kinds of independent study options. Students can design a new, independent course by proposing an Independent Study Project (ISP) or Group Independent Study Project (GISP) through the office of the Dean of the College. The process involves preparing a course rationale, a syllabus, and a reading list with a faculty sponsor, and gaining approval from the College Curriculum Council. ISPs and GISPs are approved during the previous semester and appear on the student’s Brown transcript with a unique course number and title. A departmental independent study offers another, more flexible variation. Each option is described below.

Independent Study Projects

Students may register for a non-departmental independent study course or courses in any semester. Proposal forms for non-departmental independent study projects are available in J. Walter Wilson Hall. The completed form describing the project must be filed with the Office of the Dean of the College on the second floor of University Hall by April 1 for Semester I or November 8 for Semester II. This proposal must state the following: (a) the nature and extent of the work to be pursued, (b) the manner of procedure, (c) a schedule for the completion of reports, papers, projects, and so on. This proposal is subject to review by the College Curriculum Council. Each program must have the approval of a faculty sponsor who shall be responsible for the scrutiny of the proposal, the evaluation of the work done, and the assignment of a grade.

Some typical proposals from recent years have been: The Philosophy of Mathematics: An Intensive Introduction; Video Technology and Education: The Politics of Post-Colonial African Literature; and Medical Malpractice and the Civil Justice System. Sample copies of these and many other independent study proposals are available for inspection at the Resource Center on the third floor of J. Walter Wilson Hall. If you need further information or advice, consult either the Resource Center staff or Dean James Valles.

Group Study Projects

Group Independent Studies are cooperative inquiries in which participating students bear major responsibility for both the planning and conduct of the work. They carry regular course credit and provide an opportunity for academic pursuits which might not be available in regular courses.

Each group should be sponsored by an instructor holding a teaching appointment at Brown University who is prepared to assess the proposed study, to provide advice during the project, and to be responsible for the evaluation of each student's work. Normally this person will be a faculty member. Under exceptional circumstances a graduate student with appropriate expertise and teaching experience would be eligible to be a sponsor. In this case, the proposal must be accompanied by a curriculum vitae for the graduate student and a statement of qualification and recommendation from the chair of the graduate student's department. The chair will assume ultimate responsibility for the academic quality of the GISP. The College will not offer remuneration for sponsors of GISPs.

Proposals for Group Studies should be made on forms available in the Resource Center (J. Walter Wilson Hall). They will be reviewed by the College Curriculum Council (CCC) to assure the academic quality of the proposed study and to avoid undue duplication.

Proposals for the fall semester are to be submitted by April 1 of the preceding spring semester; proposals for the spring semester are due by November 8.

At the end of each Group Study, a joint student-faculty evaluation report of the accomplishments of the project must be submitted by the faculty sponsor to the CCC.

Samples of past proposals can be reviewed at the Resource Center on the third floor of J. Walter Wilson Hall. Some typical group study proposals from recent years have been: The Chemistry of Photography; Russia Watching: Understanding Contemporary Russian Politics and Media; Native American Sacred Places; Comparative Study of Korean and Korean-American Literature; The Art of Argumentation; US/Canadian Literature since 1965; Critical Pedagogy: Theory and Praxis; Appalachia: Economic and Social Change Since 1930; and Tagore-Ray and Bengal.

Students and instructors interested in setting up a group study should consult the "GISP Handbook," which is available in the Resource Center. Students planning a group study should consult with Dean Krahulik or the Resource Center staff at the earliest stages of the planning process.

Departmental Independent Study

A departmental independent study offers another, more flexible variation in which students can pursue a reading, research, or thesis project with a faculty member of their choosing. These classes do not require prior approval from the CCC. Some departments have a detailed plan for students to follow in developing such courses (see, for example, the Department of Geological Sciences The CCC encourages all departments to adopt a few simple guidelines to ensure that students and faculty make the most of this open learning option:

Statement of project: We recommend that students submit a short written statement to the sponsoring faculty member, describing the project they wish to pursue during the semester. The statement will include the central idea, the goals of the project, and a brief description of the work to be completed. It will also discuss the nature of the work that will be graded, along with a plan for a regular number of meetings across the semester. To allow students and faculty enough time to discuss and refine the plan, we recommend that conversations begin during the pre-registration period. The statement be completed by the end of the shopping period. A sample form is included below.

Signatures: We recommend that both student and faculty member sign the project statement, indicating their mutual commitment to the semester’s work. Students will receive registration access from the faculty sponsor after the form is signed. Since this independent study is actually a departmental course offering, we also recommend that faculty submit the signed form to the department chair. This will allow chairs to learn about the level of independent work occurring in their department as the semester begins.

Deadline: Please note that the last day to register for a departmental independent study course will be the same as the last day to add any course, i.e., the end of the fourth week of classes.

The CCC hopes these guidelines will lead to better planning, and to more fruitful independent learning experiences for undergraduates.

Academic Internships

The purpose of an internship project is to provide the student with a work experience that provides a case study component to an academic study. Students may submit a course proposal and receive academic credit for an outside work opportunity that compliments formal course of study. The completed form describing the project must be filed with the Office of the Dean of the College on the second floor of University Hall by April 1 for Semester I or November 8 for Semester II. Each internship proposal must be accompanied by written approval of a faculty sponsor and an agency statement filed by the agency supervisor. Students may not receive academic credit if they are being paid.

Pathways to Paid and Credit Opportunities in Internships, Volunteer Work, and Work-Study

The Context in University Policy

University policy mandates that students may not receive academic credit for paid work, but often the experience with one type of work, for credit or for pay, leads to the other.

First Steps

Volunteer work and introductory paid opportunities (including federal work-study) lay the groundwork for subsequent paid or credit-bearing projects. Students interested in academic internships are encouraged to volunteer in an off-campus organization or agency as a way of exploring its structure, goals, and personnel before planning an academic internship there or taking an external internship in a related organization. Volunteer work, federal work-study, and other paid opportunities are also excellent preparation for taking a course that includes site-based learning or for developing familiarity with the work and people in a laboratory. Such work may lead to opportunities for Royce Fellowships, Mellon Fellowships, Karen T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Assistantships (UTRAs), or credit-bearing independent study.

The Academic Year

--Academic Internships. An academic internship is a course bearing one course credit. It requires an application approved by the College Curriculum Council subcommitee on independent studies. The application must have sponsorship from both a staff member in the agency or organization and a Brown faculty member.

--Site-based learning. Some courses provide, as an integral part of their content, the opportunity to work in the community. Students register for such courses and receive regular academic credit for them. The Swearer Center for Public Service maintains on its web site information about courses featuring site-based learning (

--Independent Study. Departmental independent study courses, frequently numbered 1910 to 1960, provide the typical means for receiving academic credit for one or two semesters of independent study, an honors thesis, or a capstone credit-bearing project in a concentration.


--Summer Independent Study. Students interested in registering for a summer independent study, the equivalent of an independent study plan undertaken during the academic year, may do so by special petition. For proposal requirements, see See Independent Study Plans above. The proposal is also submitted to the Committee on Academic Standing, normally at the April or May meeting. Each petition must be accompanied by a completed independent study proposal form endorsed by a faculty sponsor. The option for summer independent study is completely independent of the Brown Summer School. The tuition charged is the same as the tuition for a course during the subsequent academic year and the course is counted toward graduation requirements. The study is expected to last ten weeks.

--Karen T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Assistantships (UTRA): A summer UTRA is a paid, full-time, ten-week opportunity to work in collaboration with a faculty member on research. Selection is made by a faculty committee. The application includes a project description, nomination by the faculty sponsor, and a statement from the student describing his or her interest in and background for the project, as well as how the idea and connection with the faculty member came about. The work is intended to be collaborative, with contributions from both the faculty member and the student. Team UTRAs may also be proposed. The application should make clear the particular contributions of each group member to the proposed project. International UTRA's will be awarded if the faculty member can be on site. Students awarded UTRAs are expected to be available to work full-time in the summer. There are some aided UTRA's available for students on financial aid. If they wish to enroll in a summer school course in addition to taking an UTRA, they must discuss their plans with the chair of the UTRA committee. If the plans are sound, the full-time award will be modified appropriately.