Anything but Typical

Amazing research opportunities are common occurrences at New College and offer students real-world research experience from day one.

It Starts with a Contract

The academic contract is the core of the New College academic program. Students complete seven contracts prior to graduation in lieu of credit hours. With their faculty adviser, students create a written agreement each semester and set criteria for measuring success. Each contract must contain the equivalent of at least three full semester educational activities to be evaluated for transcript entry, both before and after contract renegotiation. A typical contract includes three to five academic activities (including courses, tutorials, internships or independent reading projects) that will develop a student’s personal educational goals. The contract is the product of focused dialogue between student and sponsor. Both can use this opportunity to discuss and articulate the student’s short- and long-term goals, and to monitor progress toward completion of the five chosen area of concentration and graduation requirements. From a bureaucratic standpoint, the timely submission of each contract is critical because it officially “registers” the student in courses and other activities. Although a contract can be renegotiated prior to the final two weeks of the semester, students may not change contract sponsors during the semester. You also meet regularly with your faculty adviser to discuss your progress — not just once or twice in four years as happens at many colleges.

A Senior Thesis Project



The Senior Thesis Project is something that binds all New College students and graduates since every New College student produces one. That’s part of what it means to be an honors college: we have faith that every admitted student can and will develop a senior project, carry out the necessary research or work, and then present it to a committee (consisting of your faculty thesis sponsor and at least two other faculty readers) for an oral baccalaureate examination at the end of senior year. When you invest in New College, we invest in you.

Many Senior Projects are long, written research papers in your AOC (major) or a write-up of laboratory research you’ve conducted as part of a larger project with other students and even faculty. Some projects consist of a body of artwork and a senior show with a substantial written artist’s statement, while others might include a performance of a play by a famous playwright or a musical composition you wrote. That’s why it’s a “project” — it’s not only a written thesis. If you can win faculty support for your dream project, you can do it.

It’s helpful to remember that you don’t start with the thesis; it is the culmination of long-term work. By the time the project comes around, you will have built up the intellectual stamina required to complete the task.

During your first three years, you spend time getting to know your faculty and yourself, discovering passions and abilities you might not have realized you had. By the time you begin your third year at New College, you’ll be thinking about who you’d like to ask to be your thesis sponsor and about class or tutorial projects that you wish you could take further. You’ll know your own abilities, and you’ll be ready for the chance to really show what you can do now that you’re nearing graduation.

The final baccalaureate examination varies a bit in different disciplines, from a spirited defense of your work to a friendly conversation about where it could go next. The exam is your final chance to explain your work, what you’ve discovered and why it matters. A committee of at least three faculty members will focus just on you and your work for more than an hour. And when you graduate, you’ll have a project that you can use to springboard into your future, whether that includes graduate study, art-making, or moving into a profession right away.

In May, students can present their original research at New Scholars New College. These may include colorful poster presentations, musical performances, a student film or oral presentations that showcase your original, independent research. There is also an annual Senior Thesis Art Exhibit featuring a selection of artwork from the art students’ final year of studies, held either on campus or at a public gallery space in downtown Sarasota. Both New Scholars and the exhibit are wonderful opportunities to share your work with the general public.

Independent Study Project

A cornerstone of the New College experience is the Independent Study Project (ISP), which allows you to design and conduct your own hands-on research. During the four-week Interterm each January, you can focus on a specific aspect of your field of study, or explore something new through an immersive experience (whether that is a lab experiment, a scholarly paper or a creative endeavor). New College does not hold regular class meetings during January, so you can also use the time to study abroad (from Antarctica to the Amazon), take part in an off-campus internship, or create your own art exhibit or performance. Three ISPs are required for graduation.

The ISP requirement addresses five educational objectives:

  1. To train students to carry on independent research, to prepare them to plan and carry through an effective senior capstone project;
  2. To supplement the curriculum, to provide an opportunity to cover areas not usually available, particularly off campus;
  3. To provide an opportunity for nontraditional, innovative, experiential learning projects;
  4. To encourage work-related experiences, such as internships;
  5. Generally to provide an opportunity for intensive involvement with one subject, as a change of pace from the regular terms.
  6. A student chooses a topic in consultation with a faculty member who agrees to become the ISP adviser. The ISP Handbook and ISP Workshop provide guidance to students as to the types of ISPs that faculty encourage. Projects may be carefully defined at the beginning, or left open-ended and exploratory. The content and demands should be roughly equivalent to that of a term-length tutorial. A full-time, four-week academic activity, the ISP is incompatible with full-time employment; a regular semester contract; or a second, simultaneous ISP. 

A selection of recent ISPs include:

  • Mapping Sarasota’s Meal Gap: Identifying Solutions to Local Food Insecurity
  • Museology: Exhibiting Florida Archaeology
  • “Difficult Women”: The Art of Creating Unlikeable Female Characters in Creative Writing
  • Coral reef ecology field internship in Panama
  • Health literacy mobile app development
  • Starfish regeneration and field techniques
  • The Remaining Hours: A Collaborative Experimental Performance
  • Fighting Red Tide: Looking Towards a Fungal Solution
  • Stage Combat: Basics of Armed and Unarmed
  • Developing a robotic prosthetic hand
  • Using big data to solve economic and social problems

Small Classes. Big Conversations.

At New College, you’re surrounded by an intellectual community of students and professors who value your individuality and push you to discover your passions, pursue your ideals and form lifelong bonds.

Did you know that many large universities now require freshmen to take some classes from their computers because they simply don’t have large enough lecture halls for them all to attend in person? That will never happen at New College. Our average size class is 18, but most are much smaller, and some have only a handful of students working with a single professor.

With a 10-to-1 student/faculty ratio, you work closely with faculty, who serve as advisers, mentoring you along your academic journey. Intellectual conversations with fellow students often spill over to the Four Winds Café, Ham Center or other campus hangouts.



Hands-on Research

Learning at New College often extends beyond the classroom. Our undergraduates have access to cutting-edge research projects in the lab and the field:

  • Birding—Professors Liz Leininger and Maribeth Clark, along with librarian Helen Gold, led students on a campuswide expedition to identify the numerous native species on the New College campus. 
  • Physics — Professor of Physics Mariana Sendova has inspired a lifelong love of physics among her students during her 20 years of teaching and research at New College.
  • Urban Planning — Student Adam Johnson’s research on urban planning with Professor David Brain, director of the Urban Studies program, secured him a scholarship from the local chapter of the Florida Planning and Zoning Association.
  • Seagrass Research—Professor Gerardo Toro-Farmer leads students on expeditions on Sarasota Bay to study the health of seagrass and its effect on the local marine ecosystem.
  • Mangrove Health —With EPA grant funding, Professors Brad Oberle and Jayne Gardiner lead student research expeditions to Tidy Island to study the health of the mangrove swamps and the native species living there.
  • Lizard Malaria –  Six students in Professor of Biology Tiffany Doan’s class spent two years research lizard malaria and then published their findings in national herpetology journal.

Engaged in the community and the world.

New College students are passionate about helping others and making a difference. Locally, they build houses, tutor at-risk children and volunteer at food banks and homeless shelters. Others give back during Alternative Fall and Spring Break trips to rebuild homes of Hurricane Katrina victims or experience a migrant farm camp in Immokalee, Florida. And many Novo Collegians turn their civic engagement into their life’s work.