New group ISP demonstrate breadth of curriculum
Students participating in the January 2020 Coral Reef Ecology ISP disembarking off a boat in Panama. Photo courtesy of Dan Duprez.

New group ISP demonstrate breadth of curriculum

Photo courtesy of Dan Duprez
Students participating in the Coral Reef Ecology ISP disembarking off a boat in Panama.
Photo courtesy of Dan Duprez
Students participating in the Coral Reef Ecology ISP were given the opportunity to try their hand at tree climbing.

As we quickly approach the end of the semester, students must begin thinking about topics for their month-long Independent Study Projects (ISPs). The provost’s office held an ISP workshop geared towards first years to introduce them to the concept of an ISP. ISPs can be completed with a group, as an individual, off-campus or as an internship. First years are required to do on-campus ISPs but can file a petition to the provost’s office to go off-campus.

Group ISPs can be great opportunities for students who are not sure where to start. Pre-filled ISP description forms for approved group ISPs have been sent via email to all students. Each pre-filled form includes the interterm year, the title and course registration number (CRN). Although they all work differently, most sponsors ask that students who are interested in participating contact them by email.

 Below are some of the ISPs students were introduced to at the workshop. More information on other group ISPs is available in the ISP Handbook for Jan. 2020, found under “Quick Links” on the “Navigating New College” tab of

Running and Philosophy

Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies Nicolas Delon is sponsoring the Running and Philosophy ISP. Delon is planning to meet twice a week on campus for a group run of about three to four miles. Shorter and longer course options are also available. During every meeting, the group will discuss a piece of philosophical readings or readings that raise philosophical questions about running. 

“I want it to be as accessible as possible,” Delon said. “So based on who wants to participate, we can make runs as long or as short as you want them to be.”  

Day Trading ISP

         Another group ISP is about Day Trading, instructed by Professor of Economics Sherry Yu and second-year Teaching Assistant (TA) Joshua Ingram. Each participating student will be given a mock $100,000 to invest, either in stocks or futures, and is required to track the investment. Students also will have the option to work in pairs. The time put into this ISP is managed weekly, requiring that students turn in reports throughout the project.

         Yu hopes that students will learn financial literacy and be introduced to the way the stock market really works through this experience. 

“It’s the volatility that they’re going to get exposed to, and hopefully they can find creative ways to make their money work,” Yu said.

Cinema and Social Justice

         This group ISP plans to watch three films to explore cinematography as artistic expression and entertainment, while also considering its power in social expression and as a tool for social justice advocacy and reform. Through discussions and writing assignments, students will make connections between film design and social impact. The films that this group will be watching and discussing include “Surviving Lunch,” “Into the Storm” and “Sincerely, The Black Kids,” which was directed by Miles Iton (‘14). This ISP will continue the tradition of New College connecting with Booker High School by inviting its students to be co-participants in the discussion sessions. This group ISP will be led by Professor of Sociology Mecca Zabriskie, Professor of Music Mark Dancigers and Dean of Outreach and Chief Diversity Officer William “Bill” Woodson. 

Coral Reef Ecology Field Internship in Panama

         Designed to provide students with basic knowledge in ecological concepts, techniques and experimental design in field research, this ISP explores coral reef ecosystems in Panama. Sponsored by Professor of Biology Alfred Beulig, this group ISP goes from Jan. 4 to Jan. 24. 

In their first week abroad, students will scout the area and begin to formulate hypotheses based on their observations to test in individual projects. Students are then organized into dive teams and collect data together.

The hope for this ISP is that these experiences will prepare students to carry out individual research projects. Students will participate in “debriefing sessions” during which they will try to identify the reef organisms they saw during the dives of the day and record the common and scientific names of the species in a debriefing log. This ISP requires a tuition and lab fee, however financial aid from the New College Foundation Coral Reef Ecology-Panama Fund is available, as well as New College Travel and Scholarship fund.

Patà: An experiential ISP on Afro Caribbean Drumming

         Participants of this ISP, sponsored by Professor of Caribbean & Latin American Studies and Music Hugo Viera-Vargas, will meet three days a week to practice hand-striking techniques and apply these drumming principles in rhythmic patterns common to various musical genres in Afro Caribbean culture. The ISP will combine these exercises and rhythms with readings and audiovisual materials to study the meaning of drums in ritual, folkloric and popular music traditions of the Hispanic Caribbean. Students will be required to keep a daily journal of the learning experience. At the end of the ISP there will be a presentation of a collaborative-crafted percussion composition that will show the level of improvement in the skills of the students.

Information for this article was gathered from 

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