Immersive Group ISPs Offer First-Year Students Unique Learning Opportunities

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- by Gayle Guynup

The New College of Florida first-year group ISP kick-off was an immersive event on Jan. 5, where students had a unique opportunity to learn about and collaborate on their inaugural ISP experience. The renowned painter-inspired event brought together students and faculty to discuss the ins and outs of ISPs. Bob Ross hosted a quirkily popular program, “The Joy of Painting,” on PBS television for 11 years.

“I wanted to create an event where students could have fun interacting with each other,” said Sydney Sloan, Assistant Director of Student Success. “This event [met] our goal of getting students and faculty together to talk about their goals and expectations, but in a fun, casual way,” Sloan said.

ISPs, or Independent Study Projects, provide an opportunity for students to broaden their skills and interests through a project that takes them beyond the classroom – through a lab experiment, internship, study abroad experience or other creative endeavors. 

ISPs can include lab experiments, internships, research projects, study abroad experiences or other creative endeavors, each sponsored by a faculty member. This campus community experience helps prepare the students to develop ISPs independently in their second and third years. All New College students complete three ISPs to graduate.

“We are very unique as a college. Not many other schools do a January term like we do. It allows for a lot of exploration into different areas of concentration and helps develop project management skills that we are trying to instill in our students,” Sloan said.


Immersive January ISPs

The Watershed Ecology Through Adventure Sports ISP: Students visited the New College waterfront and nearby Oscar Scherer State Park, learning to make scientific observations of our local ecosystems using field research tools. Students also got to know the “wild side” of New College’s bayfront campus, using the watercraft available through Campus Recreation. 

In the Health, Culture, and Societies Professionalization ISP Seminar, students met health and health-adjacent professionals who shared their career experiences, ranging from medical social work and grief counseling to environmental law and urban planning. ISP sponsor Yidong Gong, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International and Area Studies, took students on a field trip to the Sarasota Mosquito Management Services, where they learned about mosquito pooling and virus testing, sentinel chicken surveillance, and spray missions.

In the Animal Betterment ISP, students explored the scientific value of animal attractions, such as zoos and aquaria as well as some of their negative impacts. In this ISP, sponsored by Sandra Gilchrist, Professor of Biology and Marine Science, students engaged with local animal rescue organizations, including a service-learning field trip to Save Our Seabirds, and earned their Red Cross animal CPR certificates.

Flamingo Tongues and Stuffed Dormice: Food and Dining in Ancient Rome was the title of the ISP led by Professor of Classics David Rohrbacher. Students explored the ancient Roman world through its food by discussing primary sources of Roman food and dining, as well as cooking a wide variety of foods prepared with ancient cookbook recipes and other sources. Dishes included lentil and barley stew, honeyed pear dessert, sweet and sour turnips, and chicken with squash and peaches. Other recipes were slightly more eccentric, such as boiled ostrich with date sauce and wild boar.

For Walking down Memory Lane: Politics, Power, and Identity in 21st Century Berlinstudents traveled to Germany with ISP sponsor Alexandra Hagen, Visiting Assistant Professor of German and Film. They explored a city marked by historical trauma and complex cultural layers. In the mornings, they visited historical sites, such as the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum, Berlin Wall, a former GDR Stasi Prison, and a walking street art tour. Afternoons were allocated for student research on individual research projects. 

The Birding New College ISP: Students worked to support our local bird population and birdwatching communities through internships and service-learning projects focused on habitat conservation and community science. One of the partners of this ISP was the Sarasota Audubon Society. ISP students helped to maintain the society’s Butterfly Garden at the Celery Fields Nature Center, with sponsor Liz Leininger, Associate Professor of Neurobiology. Students learned about native plants and how they can provide habitat and food for butterflies and birds. They spotted 31 species of birds on a walk through the Celery Fields, including the Palm Warbler, Loggerhead Shrike and Roseate Spoonbill.

Gayle Guynup is a contributor to the New College News.