Individualized studies and internships

Independent study and tutorials are a third option open to Johnston students. A successful independent study is almost entirely a function of your interest in the subject you wish to pursue because, as the title suggests, you will be studying the subject by yourself. You will, of course, need a faculty sponsor or "mentor" for the topic you have chosen. Your chances for enlisting a professor depend largely on how intense your interest is and how well you communicate your background to pursue it. You might discuss the reading you have done on the subject, or your experience in writing an independent research paper in a course with the professor. Good bets for faculty are those you know through previous courses, and those who have some expertise in your· topic. Introductory courses are least successful in this format, for obvious reasons. Independent studies that duplicate regular courses should be avoided - they waste Johnston resources - and are rarely approved.

Many professors use a "tutorial" format for independent studies, meaning that you are responsible for the content and direction of your meetings. Regardless of format, don't take an independent study with the expectation that you'll get, in effect, a one-on-one lecture course. If the professor agrees to work with you, you need to negotiate with that professor exactly what you plan to do and record your plans on an "Individualized Study" contract. In addition to your professor, you need approval for individualized study from your advisor and the Johnston Center Director. The professor is responsible for offering suggestions for books and assignments, and should meet with you periodically to discuss your progress. S/he will write an evaluation of your learning after receiving your self evaluation.

One word of caution. Independent study requires a high degree of self-discipline in addition to sustained interest in a study topic. Many students have found that in spite of its surface attractiveness for individualized learning, it is not easy to conduct independent studies successfully in the early phase of one's college experience.


An internship is an individualized study that allows you to become an apprenticed learner outside of the traditional classroom. It might include "hands on" experience in the work world or perhaps in a community agency of some kind. It is an opportunity to acquire training and experience, often in an area that interests you vocationally.

Perhaps you are interested in psychology or social work, consider spending several hours a week in a clinic or home for disturbed adolescents. Or you might use GIS computer technology to learn environmental mapping in a government agency. Many writers seek internships in publishing, journalism, or the entertainment industry. You can receive academic credit for such an experience by first finding a faculty sponsor who will negotiate a contract with you, discuss your progress and write your evaluation.

You also need agreement from someone in the organization you choose to work with to act as your supervisor. This supervisor should be willing to write an assessment of your performance, and forward it to your faculty sponsor at the end of your internship. Be sure that your on-site supervisor understands t11is before your internship begins! As with an independent study, you will need the approval of your faculty advisor before you begin your internship. The January term is a good time to engage in an off-campus internship. Generally speaking, you must take the initiative to find an internship, although faculty members in your field are often helpful resources as well.