Faculty approve changes to academic requirements and Gaudino program

During their meeting on March 14, the faculty voted to approve the course package for the 2012-13 academic year, brought to the floor by the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP). As part of that motion, a number of changes to specific departments were also accepted.

Changes were made specifically to the legal studies program, the religion department and the Chinese department. Under the leadership of Magnus Bernhardsson, associate professor of history and the current Gaudino Scholar, the proposed Gaudino initiative on danger was approved.

The legal studies program will officially change its name to the justice and law program effective next academic year. Cheryl Shanks, chair of the legal studies program and professor of political science, described the changes to the program as an effort to change the way students and faculty think about legal studies. “It’s the same set of classes, but we’re asking people to think about them differently,” Shanks said. “In the United States, law is considered pre-professional, like medicine and business, when in the rest of the world law is an undergraduate degree and it isn’t applied, it is theoretical, which is what the department here is doing as well.”

Shanks cited student and faculty confusion about whether the program was inherently pre-professional as a reason for renaming the concentration. “The program was tainted by that expectation of a pre-professional program,” Shanks said, “so we changed the name to justice and law to clarify the focus and foreground theory.”

The preexisting requirements for concentrating in justice and law were also adjusted during the faculty meeting.

Previously, students were merely required to select four different electives in order to complete the concentration, but now they will be asked to take “two classes with a focus on practical applications and two with a focus on justice in a more theoretical light,” Shanks said.

The department of religion also made changes to its program, shifting the current introductory 101 course to a 200-level course that is mandatory for the major but has no prerequisites for non-majors. This restructuring of the 100-level courses will allow the department to create new introductory courses.

“Instead of the old introductory 101 course, we have created two very broad-based thematic courses that will hopefully be of a [broader] interest and can relieve some of the pressure of first-year students, because they won’t be capped and will hopefully be a good entré into the department,” said Denise Buell, chair of the religion department. “We’re really excited about these new changes, and we think they build on what’s already strong about the curriculum but will hopefully also make the major more coherent and more accessible.”

Buell cited numerous concerns that the original introductory course was not accessible to many first-years and was perceived as a very challenging and overwhelming introduction to the department as a reason for making it a 200-level class.

According to the CEP proposal, “One purpose of the proposal is to allow 100-level religion classes to serve better the needs of non-majors and to afford prospective majors the opportunity to explore the major theoretical sources for the study of religion in a 200-level course specifically designed to prepare them to major in religion.”

The religion department will also begin asking its majors to declare a four-course specialization when declaring the major.

“We are letting students tailor their own specialization, but with intensive advising,” Buell said. “Their ideas will then hopefully evolve from there as the student gets deeper into the department.”

Seniors will henceforth be required to present their senior research project in a colloquium setting, and the project should represent a culmination of their research in their specialization.

“Part of why these changes came about was that we had the occasion to pause as a department and look at what we think we do well and what we would like to do better,” Buell said.

The faculty also approved the 2012-13 Gaudino initiative on danger as proposed by Bernhardsson. “The Gaudino program has been focusing on danger, and we spent this year talking about it, and next year we are going to teach it,” he said by way of explaining the reasoning behind the addition.

The Gaudino initiative will be expanded for the fall of 2013 to include courses listed in the course catalog as focusing on the Gaudino theme of danger and uncomfortable learning.

“We got approval on the faculty floor to have these dangerous courses as a line in the course catalog,” Bernhardsson said. “There are about 18 courses from all divisions that focus on danger in one way or another in very different ways.” Some of the courses listed are new, while some existed previously, but have slightly shifted their focus in order to better fit the theme of the initiative.

Students in different Gaudino initiative courses will meet with each other throughout the semester. “There will be a strong extracurricular focus for these courses as well, with plays and dance groups performing on campus,” Bernhardsson said. He added he was particularly excited about the extracurricular activities that will soon be made available to students as a part of this initiative. “What is novel is that the student taking the Holocaust tutorial and the student taking the biology course on infectious disease will meet together during the semester to discuss the how their courses relate,” he said.

A small change was also made within the Chinese department, allowing Chinese majors to count a course in Chinese linguistics towards the major’s literature and culture requirement.

In total, 117 new courses were added to the course catalog: 32 in Div. I, 74 in Div. II and 11 in Div. III.

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