The BISR Certificate Experience

The Certificate program is another example of the ways BISR has figured out how to give us the best parts of graduate education and strip away all the rest. – Josh Wallack, ’22-23 Certificate Student

In Spring 2022, we launched the BISR Certificate for Critical Study, a year-long intensive program in which working adults curate a personalized six-course tour through the BISR curriculum, while working one-on-one with a faculty tutor to realize a final project of their own design. Students from the inaugural cohort reflect on what initially drew them to the program, how their studies are impacting their lives and work, and the discoveries they are making along the way. 

As a full-time creative worker, what attracted me to the certificate program at BISR was the opportunity for one-on-one mentorship and a workload that fits into my schedule. I work as a video editor and have been seeking ways to pursue my interest in research and writing in the field of critical media studies. Among all the grad programs I’ve looked at, none have fully spoken to the area of study I’m interested in like BISR does, its course topics especially. I’m using the certificate program to gain a solid foundation in critical theory and am working with my mentor to learn how to properly research and write an academic paper, in my case on the nature of viral media. What’s so invaluable is how each course I take relates to the others in a critical way that continually expands my overall understanding. After several years out of school and floundering to figure out if my research ideas are worthwhile – if the questions I’m asking have already been thoroughly answered, or if they’re at the forefront of the current thinking – it is so refreshing to be given professional feedback and a path to answering these questions. I’m learning who I am as a researcher.

– Kenzie Rattray, writer and filmmaker

After spending years working in education and government, I wanted to find a way to connect my day-to-day thinking and work to a broader historical and political understanding – to see our moment with a wider view and connect with others who have that same aim. For years, BISR coursework has helped me take some of my long standing interests and doubts and articulate them as issues and questions I was excited to explore more deeply, though I didn’t have the time, resources, or need for a typical graduate degree. For me, the BISR Certificate program was the perfect next step. Over a set of amazing conversations, my faculty tutor has helped me sharpen my initial set of questions into a research program that I am not only deeply interested in personally but has informed how I think about the work I have done and hope to do.  He crafted a personalized reading list that has been fun to work through, and together we selected a set of courses tailored to my specific topic, where I can learn with others interested in the same topics.  Since this is not “regular” grad school, I have the freedom to design and define my project in a way that is specific to the next steps I want to take professionally. Most importantly, all this is on a schedule that works for me as a parent and a working adult with a lot of other commitments and interests!

Josh Wallack, public education and government policy

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