James Downs, associate professor of history and American studies, will spend the 2015-16 academic year studying medical anthropology at Harvard University.
What should the Connecticut College curriculum of the future look like?
That was the topic of discussion during an entire week of town-hall-style meetings and other idea-sharing sessions held all over campus last week.
Curriculum ReVISION Week gave students, faculty and staff the opportunity to participate in an ongoing examination of the College's General Education program requirements. Input gathered during the week will be used to formulate possible changes. Some pilot courses and programs will be offered this fall, and an overarching proposal may be voted on in December, said Amy Dooling, associate professor of Chinese and chair of the College's Educational Planning Committee.
In a talk kicking off the week, President Katherine Bergeron said the point of the curriculum review is to ask, "What is it that we expect all Connecticut College students to acquire during the course of their college experience?"
She said that at a liberal arts college, general education requirements are more than just a set of courses cordoned off from one's major. That's because a residential liberal arts education is meant to add up to more than the sum of its parts.
"The real payoff," she said, "comes not in the accumulation of isolated learning experiences in different courses in and outside the major and activities, both on and off campus, but when those experiences combine and connect over time to yield a new kind of knowledge." Read President Bergeron's address (Connecticut College login required). View the slides (Connecticut College login required).
Julia Cristofano '14, who attended several of the week's events, said at the final event on Friday, "This is shared governance in action. It is me being able to come in here and talk just as much as the faculty. … I get to be part of this change that is going to revitalize the institution."
Jefferson A. Singer, Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology, said many faculty participated in the discussions and were pleased with how the week went.
"It's fair to say that this was one of the more innovative approaches to curricular reform conducted at a liberal arts college," he said. "We are not aware of anything similar at any of our peer institutions. It is a strong testament to the tradition of shared governance at the College."
The College's current General Education program has been in place with few modifications since 1973. One significant change came in 2004 with the introduction of a required first-year seminar, taught in small groups.
The General Education program requires all students to take at least one course in each of seven areas — including math, science and creative arts — that define the liberal arts. In most cases, students can choose from a dozen or more classes within each area to fulfill the requirement. Students also must complete at least one course in a foreign language and two writing courses, and demonstrate mastery of research technology.
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