The Curricular Resource Center has streamlined its application process for independent concentrations, said Independent Concentrations Co-Coordinators Evan Schwartz '13 and James Walsh '13.
The application has been changed from a 10-page concentration proposal to a combination of a four-page set of questions and a proposal for a capstone or thesis.
Schwartz, who is pursuing an independent concentration in Community Development and Education, said this was done to make the process of proposing an independent concentration more straightforward and less intimidating.
"I came here thinking I wanted to be an engineer," Schwartz said. He said professors from several departments told him to concentrate in their respective fields before he eventually settled on an independent concentration.
Associate Dean of the College for Research and Upperclass Studies Besenia Rodriguez said the University supports the change, as administrators are "looking for ways to make (picking a concentration) more meaningful."
Schwartz said the revised process is not necessarily designed to steer students toward independent concentrations. Instead, it is supposed to help students "hone and define their interests into something coherent," which can in some cases lead to students pursuing traditional, existing concentrations.
One disadvantage of pursuing an independent concentration is that students do not have the full support of a single department that students in existing programs experience, Schwartz and Walsh both said.
But Schwartz said many students in existing programs complain of a lack of departmental support as well. Walsh, who is pursuing an independent concentration in Logic, said that for him it was "hard to think of disadvantages" and that independent concentrations offer "tremendous flexibility." Were it not for his concentration, he said he never would have been exposed to many of his professors, especially those in computer science.
Another potential advantage for independent concentrators is the prospect of finding research and employment opportunities that match up well with their fields of study, Schwartz and Walsh said. Walsh related a story of a professor hearing about his concentration, finding and contacting him directly to offer him a job as his research assistant, something he believes would not have been possible had he not been an independent concentrator.
Schwartz and Walsh said they have encountered little to no opposition from University administrators regarding the change in application procedures. "If we want to make it better and can make a case for how and why, everyone's behind it," Schwartz said.