Independent Study, or I.S., is the culmination of your four-year journey to intellectual independence: a yearlong project that allows you to throw yourself into a topic you care about.

What exactly is I.S.?

It’s like being in a class of one – literally; I.S. takes the place of one of your four classes each semester of senior year. With the one-on-one support and guidance of a faculty mentor, you will plan, develop, and complete a significant piece of original research, scholarship, or creative expression – culminating in a major research paper, an art exhibit or a performance – that pulls together what you’ve learned and demonstrates the analytical, creative, and communication skills you have honed at Wooster.

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How does it work?

In weekly, hour-long, one-on-one meetings, your faculty adviser will help you refine and focus your topic, suggest areas for exploration, ask questions that provoke your thought and creativity, and evaluate your progress toward the project’s completion.

You, in turn, will review and synthesize literature related to your subject, plan and conduct your research, or work to realize your creative vision in the studio, recital hall, or theatre. You will share drafts of your work with your adviser, who will offer thoughtful feedback as a close collaborator. Over the course of the year, you may make presentations on your work to other students in your major.

Through it all, you will be learning not just about a specific topic, but about how to break down any complex project into manageable pieces, develop a plan of action, and follow it through. You will learn how to analyze a problem, gather and evaluate information, propose a solution, test its validity, and communicate your results clearly and persuasively.

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J.C. Chandor ’94, writer and director of “Margin Call” and “All Is Lost,” wrote, shot, and edited a film for his I.S., which he now cheerfully admits was “a total overreach, too vast in scope and scale…but I got jobs right away after graduation based on it.”

A Celebration of Independent Study

Each year, Wooster cancels classes on a Friday in April to celebrate the accomplishments of the senior class. The College itself becomes a classroom as hundreds of seniors share the projects they have developed during the academic year. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members are encouraged to visit campus that day and listen to presentations, view art exhibits, ask questions about research posters, and explore the work of the senior class.

2022 Senior Research Symposium

Please SAVE THE DATE to join us for the Senior Research Symposium on Friday, April 29.

2021 Virtual Senior Research Symposium

Learn more about the wide variety of I.S. projects undertaken by Wooster students and view their virtual presentations from the 2021 Virtual Senior Research Symposium.

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The Support You Need to Succeed

Abundant Workspace

Art student getting help from faculty memberThe Flo K. Gault Library for Independent Study – one of three libraries on campus – reserves more than 300 study carrels for seniors working on I.S. projects. Most are hardwired to the campus network, through which you can connect to academic libraries and databases throughout the state, gaining access to more than 44 million books and other materials. (There’s also wireless access throughout the library.)

If you’re a science or studio art major, you’ll have access to dedicated lab or studio space. And when it comes time to present your I.S., you’ll have the resources to do it well: every studio art major gets a public exhibition of his or her work; every music performance major gives a recital.

Financial support

Wooster has two funding opportunities to bring a complex or especially ambitious I.S. within reach.

The Henry J. Copeland Fund for Independent Study provides about $90,000 in competitive grants each year that can assist with I.S.-related travel, supplies, and equipment. In recent years, Copeland grants have helped students defray expenses for researching mariachi music in Guadalajara, studying the lives of West African immigrants in Paris, producing a documentary film on survivors of Hiroshima, and experimenting with ways to purify methane gas so it can be used as a renewable energy source.

The Kendall-Rives Latin American Research Grant makes available approximately $10,000 each year to Wooster sophomores and juniors to support research projects on some aspect of U.S. – Latin American relations. The projects must be conducted in a Latin American country in preparation for, or as part of, a senior I.S. project in any major.

The Copeland and Kendall-Rives funds, along with the rest of the college’s resources, are here to support your abilities — and expand your possibilities.

Does all that work pay off?

Don Kohn ’64, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose I.S. was titled “Flexible Exchange Rates as a Means to Stable Markets: Theory, Practice and Evaluation,” says, “It has served me well because I have been thinking about closely related issues my entire career.”

Your completed I.S. is tangible proof that you have developed key skills and abilities that employers and graduate schools alike value. As the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities told a recent graduating class at Wooster, “Employers want employees who can write…who possess analytical skills, creativity…and a multidisciplinary perspective.” Most of all, they want people with the capacity for continuous innovation, which she likened to “an everyday exercise in I.S.”