I was an undergraduate at Brown University from 1989 to1993. One of my most memorable experiences as a Brown student was designing and conducting a Group Independent Study Project on classical Indian dance. I had studied dancing in the temples while growing up as a child in Guyana, but gave it up when I moved to the United States. Certainly, no one would care about classical Indian dance here in America, I thought. That is, until I found a caring professor who introduced me to other students who had studied dance and encouraged us to do a GISP.
Now that I work in the Resource Center, an office of the Dean of the College here at Brown, I talk to students about why GISPs are an important part of their education at Brown. A large part of the Center's work involves advising students on curricular options — such as GISPs and Independent Study Projects — at Brown. These options give students the ultimate freedom to take charge of their education — to learn by actively doing. For many students, designing a GISP or an ISP gives them their first opportunity to work closely with a faculty member, a dean and their peers. As a result of these curricular options, our students learn to build networks, to collaborate and to take an active role in the creation, acquisition and transmission of knowledge. Our role in the Resource Center is to help them plot their own trajectories, learn how to learn, and undertake for themselves the process of learning and understanding.
I am a strong proponent of the Brown curriculum; GISPs embody the spirit of this curriculum. GISPs encourage students to take an active, interdisciplinary approach to their studies. During the years I've talked to a large number of current students and alums who feel that planning and implementing a group project is among their favorite experiences as a Brown student.