Faculty votes for program, new concentrations

At their meeting last Tuesday, the College’s faculty voted in favor of making Leadership Studies a concentration and approved a new interdisciplinary program in Bionformatics, Genomics and Proteomics. During March’s meeting, Jewish Studies was approved as a concentration.

The study of leadership at the College was originally the idea of James MacGregor Burns ’39, professor of political science, emeritus. In 1978, Burns released his publication, Leadership, which is considered pivotal in the discipline to this day.

Burns went on to become a critical force in the creation of the Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.

Over 27 schools across the country now offer Leadership Studies as a major or minor, with most programs modeled after the Jepson School. The field is considered to be thriving in American higher education and Williams hopes to “serve as a model for emerging and evolving programs elsewhere,” according to a proposal dispersed at the faculty meeting.

Leadership Studies concentrates on the phenomenon of leadership across the globe and in multiple situations. It studies not only “great men” – a phrase used by James McAllister, associate professor of political scien ce in reference to courses that merely function on the study of the leaders themselves – but on the relationship between leaders and their followers as well as how a leader functions in his or her environment.

Courses in social studies and the humanities will examine “authority, power and influence” as well as the legitimacy, or lack thereof, that many leaders assert. The concentration will be taught as an interdisciplinary and will be an “education about leadership” as opposed to an education as to how to become a leader, according to the packet.

There will be a mandatory introductory course taught by McAllister entitled “Power, Leadership and Legitimacy: An Introduction to Leadership Studies” which will also be cross-listed in the political science department’s course offerings.

The course is designed to meet the interdisciplinary goal of the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) by “comparing and contrasting the assumptions, theories and methods of disciplinary approaches to the topic, enabling students to bring interdisciplinary thinking to the disciplinary core courses and the capstone course,” according to the description in the course packet.

In all, five courses will be required for the concentration and this course load will culminate senior year with “the capstone course” LEAD 402 “Domains of Leadership.” In addition, one of the five courses must be a Winter Study course. The Leadership Studies program has offered at least five Winter Study courses since January 1999; over the past two years, the program has offered eight different full courses.

The other concentration recently added to the curriculum is Jewish Studies. The first proposal to teach Jewish Studies courses arose at a faculty meeting in 1979, and professors began teaching Jewish Studies classes in the early 1980s, according to Matthew Kraus, associate professor of Classics and coordinator of Jewish Studies. In 2001, Kraus became the first professor of Jewish Studies to receive tenure.

“Jewish Studies was motivated primarily by an increase in interdisciplinary studies, which is predicated on the notion that you have very strong departments in disciplines and a formal structure to encourage people from different disciplines to engage in intellectual interaction,” Kraus said.

“And Jewish Studies provides that because of the broad geographical and temporal boundaries which it encompasses. One of the challenges is to make Jewish Studies an interest to a broad range of people.”

Although a variety of different courses in Jewish Studies are already offered at the College, the program was officially made into a concentration because the structure of a concentration gives students “a better intellectual experience by taking a carefully chosen group of courses and going more in depth,” Kraus said.

According to the newly updated course catalog, the concentration serves two functions. It will provide a structure to develop a more thorough knowledge of a variety of aspects of the Jewish people and “through the Jewish Studies concentration, students will be able to examine topics according to the methods particular to majors as well as in comparison to other disciplinary approaches. Thus, Jewish Studies enhances one’s specific knowledge of Judaica and the general capacity to think interdisciplinarily.”

As Leadership Studies is not aimed at producing leaders, Jewish Studies is also not meant exclusively to develop one’s Judaism. “You don’t study Classics in hopes of becoming a Greek or a Roman,” Kraus said. “It’s about becoming informed in a particular field.”

Kraus points out that the College is not breaking ground among like institutions, rather “we are merely catching up.” Specifically, the establishment of Jewish Studies is noteworthy from a historical perspective since the College has a questionable history when dealing with Jewish issues.

However, Kraus cautioned against grouping Jewish Studies and Jewish life in the same cluster even though they are related. Kraus pointed out the value of non-Jewish perspectives in the Jewish Studies classes and insisted on the interdisciplinary value of Jewish Studies at Williams for all students.

Also approved at last Wednesday’s meeting was a new interdisciplinary program in Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics. It is a field that is rapidly expanding and it incorporates nearly every subject that fulfills the Division III requirement. Such research into genetic sequences is becoming relevant in multiple fields of study as it will certainly affect society, culture, economics and politics.

The Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics courses will be taught by faculty from the biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics/statistics and physics departments.

There will be a 300-level introductory course taught entitled “Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics Laboratory” which will also be the only new course introduced in this field next year. Several faculty members expressed an interest in having the College’s curriculum keep pace with the quickly developing genome research analysis in an effort to continue to provide students with the best and most complete educational experience possible.

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