What is the Brooklyn Institute?

The Brooklyn Institute is an organization of young scholars in New York City, founded in November 2011 by a few then-graduate students at Columbia University with a shared interest in pedagogy and genuinely interdisciplinary conversation. We teach classes all over the city, record a regular podcast, run a digital humanities initiative to preserve rare and out-of-print academic texts, and in general work frantically at any given time on a broad range of other academic and para-academic projects. We are a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization.

What is a Brooklyn Institute class like?

The Brooklyn Institute holds rigorous, small seminar-style courses that generally meet once a week, in the early evening, for generally four and sometimes six weeks. They draw heavily on the model of the kind of discussion-based seminar you might encounter at a small liberal arts college or in a graduate program, although the exact format of the class is up to the instructor and depends upon the subject matter. These are spaces that foster genuine intellectual exploration and exchange. We’re not interesting in performing intelligence; we want to talk seriously about books and ideas. Our instructors design courses specifically for the Institute, keeping in mind the busy schedules of working adults and assigning a manageable amount of reading (usually no more than 100 pages/week). Classes are capped at twenty students, or fewer if the instructor wishes. A second Institute faculty member sits in on every course, because it’s frequently helpful to have a voice from another discipline in the room, and because our faculty members are interested in learning from one another. We do not offer credit or certificates of any kind, and there are no prerequisites. Our courses run the gamut from the humanities to the social sciences and even the natural sciences. They are all, however, on the theoretical rather than the practical side. We might teach you about Gödel; we won’t teach you how to do your taxes. All classes are immediately followed by a cocktail hour where friendly conversation continues over food and drink, sometimes held on-site, sometimes at a nearby bar. You can read descriptions of some of our classes over on our press page.

Who teaches your classes?

The faculty members of the Brooklyn Institute are accomplished teacher-scholars who have or are working toward a terminal degree in their areas of expertise. They care deeply about teaching and about building local intellectual communities, and believe in the necessity of providing educational opportunities beyond the boundaries of the traditional university. For more information about specific faculty members, please take a look at their bios here.

Who are your students?

Our students are New Yorkers who want to keep on reading and thinking and talking seriously about difficult ideas throughout their lives. They hold all types of jobs, live all over the city, and come from a wide range of ages and racial, ethnic, religious, and educational backgrounds. Everyone is welcome.

Where are the classes?

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom.

How much does it cost? Where does that money go?

At present we are holding 4-week courses and 6-week courses. The former are three hours at a time and the latter two. All cost $315. The vast majority of those tuition fees go directly to the instructor who has designed and is teaching the course, because we value and believe in compensating intellectual labor, and a small percentage to the second faculty member who is participating. The rest goes to keep the Institute running.

Do you offer scholarships?

Three scholarship spaces are reserved in each course because we realize that not everyone can afford to pay the full fee for our courses. Students who cannot pay the full fee should email us at info@thebrooklyninstitute.com to learn about our scholarship options. We will not ask questions about your financial situation but we do ask that you use the system in good faith and consider the needs of other students and faculty members.

I signed up for a class but want to switch to another. Is that possible?

Yes! As long as it is at least 1 week before your original course is scheduled to begin, it is possible to switch courses. Please email us with your request.

I missed my class. Can I transfer my enrollment to a future class?

A: Except in the most extenuating of circumstances, we are unable to extend credits from missed courses for use on future ones. Please e-mail us if you have any questions.

What is your refund policy? 

Upon request, BISR will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class. 

I have a question that you haven’t answered here! Who can I ask?

Want to know more, or get involved? Please feel free to e-mail us at info@thebrooklyninstitute.com with any other questions, or use the contact form. Thanks for visiting us!

Support the Brooklyn Institute

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Consider supporting our mission by becoming a member or donating today.

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