Hey everyone,

We had a lovely night with all who came to Petteruti for the GISP Pitch Night. We had a huge turnout and a lot of cool new GISP ideas thrown at us and the attendees. We more-or-less-live tweeted the event @browncrc, under the hashtag #gisppitch, if you want to see the record of how it went down. You’ll also see the series of mistakes before I got live tweeting right. Ay, the difficulties of doing video and tweeting at the same time!

So you can check out the new GISPs here on our GISP Pitch 2011 page. You’ll notice some schnazzy videos from the pitch night. Count how many times Arthur says “awesome” or “cool” after each presentation. What a dude. In any case, below is the superhero himself explaining a few things about GISPs. Enjoy!



So you got an idea and you’re a giving kind of person so you want to share it with people, get some help concretizing the thing. You need people, minds, all that good stuff. Here’s what to do.

(1) Morning Mail

People do read it, we swear. Every info session turnout we’ve had in the past year has been the direct result of Morning Mail, almost entirely. This is the best way to reach the most people at once. Of course, you should have an info session of some sort that you’re inviting them to. We might suggest firstly advertising it as a general announcement that a GISP si happening with an email, then advertise it as an event later.

(2) The GISP Blog

In addition to Morning Mail, we do plenty of GISP promotion ourselves on our blog, Twitter, fan page, and even tip off to media publications when a cool GISP is in the works. We maintain the GISP pitch page which got over 300 views a day during peak GISP time last semester.

Also, we of course have the GISP pitch session. Help us help you by promoting it. Go the event here and click “Attend”. Now, in your facebook status type the “@” sign and start typing “GISP”. The Pitch Session will pop up. Select it and press Share!

(3) Your Own Social Media Outlets

Got a Facebook and/or Twitter? Do it.

(4) Tableslip/Poster/Traditional Advertising

This is kind of old school, but you reach a broader audience. Print out flyers and pass them out on the main green on a nice day when people are in a great mood. The Lucid Dreaming GISP did this and got over 75 people applying to their GISP.

(5) Email Department Heads/Student Groups

Few students actually do this, but it can result in a lot of return. Think of your relevant departments and email the department head, asking them to email concentrators about your GISP. Who knows, maybe you’ll find an adviser in the process!

(6) Friends

There’s a reason this is last. Friends are cool to hang with, but not always cool to have class with. If your friends are genuinely interested and good students, bring em on. It can also help to create a comfortable environment for you, and if you’re leading the GISP about the number one thing you could ask for is for the GISP leader to feel familiar, as it will translate to a more familiar, intimate, and consequently better course.

Got questions?

Like us, tweet at us, or comment below. Much love.

The GISP Guys


We’ve updated the GISP Pitch Fall 2011 page with the most recent pitches. If you’ve got your own idea, pre-register your GISP here, and come to our Pitch Session next Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 6pm in Petteruti Lounge to learn more and/or get more involved.

Also, we’ve added a Final Info Session on Tuesday, March 22 at 4pm in the Faunce Memorial Room with the idea that people at the pitch session might want to find out more after they become a part of a GISP.

Our second info session is in about an hour. Stoked! Taking pictures tonight.



The initial answer is, “You’re a GISP. You don’t get money.”

But that wouldn’t be the whole truth.

GISPs and Cash Money

It is true that GISPs will not be approved if they require funds from the University in order to operate. If you want to go to a conference, take a field trip, purchase software, buy a PS3 for academic purposes—it cannot be a crucial point in your syllabus. So to beat you over the head with it:

RULE: Your Independent Study Project Cannot Require Funds From The University To Operate.

How do you write it then? You want it in there to show you’re dedicated and serious. So here’s how: Don’t make one week, “go to a conference”—it won’t fly. Put that in addition to your normal courseload, you plan to attend a conference.

Some other possible, acceptable reasons you might be interested in funds:

  • film screening
  • display of student work
  • field trip
  • invited to a conference

Bad reasons:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Supplies

But Where Do I Get The Bills?

If your GISP has been passed and you’re currently involved in a GISP, there are some places on campus that might be receptive to your financial needs. Before you approach anyone, have a clear idea of how much you’ll need and have a suggested funding request.

1. Academic Departments

Almost always look to the department of your adviser first. Through your adviser’s department you can book rooms, request media services (though not necessarily paid for), and work your way through the campus resources effectively. Always aim to have your department’s support.

The next step is to look at other relevant departments that might have an interest in what you’re doing. If it’s a film screening, approach the MCM department, or Visual Arts. If it’s a poetry reading, approach English, Literary Arts, and the Theatre, Speech, and Dance department. If you’re considering bringing a professor, consult his/her parallel departments on campus.

Talk to department heads and try and set up a meeting to make your case.

2. Department Undergraduate Groups

Most departments on campus have Department Undergraduate Groups, which are essentially student-run, faculty-supported academic clubs that host programming for concentrators or anyone interested. I revived and was President of the Philosophy DUG in 2008-2009. Most DUGS are funded $1000 a year and most of that money is spent on snacks for meetings, so depending on how active/inactive the DUG is, they will probably have some funds to throw around. Find the one’s relevant to your project/study, particularly the DUG for your own department.

For more information on DUGs and how to contact them, visit the CRC website’s page on DUGs.

3. Student Groups

Depending on the event, you can consult student groups for funding.What you can’t do is break this rule—

RULE: You can’t ask the UFB for funds. You’re not a student group, you’re a class.Well, I mean, you could try. They just won’t give it to you. They don’t have the ability to.

If you have a film screening, ask BTV, ask Ivy Film Festival, ask IR if it’s a politically charged film. Think broadly. If you’re bringing a speaker, ask Lecture Board.

4. Dean of The College Discretionary Funds

This is straightforward. The Dean of the College has some money she can throw around at her discretion. Now, reasonably so, these funds aren’t easy to acquire, and should be the last place you go. But if you’re in need, the Dean of the College has an ear, and GISPs have gotten funding for some really cool, passionate projects in the past.

5. Get a Job. You heard me.


Any Questions? Come into the office anytime. We’re here Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons this semester. Or email us at independent_study@brown.edu. No matter what the problem is, we can help you out.

Get money get paid,


Not too long ago, NPR published an interview with Brown sophomore Terrence George on his group independent study project, Modern Conservatism in America. Listen here.

But it definitely doesn’t stop there. We’ve provided a slew of articles on the GISP. Congratulations to Terrence on the popularity of his GISP, and we’re sure the course will run excellently, serving as a quality model of the possibilities of independent study.

To find out more about the Brown Republicans, visit their website.

Articles Salon: Brown University to offer Conservatism course/Salon: letter to the Editor/The Boston Globe: Conservatism 101/WPRI.Com/Projo.Com: Ed Fitzpatrick: Conservatism 101 Comes to Brown/Washington Herald Net

Double Coverage Forbes.com

Forums, Blogs, etc. DemocraticUnderground.com forum. /TruLyfe.com/Colored Demos Blog Post/Accuracy in Academia Article

Around this stage in the process, you may be looking for an adviser to your GISP. This can one of the more challenging parts of the process, and I know as author of the GISP, “The Science, Pyschology, and Philosophy of How and Why We Fall In Love”, we had monumental problems in finding an adviser for such an interdisciplinary effort. So I’ll speak from this perspective, and hopefully you’ll find it helpful.


I. Where to Find an Adviser

In starting your search, you should consider relevant departments to your area of study. From there, here’s the order you should go in.

(1) Personal Relationships

Firstly consult a professor you know and have a good relationship with that has relevant academic background. The professor need not necessarily specialize in your area of study, but must be able to have a strong enough background to be able to competently guide you in your studies. You don’t need to be best buds, but if you took a class with him/her that’s helpful. If you don’t know any of those, go to (2).

(2) MOCHA Course Catalog

  • If your class looks something like “French Rennaisance Zebras and Hegemony”, you’ll want to search things like “18th century”, “zebra”, “animal”, “books”, “literature”, “hegemenony”, “gender studies”, critical theory. For the love GISP we searched “love”, “desire”, “romance”, “sex”, then for our sciences background searched “neuroscience”, “emotions”, “interpersonal psychology”, and others.
  • Make a list of all the professors who are teaching possibly related areas.
  • Later you can check their Brown website information and might find they have closer interests to you than you thought. See (3).

Email them, and try to visit during office hours if they permit.

(3) Department Websites

You have your list of relevant departments and your list of professors teaching courses that have possible relevance to your area of study.  So now, one by one (the Love GISP looked at over 15 departments), check out the department websites. Find the professors you were looking for and see their areas of interest. Send them an email.

Look through other professors in that department, even if it doesn’t seem like a relevant department. What’s their research in? You might be surprised what you find. Think broadly.

Email them, and try to visit during office hours if they permit.

What should be in your email?

(4) Last Ditch Options

(a) Faculty Morning Mail Announcement. It’s impersonal but maybe it’ll catch someone’s eye.

(b) Go department page by department page, every single department, looking for any faculty member with remotely relevant background in your field. It’s tough, but the Love GISP did it too.

II. Emailing Your Potential Adviser

Here’s what your draft could look like (and make sure you individualize each one—be personal about it):

Dear Professor,

My name is (name) and I’m trying to put together a group independent study project (GISP) by the name of (name of GISP).

Our GISP focuses on the questions of (list questions and concerns, your motivation for exploring the course). However, in order to make this course happen, we need an adviser who will guide us through the course and in forming the syllabus, evaluate our work, and meet 5 times a semester. We’re approaching you because of (their interest in your topic, a course they took, their research, you were referenced, etc.).

We have attached a rough draft of our syllabus for you to peruse. We’d love to set up a meeting to talk more about the course. Even if you cannot advise it, perhaps you could offer us some suggested texts or lead us to someone else who might be interested?

Thanks for your consideration. Best,


These are busy people, so you’ll want to keep it short. But you want to communicate that you’re doing a GISP, it’s about XYZ, why you’re approaching them, a brief summary of what would be required of them, ask for a meeting, and the opportunity to opt out politely in addition to referring you elsewhere.

You’ll also want to send them what you have so that they can see you’re serious and have a vision. Be prepared to alter your vision if it means getting a professor. But don’t compromise your core reason for studying your topic.

III. Meeting Your Adviser

I’ll trust in your abilities to hold an interview. Ask them questions, get your idea across, stress that their workload is more about guidance than instruction, though you encourage their full participation in the course. Courses with active advisers tend to operate with more success, but with driven enough students, the professor can play a minimal role with great success.

I don’t have time”.

There’s a time to concede (learn to read people), but make sure that you’ve gotten across the (to be honest) minimal requirements of an adviser. If he/she still says no, ask for recommended readings or other people you can talk to.

IV. Notes and Tips.

Interdisciplinary GISPs, or “I’m sorry, that’s not my area.”

The Love GISP covered a large array of disciplines. We had the advantage of having a larger pool of departments to query for advisership. We had the disadvantage of almost every single one saying “I’m sorry, that’s not my area. I know nothing about (Science/Psychology/Philosophy).”

Multiple Advisers

As a general guideline, if you have a broad scope GISP, try getting multiple advisers and stressing to each that they are representing different areas of knowledge. So the humanities professor will deal with humanities guidance, and the neuroscience professor with neuroscientific guidance.

Endorsements for Your GISP

Another useful tip is to get professors to endorse your GISP. This means that they have no official ties to the GISP, but have agreed to act as a general sort of resource, whether in the form of a guest lecture or just that you can drop in and ask them questions. Either way, the more people you have saying that they like your idea or will be willing to support it in a small way, the better. Note: this does not replace an adviser.

Language GISPs

What if there’s no one that teaches the language you want to learn? In some cases, you can get a graduate student to advise or bring in a qualified community member as long as you still have a faculty sponsor. Look to the Center for Language Studies to discuss this option.

Talk to the GISP Guys

Please come in and talk to us anytime. Check our contact page for updated office hours, send us an email at independent_study@brown.edu, write on our wall at facebook.com/ispatbrown, or tweet us @browncrc. We’re around to help.

Hey everybody,

Arthur and I are glad to be back for another semester, helping you fine folks out with writing your independent study proposals, both group and to your lonesome.

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to prep for this semester, so we’re getting ready for some big things. Firstly, if you’re interested, here is the list of GISPs. ISPs, and AIs that were approved for the Spring semester.

Nextly, we’ve had our GISP Pitch for Fall 2011 open for a while but haven’t received any responses! Get brainstorming. We’ve got 50 days and 21 hours until the GISPs are due. Here’s a quick check list–

  • Have an idea
  • Have a rough draft of your syllabus?
  • Have a GISP proposal form? (we’re currently trying to make an online application)
  • Have other people?

If you need help with any of these, we’ll be writing at least one blog post a week every Tuesday (except for this one) with some tips for forming and running a GISP. As always, if you’ve got any questions, comment on the blog, email us at independent_study@brown.edu, write on our wall on Facebook, tweet at us, and coming soon, Skype during our office hours. Check the contact page for more info.

The GISP Guys,

Roman and Arthur