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Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration (IAPC)

All students are required to write a 2-3 page essay called the Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration in which they reflect on their education. In constructing the IAPC essay, students describe their educational experiences, the central idea(s) of the concentration and the coursework relevant to their concentration. This essay should be seen as a tool or guide - a way for students to reflect on how they learn as individuals, and to consider what they find academically interesting and challenging.

In writing the essay, students may want to begin by reflecting on their educational journey and exploring some of the following questions:


  • Why did you choose Gallatin? What were your educational goals? Have those goals changed? Why and how?
  • What educational experiences and courses (internships, seminars, independent studies, workshops, private lessons) have been influential to you? What was particularly interesting and why? What ideas have evolved from your educational experience so far?
  • Using these questions as a starting point, students can then turn their attention to the plan for their concentration.
  • What idea, period, subject, theme, concept, discipline is of particular interest to you? Is there a central idea or theme around which your concentration may be organized?
  • What kinds of study will you pursue? What types of courses (internships, seminars, independent studies, workshops, private lessons) will you take to construct the concentration and in what sequence might these classes be taken?
  • What is the meaning of such a course of study? What connections does this course of study have to other work and educational experiences, and what is its relevance to your future plans for graduate study or career?



For most students, these questions are similar to those they answer when they complete the Gallatin Plan of Study form. The Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration becomes the opportunity to integrate these ideas and to help students to seek out the ways that their courses converge and coalesce into a unique, individualized course of study.

Timetable for Writing the Essay

All students are required to submit the Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration. The essay should be submitted no later than the end of the sophomore year (i.e., before completing 64 units). The timing and pacing for writing the essay, however, will vary as students move toward that goal at different rates and through different strategies. Some students may want to submit the essay earlier, but they should complete at least 32 units before doing so.

First-year Students: Most first-year students are exploring different subjects and may not have a clear idea of their concentration, and that is fine. Students choose courses and learning opportunities with the guidance of their advisers, exploring interests and goals, identifying their learning styles and strengths, and taking courses in a variety of departments and schools.

Sophomores: During their second year, students begin pursuing their concentration. They meet regularly with their advisers to discuss options, formulate questions, choose appropriate methods, and discover resources. Sometime between the completion of 32 and 64 credits, students write the "Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration."

Juniors and Seniors: The topic for the senior colloquium often grows out of the student's concentration. In the colloquium rationale, students may write about their concentration and how it has led them to their colloquium topic. In the colloquium itself, students have an opportunity to reflect on their educational experiences and to talk about their concentration and how it relates (or perhaps doesn't) to the topic of the colloquium.

Transfers: Transfer students with 48 - 64 transfer units are expected to complete the IAPC in their first semester at Gallatin.

The Approval Process

The student's adviser is responsible for approving the IAPC essay, and thus it is particularly important that students and advisers work closely together on this document. Once the essay is completed, the student needs to submit it to his or her adviser for approval. After the adviser has given approval, the student should then submit the IAPC to the Gallatin Office of Advising by using the online Intellectual Autobiography and Plan for Concentration form.  Students who do not fulfill this requirement will have a restriction (called a Dean's Hold) placed on their registration. This restriction will prohibit students from registering or making schedule changes (such as dropping or adding courses) until the IAPC is approved by the adviser and submitted.

Changes in the Plan for Concentration

The plan for the concentration is an evolving, working document. Consequently, the essay is not expected to be exhaustive or binding; rather it is a way for students to make sense of and guide their college studies. After the essay is approved, students may make changes as they progress toward the degree: they should discuss these changes with their advisers. The substance of the plan may shift somewhat as the student's focus becomes clearer or the student's interests evolve.

If students' interests change significantly (from costume history to artificial intelligence, for example), the adviser can ask for a revision of the essay. If that happens, students need to consider if they have sufficient time left in the program to be able to complete the new plan.

Building a Concentration

There are many ways to formulate an interdisciplinary concentration. You may find it helpful to begin with one of the categories below, but as you pursue your academic program pay attention to the connection between these categories as well.

Theme: One device for building a concentration is to explore an interesting concept, phenomenon or problem like "order and chaos," "passion and reason," or "democracy." The theme can be broadly construed, as, for example, race, gender, sexual identity, or class, and can be applied to a number of different historical periods or areas of the world. It can also be investigated comparatively and studied from a variety of disciplinary perspectives such as politics, philosophy, literature, or religion. Other examples: Gandhi, nonviolence, and social change; Discovery and representations of the "New World"

Area: This concentration focuses on a part of the world such as Southeast Asia or Latin America. The concentration may be concerned with a particular time period in that area or a comparative view of the area across historical epochs. As in concentrations based on a time period, students need to consider how the area is defined, historically, geopolitically, and culturally, as well as examine processes and developments in this part of the world. Other examples: Urban societies in Latin America; News Media in the Middle East

Period: A concentration might explore a period of history such as the ancient world, the Middle Ages, or the Ming Dynasty. The focus might be on one nation or continent such as pre-Columbian South America, or events and processes across those boundaries as, for example, in a consideration of the 15th century in Europe, Asia and Africa. Both the period and area concentrations can be combined with the concept (theme) device as in "modernization in Africa and Latin America." Other examples: Tradition and Revolution in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance; The Industrial Revolution in England and America

Method: A major analytic method, a theoretical framework, may be used as a way of organizing a concentration. A concentration using this device might study Marxist theory, feminist theory, disability theory, structuralism, or post-structuralism and apply such a system of analysis to art, culture, social change, etc. Other examples: Foucault and the Structuralist movement; Gender and race in feminist theory; Praxis: The challenge of making political practice from social history

Arts and Performance: A concentration in performance may involve pursuing a combination of critical and historical studies about an art form and practice in that form. Examples might include dance, dance history and criticism; dramatic literature and acting; writing; the visual arts; music. Other examples: Mime and the aesthetics of silence; Art as culture and political change; Minstrelsy and the performance of racial identity

Profession: Organizing a concentration like this allows students, through a range of cross-disciplinary studies and experiences, to prepare for a profession not represented by one of the departments of NYU, such as cultural policy, environmental activism, or political consulting. Students may also use this concentration to prepare for such areas as pre-law and pre-medicine, writing and communications. Other examples: Labor organizer ; Arts magazine publisher

Multidisciplinary Inquiry: This kind of concentration is not simply a double major, which can often be an arbitrary and disconnected pair of disciplines. Rather a concentration of this kind requires that students consider the common, integrated threads that may run through two perhaps seemingly unrelated disciplines such as math and dance. Here the connecting thread may be the idea of patterns or structures. In a multidisciplinary concentration, students pursue a theme, concept, or problem which unites the two disciplines. Other examples: History and literature; Politics and the arts

Interdisciplinary Study of a Discipline: Students may choose to study a single discipline such as studio arts, comparative literature, writing, or philosophy. Students can turn this into an interdisciplinary study by looking at a subject from, for example, an historical perspective. In this type of concentration, students may interrogate a discipline by asking questions which undermine disciplinary boundaries or which demonstrate the relevance of other discourses and disciplines. For example, students who are interested in studying Latin American literature can inform that study with courses in Latin American gender and culture, politics, and history. For studio arts, students may want to study art history, cultural history, and gender issues as a way informing a focus in painting, for example. Other examples: History; Literature

Event or Person: A concentration may focus on an event like the Vietnam War or a person like Jesus or Charles Darwin. In this case, it is important to approach the study from an historical perspective and from more than one discipline in order to gain a greater understanding of the person or event. A study of Darwin, for example, could lead to a larger conceptual issue of social Darwinism and its contemporary effects. Other examples: The French Revolution; Michelangelo.



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