Today’s spotlight is on an option meant for the most intrepid solo artists among us: the independent study. From the course bulletin:
Independent Study encourages the experienced student with high academic standing to design an individual project with a faculty mentor. Such projects typically may not duplicate existing courses in the curriculum. Independent Study projects range from independent reading, guided fieldwork, clinical practica, and creative endeavors.
As she approaches graduation (and excels in her duties as #humsoc’s own work study student), Madison W. embarks on an independent study with Prof. Hernandez. She shares about this week’s reading assignment:
For the past several weeks, I have been studying a doughnut. No, not the Homer Simpson pink-with-sprinkles kind of doughnut, but rather a circular diagram that lays out some of the most important economic, social, and ecological goals of our world. Some of the goals mentioned in the doughnut include climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, gender equality, and education. In chapter two of Doughnut Economics, author Kate Rowarth speaks about the doughnut saying that it provides us with a “twenty-first-century compass.” She emphasizes the need to make visual diagrams that lay out how certain goals and aspirations will be met. Visual tools reach a part of the human mind that words cannot stimulate. By laying out priorities in this way, we more easily make decisions about where funding and resource allocation should go. Rowarth’s doughnut diagram was used to make important decisions at the United Nations that are impacting millions worldwide.
Professor Hernandez is himself a fan of Independent Studies, commenting that “[they] are a great option for self-motivated students who want to take the time to dive deeply into area of interest – or even better, an area of passion. The time and space of this format allows students to investigate, and even savor, a realm of knowledge.” And he speaks from personal experience:
In my own undergraduate studies, a parting of waters occurred when I did an independent study on ecopsychology my junior year. Suddenly, I found myself in ecstasy in the University of Washington library. I had no idea so many interesting folks were out there thinking on these topics (this was pre-internet, lots of card catalogs)!
Madison herself is enjoying her project and excited about how it’s adding to her overall educational experience at MMC.
Taking an Independent Study was a great way to explore some of my favorite topics with more depth than I would in a traditional classroom. I have the ability to direct the course where my curiosity is sparked, revealing concepts and avenues of research that get me really excited. After all, education isn’t about filling buckets, it’s about lighting fires. …This course is fueling my passions and generating a new level of expertise in my field. I’m having a lot of fun and feel more prepared to speak in job interviews next year.
Prof Hernandez matches Madison’s enthusiasm:
Madison’s project is perfect for her. She is examining the economic dimensions of sustainability. Whereas she has developed extensive knowledge and practice in other areas of sustainability, she felt weaker here. She is spending the semester reading various takes on environment and economics from Marxist, Green and other perspectives. I am confident these will make her an even stronger and more creative social and environmental justice actor.
If you are interested in designing an independent study you must have a declared major, completed at least 30 credits, and have an overall 3.0 GPA or above. You must have a sponsoring faculty advisor, and complete a proposal. Check the bulletin for further details, and start thinking outside of the class offerings box! Be creative, be kind, and as always thanks for reading.