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 courses in New York City, Philadelphia, the Midwest, and Puerto Rico; record a regular podcast; stage regular events; provide workshops and trainings for non-profits and public-interest groups; run a network of philanthropic Midwest educational centers; 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 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-three 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. 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 a listing and descriptions of our current courses at the course 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 visit the faculty page.

Who are your students?

Our students are working adults 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?

Brooklyn Institute courses are held both online and in spaces throughout New York City—be it in our office (at 68 Jay Street, #308, Brooklyn) or in public places ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to cultural centers, including American Folk Art Museum, Goethe-Institut New York, 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?

Beginning June 2023, BISR courses cost $335. Because we value and believe in compensating intellectual labor, 70% of tuition fees are paid directly to the instructor who has designed and is teaching the course, and a small percentage is paid to the participating second faculty member. The remainder goes to keeping the Institute running.

Does BISR accept employer or organizational payment or reimbursement for courses?

Yes, BISR accept employer or organizational payment for courses, whether for professional development, scholastic pursuit, or beyond. BISR can provide a certificate of completion on request.

What is your refund policy?

Upon request, BISR will refund the entire cost of a course up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to either a 75% refund or full course credit. After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit. No refunds or credits will be given after the second class. The above policy does not apply to enrollments in our Language Learning and Critique program; for more information, email info@thebrooklyninstitute.com.

Do you offer scholarships?

Three scholarship spaces are reserved for each course, because we realize that not everyone can afford to pay the full fee. 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 have enrolled in a course. When will the instructor contact me with an introductory email and a list of readings?

Instructors will email enrollees an introduction and readings at least one week before the start of the course. If you have enrolled in a course, but have not received an introductory email from the instructor at least one week before the start of the course, please email info@thebrooklyninstitute.com.

Are courses recorded?

To ensure free-flowing conversation and protect the privacy of our students and instructors, we do not record our classes under any circumstances.

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, use the contact form, or call the BISR office at 718-422-7767. 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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