The Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) is an undergraduate option that allows the student to create their own scholastic requirements, under faculty supervision, and to pursue positive educational goals that cannot be achieved in any of the other available options. A student’s program may include regular Caltech courses, research courses, courses at other schools, and interdisciplinary study courses (item 5, next page). In scope and depth, the program must be comparable to a normal undergraduate program, but it need not include all of the specific courses or groups of courses listed in the formulated Institute option requirements for undergraduates.
The Curriculum Committee, a standing committee of the faculty, has overall responsibility for the program. In addition, each student has their own committee of at least two advisers, two of whom must be professorial faculty. Application material may be obtained at the dean of undergraduate students’ office or website.
ISP Administrative Procedures and Guidelines
- An interested student must recruit at least two professorial faculty members representing at least two different degree-granting options to serve as the ISP faculty committee. Each member of the faculty committee must provide a letter that includes:
- Faculty name and department/division, and the discipline they “represent” within the proposed ISP.
- Faculty’s assessment of the student’s ISP proposal, including the proposed degree title, as it relates to that faculty’s discipline.
- Faculty assessment of whether the student could choose an existing degree-granting option with some acceptable accommodations, rather than create an ISP. That is, does this ISP enable something that could not be accomplished in a single option or major/minor combination.
- Send the ISP proposal (cover sheet, proposed curriculum, and the aforementioned letters from professorial faculty advisers to the dean of undergraduate students for review and approval.
- The dean of undergraduate students sends the ISP petition to the Curriculum Committee for review and final approval. This contract includes the agreed-upon content of the student’s program and the methods for ascertaining satisfactory progress for those parts of the student’s program that are not standard Institute courses. This contract may of course be amended, but any amendments must be approved by the committee of two and the Curriculum Committee. Copies of each student’s contract and of all amendments thereto, along with all ISP records for each student and their transcript, are kept in the permanent files of the Registrar’s Office. Passing grades must be earned in a total of 486 units.
- The progress of each student in the ISP is monitored each quarter by the registrar, and any deviations from the terms of the contract are reported to the chair of the Curriculum Committee. Standards for acceptable progress and for satisfactory completion of the terms of the contract are the responsibility of the Curriculum Committee. When the Committee is satisfied that the terms of the contract have been fulfilled by the student, it recommends the student to the faculty for graduation.
- A plan of study may include special ISP courses to accommodate individual programs of study or special research that falls outside ordinary course offerings. In order that credit be received for an ISP course, a written course contract specifying the work to be accomplished, time schedule for progress reports and completed work, units of credit, and form of grading must be agreed upon by the instructor, the student, and the committee of two, and submitted to the registrar prior to initiating the work in the course. ISP courses are recorded on the student’s transcript in the same manner as are other Caltech courses.
- ISPs are intended for multiyear programs. Accordingly, the Curriculum Committee urges students contemplating an ISP to submit their petition during their second year and will not normally consider such petitions any later than the first term of the student’s third year.