Independent Study Projects Limited Only By Imagination
In January, New College of Florida students tackle independent study projects, or ISPs. It’s a central feature of the New College education, both for its own intellectual merits and for its role in preparing the student for even more rigorous work.
“During ISP, students work alone or together in small groups to immerse themselves in a topic that interests them,” said Dean of Studies Robert Zamsky. “Along the way, they not only learn about these topics, they also acquire the skills of project design and management that will be so crucial to their senior thesis projects.”
Students can devise their own ISP, or choose from one of many group projects planned and offered by faculty members. First-year students commonly sign up for a group project, as they are getting to know the College and developing their own academic focus.
The group ISPs always include a range of narrowly focused topics specific to a field of study. This year, there also are several that fall under two themes, community service and personal skill development. And there are the usual host of simply fascinating academic topics.
Several ISPs will get students working on social issues, both in the community and on campus.
“Bystander Intervention” enlists students in researching ways to reduce sexual harassment and violence, and to develop strategies suited for the New college campus. InterACT, a student-led group organized in 2015, organized the ISP, which is led by professor Amy Reid.
The “Citizenship Project” ISP sequence gets students to challenge stereotypes about the area’s homeless population and the constraints service providers face through study, engagement and research. Students will participate in hands-on service experience with Turning Points and Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. Tara Centeno, director of campus activities and student engagement, leads the project.
Professor Sandra Gilchrist’s “Animal Betterment” ISP combines readings on a variety of organisms – such as goats, donkeys, rabbits and aquarium animals – with visits to several sites to do service learning.
The “Mapping Sarasota’s Meal Gap” ISP will have students research the issue of food insecurity and map out access points for food in the community to produce informational materials for both low-income families and volunteers. Professor Erin Dean is the faculty sponsor.
Other ISPs, generally for first-years, help students focus on improving their own skills. Two are led by staff of the College’s Center for Engagement and Opportunity.
“Competency and Confidence,” led by Courtney Hughes, associate director of the CEO, lets students explore individual strengths and preferred learning styles in order to better prepare for success in and out of the classroom. Topics covered include time management, note-taking skills, test-taking skills and stress management.
The “Designing Your Life” ISP guides students through a process of career exploration and career design, to help students assess themselves and potential careers, or to design unique career paths most appropriate for their interests. Michelle Flint, assistant director of the CEO, leads the ISP.
Two ISPs, led by Writing Resource Center staff, focus on different aspects of writing. “Analytical Writing” focuses on sustaining strong analytical theses that explore a topic unique to the students’ academic interests. By employing a variety of analytical heuristics and experimenting with multiple writing styles, students will develop a more advanced style of writing. Allie Maas, the center’s assistant director, leads the ISP.
Director of Writing Jennifer Wells leads “Healthy Writing Habits,” a group ISP designed for first-years who want to have a happier, healthier relationship with the processes of writing – while also challenging themselves to write 40,000 words in three-and-a-half weeks. Past participants have used the ISP as a means to write a first novel.
“Mindfulness Meditiation” brings in the Sarasota Mindfulness Institute to teach morning sessions of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques, followed by discussions. The ISP sponsor, professor Manuel Lopez, also will lead discussions of readings on how meditation can enhance your focus, and of writers, musicians and artists that have used meditation to develop their creativity.
And one ISP lets students develop a skill while also helping shape the future of New College. “Rhetoric of Inquiry: Evaluating Public Speaking“ has students attending and evaluating nine presentations by candidates for teaching positions at the College. The sponsor, professor Miriam Wallace, says students can become better speakers by listening carefully and thinking critically about others’ performance. Students also get to give useful feedback to the search committees.
Other ISPs take students into drama, museums, archaeology, robotics and even under the ocean.
The Asolo Repertory Theatre Dramaturgy Internship, sponsored by professor Nova Myhill, allows two New College students to work on a new play by Lisa Loomer, titled “ROE,” about the landmark Supreme Court case.
Professor Uzi Baram offers “Experimental Archaeology: Atlatal,” where students will study and write about the history of the atlatal, an early Native American technology that amplified the power of a spear. Students also will build an atlatl and learn to use it.
In “Exploring Robotics with Python,” led by professor John Doucette, students will assemble small, wheeled robots using the GoPiGo platform and write Python programs to allow them to work autonomously.
Professor Al Beulig’s “Coral Reef Ecology Field Internship” takes students to Panama for in-depth studies of the Caribbean, using the reef at Bocas del Toro. Students will collect data while scuba diving on the reef and prepare papers on individual research projects.
In “Become a Wikipedian,” sponsored by professor Maribeth Clark, students explore the world of Wikipedia. They critically analyze existing Wikipedia articles, conduct research in an area of their interest and contribute to a selected article using WikiCode.