Liberal Studies offers the option of credit-driven independent studies and internships for our majors and minors.  Depending on student need, time commitment, and the identification of a faculty project advisor to help oversee the credits, students can be registered for a *1 - 3 credit LS 492 Independent Study/ Internship, to count toward their program requirements [*note - this course can be taken for 1 - 3 credits in a single semester, but is repeatable for up to 6 credits total spanning 2+ semesters, though the work must continue to be different and/or build upon itself to repeat the course a subsequent time]. 

Internship Policy, Office of the Provost

The Office of the Provost Internship Policy outlines that "an internship is a supervised work-integrated learning experience related to the student's academic program of study with a clearly articulated academic component."  You can read more about the Internship Policy here

Getting started

It is on the onus of a student to pinpoint an opportunity and seek out a faculty project advisor to help oversee it.  A good starting point is to identify an area that is of interest, come up with a loose idea of what could be achieved and the steps necessary to do so, and seek out a faculty project advisor who specializes in this area and who has time to help the student map out and achieve the desired outcomes, including assigning, overseeing, and grading academic components.  Perhaps the student wants to work closely on a research project their instructor mentioned in class, run one of their own, or work with a local organization to help collaborate or oversee a specialized project dealing with their future career interests.  This might involve networking and working with who you know to find the right opportunity, or calling / emailing around and pitching yourself as someone who can assist an instructor, researcher, business owner, or local organization.    We highly recommend students start this process early, as it might take weeks or even months to find the right fit, sort out the work involved and desired outcomes, and submit paperwork to get approved and registered. 

Finding a Faculty Project Advisor

As aforementioned, students will need to identify a faculty project advisor to help oversee their project.  This might be the researcher/ instructor a student would already be assisting for the independent study/ internship, or someone else on campus.  It could be a Liberal Studies instructor, or might be an instructor in another department or program.  This advisor is typically a tenure-track faculty member, and would need to be somewhat knowledgeable in the field with which the student is working.  The student may have already had a class with this faculty member, or worked with them on another project so they're aware they would have a good working relationship, though may end up needing to work with someone with whom they've not yet interacted closely.

If working with a non-Liberal Studies affiliated faculty project advisor, it is typically recommended they work with the instructor's home department and run the independent study under that particular rubric.  For example, if working with an Ecology instructor, a BIOE 292/ 492: Independent Study processed through the Ecology Department is likely more appropriate.

Students will need to work closely and diligently with their faculty project advisor from the beginning, identifying what the project will involve, how to achieve desired learning outcomes including structured and gradable projects, research, journal entries, papers, and a final project or paper, how frequently the student and advisor should be doing check-ins, how many hours will be involved to include an estimation of time involved with academic projects, the number of credits based on projected hours involved, what will be assigned, and how the student will be graded on these assignments.  Please note that it is crucial gradable components are assigned to make the course rigorous and comply with academic expectations of MSU when assigning academic credits.  MSU / the Liberal Studies Program will not approve of the credits if rigorous academic components are not included. 

Expectations should be clearly laid out from the beginning to cut down on any miscommunication.  The student and faculty project advisor should check in frequently, especially initially, and may need to keep an updated log of work completed associated with the independent study/ internship.  This individual should also provide oversight during the internship period to ensure that the student is learning the subject matter appropriate to the discipline and/or applying disciplinary knowledge.  If working closely with someone on the project who is not your faculty project advisor, such as with a company work supervisor, that person should also be closely involved in outlining expectations and signing off on various tasks and hours worked.  The faculty project advisor will assign the final grade based both on work completed with a project/ work supervisor (if someone different), and on the academic components they assigned and graded. 

Working with a Project/ Work Supervisor

It is likely that students will work with a project/ work supervisor overseeing their work, separate from the faculty project advisor.  Per the Provost's Office Internship Policy which we are applying to internship and independent study credits, this project supervisor is responsible for:

1.) Ensuring the estimated hours worked in the field are reported accurately via paperwork the student initiates.  It is strongly recommended that the student and project/ work supervisor keep a log of all hours worked, signed off by the supervisor daily or weekly

2.) Promptly reporting to the student's project advisor if the work ends up changing, either in amount of time assigned (more or less), or the nature of the work changes

3.) Supervising the student throughout their contractual / semester contract and making sure the student follows company & MSU protocols/ requirements of safety and work etiquette

4.) Reporting any problems or issues to the faculty project advisor in a timely manner

5.) Providing timely reviews of the students performance as agreed upon by all parties, including touching base with the faculty project advisor towards the end of the semester on how the student did in areas of work outlined, to aid the project advisor in the assignment of a final grade

Determining the number of credits

LS 492 is a variable credit course, and can be run as a 1-credit, 2-credit, or 3-credit course depending on the work involved with the project.  To help calculate the number of credits, know that MSU factors about 45 hours per 1 credit, spanning the entire 15/ 16-week semester.  So for example, a 1-credit in-person course would have close to an hour of in-class time per week, plus another about 2 hours of work outside of class each week, on average (reading, completion of assignment(s)+.).  Because an independent study/ internship isn't likely going to have regular class meetings, a close estimation of hours involved will need to be sorted early on and signed off on by the faculty project advisor and project supervisor (if different individuals).  Hours involved will include things like estimated hours spent directly working on the project, the time commitment to assignments/ readings, time involved with meeting with the project supervisor and/or faculty advisor, and so on.  This will not include time spent on things like driving, identifying a faculty advisor, signing off on associated registration forms, and so on. 

Please be mindful of the number of hours involved spanning the entire semester.  For instance, if all aspects of a project average out to be about 11 hours per week, but the project ends 4 weeks into the semester, totaling about 44 hours, the credits would be based off of total time spent for the semester rather than on weekly averages, so that would be a 1-credit independent study rather than a 3-credit.  When calculating, please utilize the following:

Total estimation of hours for the entire semester / 45 = credit load     [up to 3credits]

For example:

    • ~5 hours worked on job weekly, spanning 12 weeks =  70 hours
    • ~1 hour weekly meeting with project advisor spanning 12 weeks = 12 hours
    • ~2 hours weekly on readings + reading responses/ journal entries spanning 13 weeks = 26 hours
    • ~2.5 hours weekly spent on research (topic formation, research, rough draft formation - spanning 4 weeks for 2 - 4 page formal midterm research paper with works cited page, plus 2.5 hours weekly spanning 5 weeks, spent revising formal midterm research paper to include longer with more citations, 5 - 7 page final paper with a reflective component.  = 22.5 hours 
    • ~6 hours of reworking research into a research/ poster/ presentation for an MSU research symposium = 5 hours
      • = 136.5 hours total / 45 = 3.03 or 3 credits 


Before the start of classes, you will work with your faculty project advisor and project supervisor to submit a contract clearly outlining goals and expectations related to the project.  Once project details have been sorted out by all involved, please complete the contract below, or a different departmental contract if working with a faculty project advisor outside of Liberal Studies. Please have paperwork in place by the beginning of the semester at the latest.  We recommend starting at least a few weeks prior to the beginning, but preferably the semester prior around registration time, as it can take extra time for approval signatures and revision of the contract terms if applicable.  Please be sure to reach out to the program with which you'll be registering once the form is completed via DocuSign, to make sure you get registered.  It is the responsibility of the student to make sure they are registered promptly and accurately after paperwork is finalized, and to reach out to program officials if they notice an error. 


Note that students should complete their independent studies /internships under the department or program that houses their faculty project advisor (different than their regular program advisor).  As per the example above, if working with an Ecology instructor, please go through the Ecology Department for the credits and contract.  If working with a Liberal Studies faculty advisor and/or it seems to make the most sense getting the credits as an LS 492, you can submit a Liberal Studies Independent Study/ Internship Contract here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I do an independent study more than once? 

A: Yes - Students can apply up to 6 credits toward their LS 492 while an undergraduate at MSU.  Note that only 1 - 3 credits can be applied in one particular semester toward an LS 492, but a student, in theory, could complete a 3-credit LS 492 one semester, and another 3-credit LS 492 another semester, or even explore independent studies/ internships outside of the LS-rubric, as long as the work was either different each time, or clearly built upon previous 492 work with new experiences, to show it warrants new credits. 


Q: What if I don't know where to start with identifying a faculty project advisor?

A: It is typically a good idea to work with a faculty member the student knows, but if wanting to work on a particular project, and the student is not sure with whom they could work to oversee it, they should start with basic research.  Perhaps typing the area of interest into the MSU website to see names associated, or reaching out the department or program associated with the research area to see if any faculty members specialize in the area.  Students can certainly reach out to the Liberal Studies program to help steer them in the right direction if they're not able to sort it out through their own research. 


Q: Does Liberal Studies have a standard list of faculty advisors and organizations students can work with for an independent study/ internship?

A: No - independent studies are individually tailored and as the name implies -- "independent", so there are no set instructors, organizations, or projects associated with these.  The same is true of internships.  Students can get fairly creative with their interests when formulating an independent study/ internship. 


Q: Can my project supervisor be someone at my place of employment? 

A: It depends.  Students should not receive institutional credit doing work they are already doing/ being paid for, however, it is a possibility, depending on the circumstances, that students might work out a special project with their place of employment, different from their normal scope of duties.  Your supervisor and faculty advisor will need to agree that the newly proposed project has merit as a college-level academic experience.


Q: Can I get credit without having to turn in a lot of academic work, knowing I can apply that knowledge to a future career?   

A: No - While academic and career exploration are always encouraged, as aforementioned, MSU / Liberal Studies will not approve work that doesn't involve academic rigor and work toward critical learning outcomes, and this includes class/ homework/ student projects.  Students and their project advisor need to outline graded assignments appropriate of a 400-level course, and that meet the learning outcomes of Liberal Studies (and/or the program they'll receive their credits in).  A quick overview of Liberal Studies key student outcomes include elements of critical and analytical thinking, creative development, analytical writing, intellectual judgment, problem analysis and understanding, reading and reflection, and undergraduate research.  You can read more about key student learning outcomes here.  


Q: What if things don't fall into place for my independent study/ internship until after the "Add" period has already passed?

A: Please follow the same procedure as you would any other late add, by working with your faculty advisor and program on submitting an Add Form with proper signatures (faculty advisor, academic advisor, and Dean's Office) and be sure to submit your contract around that same time.