Curricular Resource Center

Develop an Independent Concentration Proposal

Developing an Independent Concentration looks different for everyone. However, there are certain steps many people take to gather information and advice on how to explore their field, define their learning goals, and craft a compelling proposal.


The first proposal must be submitted by the last deadline of your 5th semester. For most students, this will be November 1st of junior year. Please note this is a strict deadline, and exceptions are only made for extenuating circumstances. All proposals must receive final approval by the end of the 6th semester.

Submission deadlines: October 1, November 1, February 1, March 1 and April 1

Steps to Consider

Independent Concentrations offer the opportunity to focus intentionally on how to study an interdisciplinary field. Also, ironically, IC-ers must establish a system of advising support and align their work with scholars and practitioners at Brown and beyond -- so hardly going at it alone!

IC Database

You can request to view full proposals by filling out the IC proposal request form with the title of the IC, the name of the ICer, and the year. When reading past proposals, take note of the faculty sponsor, the classes included, and how the proposal defines the IC’s field and learning goals. Keep in mind that even if you want to declare an IC that has already been approved, you must write your own original proposal. The IC application and approval process has also evolved; more recent proposals will give you a better sense of what the committee expects. Twenty years of paper copies of ICs are also available at the CRC.

The IC committee scoring rubric lays out what the committee is looking for and what makes a proposal successful.

Talk through IC ideas, preferably well in advance of the first submission to allow time for thoughtful revisions. You don’t need to have started the proposal or have fully formed thoughts yet—we’re here to chat, help you work through your interests, and clarify the process from beginning to end.

Email to set up a meeting, or drop by open hours.

After meeting with an IC Coordinator or the IC Dean, you can view this detailed slide deck about crafting your proposal.

You must find at least one faculty sponsor to support you and help you shape your IC. Your primary sponsor must be a full-time professor with a rank at or above senior lecturer (this includes Distinguished Senior Lecturers, Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors; research professors and emeriti professors are also eligible). Primary sponsors cannot be visiting or adjunct professors, lecturers, clinical professors, or professors of the practice; this is not because they aren't experts but rather because the regular faculty do not need to renew their teaching contracts annually. It can also be helpful to have multiple faculty sponsors if you are drawing heavily from two somewhat disparate fields and you find the sole expertise of one formal advisor doesn’t quite meet the needs of your IC.

To find a sponsor, we recommend checking out to see what professors are doing research in the field(s) you are interested in and going to their office hours. Professors are often excited to talk to potential ICers because their work is innovative and unique! The Faculty Sponsor Info Sheet provides more information about the faculty sponsor role.

IC Application 

Revise your application with the IC Coordinators. We recommend working in the fillable Word template and then saving the final product as a PDF for submission. You will need a letter of support from your faculty sponsor. (See the application, where the prompt for this is at the end--you can include the letter or have your sponsor send it separately.)

Please also proofread and edit your proposal and consider making an appointment at the Writing Center before submitting it.

Request a writing consultation

Most importantly, plan to meet regularly with the IC Coordinators as you prepare your proposal.

Submission Form

The application should be in PDF format. Make sure to submit by the deadline.

Please label your file "[first name] [last name]_[IC title]_[date of submission]" (ex. "Josiah Carberry_Innovative Critical Pedagogy IC_November 202x”).

Depending on the month and the volume of proposals we receive, you should expect to hear from us with a decision and feedback within a few weeks.

It is rare for a proposal to be approved on the first submission, so don’t be discouraged if your proposal needs work. Consider the feedback you receive from the IC Committee, and make sure to visit the IC Coordinators to talk through your revisions.

NOTE: Approved IC proposals must include a statement about how the student plans to fulfill the writing requirement during their 5th-7th (or penultimate semester) when they upload their approved proposal in ASK.

IC Honors | Special Considerations

Students who are interested in applying for honors in their concentration should read the IC Honors Thesis Guidelines.

An Honors Thesis is not required for an IC—all senior IC-ers must complete a capstone project. The capstone is either a one- or two-semester capstone research/creative project or a two-semester thesis for consideration for Honors designation in the IC.

Capstone projects are less structured than honors theses and can include creative elements such as documentaries or performances. All honors theses must be finished over the senior year in two independent study courses. Capstones for an A.B. can be finished in one independent study course senior year, and Sc.B. capstones may require two semesters of independent study. More information can be found in the Honors and Capstone Overview.

If you are an international student, we recommend that you talk to Dean Peggy Chang, Dean Chia-Ying Pan (dean for international student advising), and/or the Office of International Student Scholar Services about the relationship between concentration choice and how it is classified for practical training and work visa purposes. Many ICers have been international students, and we’ll do our best to ensure you can, too!

If you plan to go abroad, consider applying before you leave. While you can apply for an IC while abroad (the entire application process is online!), finding a sponsor and capstone or honors advisors is definitely easier when on Brown’s campus. A course or two from your study abroad program may be able to count as one of your IC course requirements.