Special Concentrations was established in 1971 by a vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Although by design never one of the larger concentrations, Special Concentrations has always had a solid core of students in widely divergent fields. There are currently seven Special Concentrators studying in fields as varied as Music Cognition and Perception, Food and Climate Change, Rhetoric and Oratory, and Technology, Policy and Society.
Special Concentrations topics change as new programs in departments are developed for both concentration and secondary fields. For example, Dramatic Studies has been a popular general topic in Special Concentrations, but with the creation of the concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media, we are seeing fewer petitions for this general area. The development of the secondary field in Global Health and Health Policy has similarly provided a path for students interested in that area. The popularity of certain fields also waxes and wanes depending upon the current topical interest in the field and the availability of faculty advisers. For example, during the late 1990's and early 2000's, there was a surge of interest in health policy as reports of indadequate health care in U.S. cities dominated headlines. Urban studies remains a popular path for special concentrators and recently there has been increased attention paid to topics combining broad themes in science, technology and society.
Special Concentrations' distinguished graduates include Peter Sellars, opera and theatre director, William "Trip" Hawkins, President and CEO of 3DO and founder of Electronic Arts, and Alec Keshishian, film director.