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image of pottery pieces inside kiln oven for firing pottery

Independent Studies at Moravian College: My Experience & Program Information

April 5, 2018

When I sat down to register for Spring 2018 classes a few months ago, I knew that I wanted to take a course in pottery.  However, there was one problem – Moravian only offers Ceramics I (an introductory course to working with clay) and I wasn’t an introductory student.  

Image of pottery pieces inside of a kiln, the furnace used for firing pottery.

I started working with clay at the age of ten through art classes at the Baum School of Art.  My mom still laughs at the memory of picking me up that first day. Apparently, she couldn’t get me to leave.

orange ceramic bowl sitting on deck railing in front of tree

I took a break from ceramic classes when I entered high school as life became busier. It was only by chance that I rediscovered my passion for the art in college.  I attended Saint Joseph’s University before transferring to Moravian College. Looking to fulfill an art requirement, I came across a Ceramics I class. Somehow, I managed to grab one of the coveted spots (it was a very popular class) and fell in love with pottery all over again.  The next semester I took Ceramics II, and the semester after that I transferred to Moravian.

blue ceramic vase speckled with white dots sitting on deck railing in front of tree

This was my predicament as I sat trying to register for classes; I should have been registering for Ceramics III but Moravian only offered Ceramics I.  However, I didn’t want to give up. I decided to look into what an independent study entailed. Anyone I mentioned it to said they knew independent studies were an option but they didn’t know anybody who actually took one, nor did they know anything about the program except that it existed.  

I write this post now halfway through the Ceramics III class I created through the independent studies program.  The following information is intended to walk students through the process of creating an independent study from a student who has already gone through it.  I hope that providing students with more information about the program will lead more students to consider independent studies as valid option with great opportunities.

First, some technical things to know:

  1. Independent studies allow students to study a subject not typically offered by Moravian College.

  2. Students must have a Junior or Senior standing and hold a cumulative 2.70 GPA in order to be eligible for an independent study.

  3. Independent studies are available for a full course unit or half course unit.

  4. Students may take no more than one independent study OR honors project per semester for a total of four independent studies/honors projects over the course of their Junior and Senior years.

  5. Transfer students must complete at least one full term before they’re allowed to take an independent study.

The first step to creating an independent study is to find a professor in a related field to be your mentor for the semester.  You will work with them to create a syllabus for the semester detailing objectives, course material, projects, and a grading scale.  Regular meetings with the professor will be required over the course of the semester, but frequency and times may be negotiated.

The next step is to stop by the registrar’s office and pick up an “Independent and Individualized Study Information and Approval Form.”  You will have to fill out some information about you as a student, such as your major, GPA, and how many course units you’ve earned to date.  You’ll also be asked to create a name for the course. This name is how the course will appear on your transcript.

image of Independent Study Form page 1
image of Independent Study form page 2

The last step is to secure four signatures on the form: the project director (the professor you’ll be working with), your academic advisor, the department chair, and the dean.  The project director will also need to certify that the technical qualifications listed above are fulfilled. If all of them are not met, you can still be recommended to be allowed to complete an independent study.  In this case, the form will also need to be approved and signed by the Academic Standards Committee.

Independent studies provide students a great opportunity to create classes tailored specifically to them and work one-on-one with a professor knowledgeable in the field.  I enjoy all aspects of ceramics, but wanted to focus specifically on wheel-throwing over hand building. I worked with Moravian’s resident ceramicist, Renzo Faggioli, to create a list of objectives and projects to accomplish over the course of the semester.  As another semester draws to a close, I must say, I’m so pleased with my independent study experience that I’m planning to create Ceramics IV for Spring 2018.

white vase with light blue streaks on the sides sitting on deck railing in front of tree