Curricular Resource Center

Independent Concentrations

An Independent Concentration (IC) is a concentration of a student's design that covers an interdisciplinary area of study not currently offered through a standard concentration at Brown but which can be supported by existing course offerings. See the bottom of this page for the Application form; the link to submit a completed application is below.

An Independent Concentration encourages students to think carefully about their education trajectory by considering how their courses will build on each other over time and the scholarly methods they will use to approach their work.

Independent Concentrations are an excellent way to take full advantage of the Open Curriculum, think deeply about your learning goals, and explore classes that interest you within a field you are passionate about. Developing an idea, writing and revising the proposal, and crafting your education translate into sophisticated critical thinking and problem-solving skills useful in career-oriented pathways and foundational ground-breaking ways of knowing.

  • Your idea is interdisciplinary and provides both foundations/breadth and depth of study. The idea is not topical or a subset of an existing field.
  • Brown doesn’t currently offer what you want to do, but it can fill the scope and depth of your interests through existing courses and faculty.
  • You want to spark a conversation between fields rather than study the fields as they are (for example, concentrating in philosophy and biology might not give you the same experience as a bioethics concentration). Instead of studying two fields you are interested in, an Independent Concentration combines various concepts and knowledge areas into one coherent field of study.
  • Your idea is a great thesis topic but not quite something requiring interdisciplinary study over several semesters.
  • You are dodging a few concentration requirements in a standard concentration. 
  • Your IC idea focuses on pre-professional skills training without a scholarly context and analysis. (For instance, a student cannot complete an Independent Concentration in “pre-med.”)

Independent Concentration Degree Types and Requirements

Independent Concentrations can be either A.B. or Sc.B. degrees. There are different course requirements between these two programs, with ~11-15 courses for A.B. and ~17-23 courses for Sc.B. You are allowed to use a few independent study courses (GISPs, ISPs, DISPs, AIs, research) for your Independent Concentration as makes sense for concentration credit, pending approval from your advisor(s). You can also double-concentrate with an Independent Concentration (IC) and a standard concentration, just as with two standard concentrations, including through the 5 year combined A.B./Sc.B. program if applicable.   Independent Concentrations can be either A.B. or Sc.B. degrees. There are different course requirements between these two programs, with ~11-15 courses for A.B. and ~12-17 courses for Sc.B

Look at our IC Database of past proposals to see what has been done before.

Request to view past proposals

Independent Concentrators After Brown

Independent Concentration alums have gone straight from Brown to win fellowships like the Fulbright and Truman, enter Ph.D. programs in their IC field, join large companies, found start-ups, serve in government positions, and more! Both conventional and innovative career options are easily accessible to Independent Concentration graduates because of how interdisciplinary the Independent Concentration process is. In fact, a degree in an Independent Concentration makes you attractive as a job candidate. Employers come across candidates in standard concentrations all the time; chances are, degrees like yours are more unusual and demonstrate your creativity, ability to work independently, discipline, and entrepreneurial spirit. Further, after advocating for your own curriculum to Brown, it becomes pretty easy to “sell” your concentration to employers post-grad. Many independent concentrators refer to their Independent Concentration by its title rather than presenting it as an “independent concentration in [x field].”

Family members can sometimes be skeptical of a non-traditional degree. However, we encourage you to discuss with your family the success of Independent Concentration alumni in the working world, the many benefits of the personalized advising network, the close relationship you will have with faculty, and the ownership of your time at Brown in having this discussion. We are also happy to help you plan out ways to talk to your family about the Independent Concentration process.

To find Brown IC alums, do a key work search on LinkedIn or request to join the LinkedIn Brown University IC Community group.

IC Advising and Community

Email student coordinators to schedule an advising meeting, or consult CRC open hours or appointment calendars.

Student Coordinators

DUG Leaders

IC Dean/Director of Undergraduate Studies

Helpful Resources / Links