One thing that makes New College special is the approach to January terms. During this month, students complete Independent Study Projects (ISPs), where rather than meeting in a classroom two or three times a week, they pursue a project that follows their own interests. The Nov. 2 ISP workshop showcased the group ISPs available this coming January.
Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Biology Emily Heffernan opened the meeting by summarizing the ISP Handbook. She strongly encouraged first years, who made up a majority of the audience, to participate in one of the group ISP offerings. While ISPs can be proposed, designed and pursued individually under the guidance of a faculty sponsor, Heffernan reminded students that the first ISP must be carried out on campus. The workshop gave each professor who will be leading a group five minutes to pitch their ISP to the students.
Birding New College
Led by Visiting Assistant Professor English Melanie Hubbard, this birding project is open to anyone with an interest in birds or willing to get out in nature to learn more about them. Field trips and online modules are standard for this ISP. The final project can be anything from painting a picture to creating a video.
Content Creation and Virtual Exhibitions
No, this isn’t an ISP on how to become an influencer. Instead, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Frederick Pirone will lead a group of five to 10 students in learning to take physical objects and digitize them through 3D scanning. As technology advances, projects like these are becoming more common within the fields of archaeology, anthropology and museum studies, Pirone said.
Crossword Puzzles: How to do them and what we can learn from them
Professor of Sociology Barbara Feldman will lead this project directed towards first-year students. She gave reasons why crossword puzzles are beneficial, such as improving memory and reducing anxiety. She pointed out that this ISP exercises one’s brain to think in a different way, and it can also help with trivia night skills.
Learn R, Teach R
In the first of several data science ISP options available, Instructor of Statistics Melissa Crow will guide students on how to work with data sets well enough that one is able to teach it. No prior coding experience is needed, as the first week will be a coding boot camp meant to train students in understanding the language used.
Fundamentals of 2D Game Development
For those whose favorite class was programming, this project will serve as an opportunity to delve into GameMaker and GameMaker Language softwares. Weekly meetings with Visiting Associate Professor of Computer Science Daniel Page will supplement five to six hours a day of individual work. The end goal? To develop a unique computer game.
Assessing Syngnathidae-Seagrass Decline
Visiting Assistant Professor Samantha Levell will explore the decline of seagrass. Partnered with Florida Fish and Wildlife, this group will study real preserve samples in a laboratory. This group is great for budding scientists wanting field experience and not afraid to get their hands wet!
Sports Analytics: Importance of Probability-based Thinking in Sports
The split second decision athletes make before shooting for three points instead of two comes down to probability. Explore statistics and return of value in the sports realm with Assistant Professor of Applied Statistics Andrey Skripnikov. Though the first week will be conducted remotely, the rest of this ISP will be in person.
Socio-Ecological Exploration of the Sarasota Bay Watershed via Adventure Sports
Director of Waterfront and Campus Recreation Tyler Fortune and Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology and Ecology Jose Soto are both leading this hands-on project, where students will learn the skills needed to sail and kayak for long distances. Most of the time will be spent at the waterfront practicing these skills. There is an ecology component, which comes in by learning about the different ecosystems in Florida, such as pine flatwoods and mangroves.
Advanced Advocacy in Action
Former Mayor of Sarasota and Pre-Law Advisor/Adjunct Instructor Shelli Freeland Eddie will lead a project geared toward pre-law students. Two teams of six will prepare to compete in a mock trial competition, which will be held in February. Students will work on persuasive reading and writing skills. Eddie is also in the process of finalizing a similar summer internship.
Performance Practicum: Almost, Maine
Every year, a performance practicum is offered and this year the show is John Cariani’s Almost, Maine. Three student directors along with Production Manager and Technical Director Tim O’Donnell will lead a group of up to 19 students to produce the show with nine different storylines about love. Auditions will be held Wednesday Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. Those interested in working on the technical side are also welcome.
Modular Production Studio Design
An additional ISP not listed in the handbook has been put together by Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Digital Media Ashkan Fakhrtabatabaie. Third year Galen Rydzik spoke about this project, saying that “students will get to provide input into designing a recording space at Caples. This ISP is great for students that have an interest in music!”
ISPs as Internships
The requirements for ISPs as internships are thatstudents must acquire the internships on their own, 120 hours in all must be worked and there must be a site supervisor who is not the faculty sponsor. Smaller internships can be supplemented with micro internships found on the Center for Career and Engagement Opportunity (CEO) website. Contact the CEO for more information.
Data Science in a Nutshell (and why it could be a game-changer for you)
Anyone who has ever used ChatGPT, searched for viewing recommendations on Netflix or seen self-driving cars has interacted with data science. Assistant Professor of Data Science Tiago Perez is offering this more broad data science project that all students can participate in without any Python experience, with the opportunity to explore careers in the field.
For someone who is looking to travel, this two-week expedition to Ecuador is the perfect fit. Students will interact with biologists, share communal meals and visit a remote eastern forest. Phones won’t work, but students will be part of a transformative experience with peers. An information session will be held on Nov. 7 to answer questions regarding passports, vaccines and other requirements. Students of any year can participate.
A full description of each group ISP, including prerequisites and the sponsor’s contact information, can be found in the ISP Handbook. There is also a list of professors willing to sponsor individual projects.
After the group ISPs were presented, Heffernan took the stage again to answer general questions from the audience. When asked if students should sign up for a group if they are still waiting for approval of an individual project, she answered yes. Though the filing deadline is not until Dec. 1, some groups have caps. So if a project falls through, backup plans provide another option. Of course, it’s important to let the sponsor know if one decides not to do their group. That way, the spot will be open for another student.
Heffernan reiterated the importance of filing through the Student Evaluation System (SES) on the NCF Portal. This will include the project’s name, CRN number and a description. According to the ISP Handbook, it will also need to be “signed by the project advisor and the fall contract sponsor.” Students will receive an email confirmation after filing successfully. After Dec. 1, there will be a late fee.
A change form can be completed if a student has to shift plans and choose another ISP. Heffernan stressed the importance of completing this form instead of dropping, again not incur the late fee. Heffernan ended the workshop by saying, “ISPs should be exciting and engaging, not overwhelming and stressful.” She praised the college for having a multitude of resources and faculty ready to support students through this term.
At the end of the workshop students had a chance to approach ISP sponsors directly with specific questions. Though some of the crowd had fizzled throughout the duration of the meeting, there was still a handful of excited students who opted to speak with professors about their concerns or excitement regarding particular group ISPs.