Independent Study Projects (ISP) allow undergraduate students to complete a supervised project for credit in a specific area of interest to supplement the established curriculum. The project requires independent study but also includes faculty supervision from an SAIC faculty member who has expertise in the field and availability in their teaching schedule; its purpose is to meet individual student needs by providing an opportunity to study subject matter that is not covered in any regularly offered courses.

Please Note:

Guidelines for all ISPs

The total amount of work involved (including meeting times, research, and writing) must be roughly equivalent to the amount of work the student would do in a typical course for the same number of credits. Each individual credit hour is equivalent to 3 hours of work per week for the student, or 45 hours of work per credit in any given term. For comparison, if a 3-credit studio course meets for 6 hours per week, with an expectation of at least 3 additional hours of out of-class work, students will typically be doing a total 9 hours of work per week over the course of a 15-week semester, or 135 hours total. The equivalent amount of time and effort must take place for shorter semesters, such as winter or summer. A 3-credit independent study, therefore, would expect 9 hours of independent work (excepting meetings with supervisor) per week.

The student and ISP faculty supervisor must meet a minimum of four times per term, regardless of the number of credits that the ISP fulfills. The ISP meetings should occur on campus. E-mail as the sole form of communication with the instructor is not acceptable, although videoconference or similar technology could be. The description and rationale of the ISP, the schedule and manner of work to be produced, the meeting schedule, and the method of evaluation and what constitutes successful completion of the ISP should be articulated very clearly and thoroughly on the Independent Study Application form.

Role and Responsibilities of ISP Faculty Supervisors

Undergraduate Student ISP Eligibility and Application Procedure

Undergraduate students in any degree program may take up to three credits of Independent Study. The ISP credits may be used in place of a traditional 3-credit course in a single semester, or may be taken in smaller increments (1, 1.5, etc.), or as an ‘add-on’ to an existing course in which the student is currently enrolled where the student wishes to complete extra, independent work that goes beyond the regular course requirements.

To be eligible to apply for an ISP, undergraduate students must meet the following criteria:

Eligible undergraduate students may apply for an ISP by requesting the supervision of a faculty member with appropriate interests and competencies. With the consent of the faculty member, a student should prepare a proposal and an application for the work to be accomplished (see the Independent Study Application form). 

The Independent Study Application must be reviewed and approved by the appropriate Faculty Department Chair and forwarded to the Registrar to be reviewed by the New Course Proposal Committee. The committee reviews all applications and, if approved, a notification will be sent from the Registrar letting the student know that they have been registered for the ISP. 

Applications are reviewed once a month during the fall and spring semesters, and once in both summer and winter terms. All reviews must be conducted prior to the end of Add/Drop for the relevant term, so students should keep this in mind when planning to submit an application. It is best to submit applications in the semester prior to the one in which the ISP is proposed. Refer to the Registrar’s Office/Academic Calendar for Independent Study Application submission deadlines, effective Fall 2016.

Steps to Completing the ISP Application Form

Recommended Alternative to Pursuing Independent Study Projects

Undergraduate students can register for an advanced-level Academic Spine course (4900 CAPSTONE or similar class) where developing independent work is central to the course, and there are regular meetings, critiques, dedicated work spaces, and a cohort of other students working on self-initiated work.

Graduate Student ISP Eligibility and Application Procedure

Students pursuing graduate degrees or certificates at SAIC are not eligible to submit an Independent Study Project proposal as described above except in extraordinary circumstances that must be pre-approved by the appropriate Graduate Program Department Chair in consultation with the Dean of Graduate Studies. 

Graduate students in good academic standing who are interested in pursuing an ISP must first contact their Department Chair or Program Director prior to initiating an application or approaching faculty to serve as supervisors. Should the case appear to be exceptional, the Department Chair or Program Director will then consult with the Dean of Graduate Studies to determine approval for ISP credits. Only after consent has been given by both the Graduate Dean and the student’s home department may the graduate student approach a faculty member in application for supervision. The procedure then follows the steps outlined in the undergraduate ISP application process. Please remember that, as with undergraduate ISPs, the faculty member’s Department Chair must approve and make the final submission of the proposal to the Registrar and the New Course Proposal Committee.

For all students pursuing graduate degrees or post-baccalaureate certificates, ISP credits may only be used as Elective credits (not Studio, not Art History, etc.). The number of ISP Elective credits approved for graduate students will be determined by the Dean of Graduate Studies and will not exceed three credits total for any graduate degree or certificate.