Gallatin School of Individualized Study

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A History

The School is named after one of the founders of NYU, Albert Gallatin, who served as secretary of the treasury under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Gallatin held the iconoclastic view that a university should not be an elitist institution to train ministers and the sons of the aristocracy, as was the common purpose of colleges of the day. He believed New York City needed a college that would serve a varied urban population and the children of immigrants and artisans. It was to be a school that would “elevate the standard of learning and . . . render knowledge more accessible to the community at large.” In 1831, Gallatin’s dream was realized, and New York University was founded.

Just as in the 19th century, the late 20th century called for new innovations in higher education. Many people felt that traditional undergraduate programs were creating students who were passive consumers of knowledge. In 1972, NYU responded by founding an experimental program called the University Without Walls (UWW). The UWW experiment—renamed the Gallatin Division in 1976—encouraged students to create their own individualized studies, work closely with faculty, initiate unique projects and experiment with different areas of knowledge across the disciplines and professions.

Over the next three decades, this experiment developed into a finely tuned educational approach that has acquired a national reputation for its unique combination of flexibility and high standards. The Gallatin School of Individualized Study gained official school status at NYU in 1995 and has graduated more than 9,800 students with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The Gallatin School boasts an excellent core faculty of committed teacher-advisers, as well as a distinguished group of faculty advisers from all over NYU and artists and scholars from around New York City.


The Gallatin School of Individualized Study provides a distinctive liberal arts education for a diverse student body. Our faculty foster passionate intellectual commitments from learners and prepare them for a world in which managing knowledge is key to success. Guided by the philosophy that self-directed learning is the key goal, the faculty seek to cultivate an environment conducive to intellectual exploration across traditional academic disciplines, and they insist on active student engagement in developing the direction of their own education. Our highly specialized and deeply engaged advisers guide students in their intellectual explorations toward an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving.

Notice:  The policies, requirements, course offerings, schedules, activities, tuition, fees and calendar of the school and its programs set forth in this bulletin are subject to change without notice at any time at the sole discretion of the administration. Such changes may be of any nature, including, but not limited to, the elimination of the school, programs, classes or activities; the relocation of or modification of the content of any of the foregoing; and the cancellation of scheduled classes or other academic activities.

Payment of tuition or attendance at any classes shall constitute a student's acceptance of the administration's rights as set forth in the above paragraph.

Students at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study work closely with faculty advisers to forge their intellectual interests into a rigorous liberal arts education. They develop their own programs of study by combining Gallatin’s core curriculum of small, stimulating interdisciplinary seminars and workshops with courses in other NYU schools. Additionally, students are given the opportunity to pursue independent studies (one-on-one projects with faculty), tutorials (small group projects), private lessons, and internships.

Conveniently situated within the heart of New York City, Gallatin provides a variety of ways in which students can use the city as an extended classroom as they develop their capacities for critical thinking, effective communication, and creative work. Undergraduate students experience a flexible but rigorous education, culminating in a final oral exam, called the colloquium, in which students demonstrate their knowledge about a select number of significant texts.

With just over 1,500 undergraduate students and approximately 150 graduate students, Gallatin enjoys the benefits of being a relatively small school housed within a major research university. Gallatin’s faculty is renowned for their excellence in teaching, research, and advising, and students additionally have access to a number of outstanding faculty in other NYU schools.