Monday, April 26, 2010
April 26 Meeting of the Letters & Science Curriculum Committee
Discussion on LAS credit for Dance/Movement Therapy was tabled; we are waiting for additional discussion and support from the Psychology Dept. in relation to the potential certificate program.
Life Science Communication 450 was approved for Z designation L&S Credit.
Discussion regarding the creation of a Liberal Studies degree or major. Professor Emeritus Michael Hinden joined us, as did Vice Provost Aaron Brower, and Christopher Lee presented regarding Majors & L&S Degrees for background knowledge for the committee. Degree programs seem to emphasize focus, gaining depth in something you wouldn't be able to achieve if you spread yourself thinly. There have also been committed efforts to ensure that major coursework doesn't overtake a student's education. This leads to the question of if current majors are doing their job effectively. We have discussed continually who exactly this vague liberal studies major would serve, and thus Professor Hinden is sharing about how the existing Integrated Liberal Studies program could potentially aid in development of this program.
ILS is based loosely on the "Great Books" concept, and offers a way to satisfy breadth requirements with a cohesive structure and it sees itself as working with majors as opposed to being majors. About 1,000 students enroll in ILS courses each semester, with about 30 to 40 graduates each year from the certificate program. It has roots in the Meiklejohn Experimental College, and is very aware of the scale of the program. Students served by ILS come from many different majors and even from outside of L&S. Faculty for ILS are borrowed from other departments, and over the past 5 years, 27 faculty from 10 departments have participated with ILS, and about a dozen have taught repeatedly. It's a rather informal relationship which has been pretty successful.
Prof. Hinden (this is his own opinion, not on behalf of all of ILS because they have not had a discussion about this program yet) said if a Liberal Studies major went ahead without ILS involvement, it could potentially compete with and injure the program, but developing ILS to a degree or major is challenging because it may not be able to maintain a cohesive curriculum and a concern about maintaining the close faculty/student relations with exponentially expanded student numbers; faculty staffing has also been an increasing issue and ILS has a tight budget. He also raised a concern that if it is a liberal studies program, it may not be appropriate to focus solely on western culture as the foundation of a program, which is what ILS does. If there were to be a liberal studies major, it may not be appropriate to focus solely on Western culture and it may likely bring objections from other areas (Int'l Studies/Foreign Languages). He questioned whether or not depth could be satisfied by this new program, and if it philosophically fits into what a major is designed to be. Concern: Could there even be a one-size-fits all option of a liberal studies major? Can a degree in Liberal Studies be conceived without various pathways? Could ILS be one pathway? Or could ILS be a feeder to various pathways using the existing introductory courses? Could this new major use ILS to fulfill breadth requirements? Also which students would this appeal to? ILS began as a program geared toward freshmen and sophomores, then has evolved to being a certificate which provides a broad base as students specialize in another area.
Vice Provost Brower brought up a "General Studies" major at Michigan - 2 groups of students: students who couldn't choose and students who didn't want to choose. He questioned the demand for this course sequence - is there something missing from existing majors which UW offers? He made the point that if we are going to have new courses, and borrow the ILS model, departments cannot always allow faculty to be lent to ILS -- it is expensive. It's not a good model and can lock out smaller departments where there are not sufficient faculty to staff their own courses and ILS-type courses. This wouldn't be a problem if there are no new courses, but that then locks down the model. He would like to see grads who we knew achieved the kinds of liberal education learning outcomes we've described, and isn't convinced this is the route. Can this possibly be done through evolving existing majors? He suggested thinking about how we can help courses (especially intro-level) think about these questions so outcomes are being achieved, pushing departments to help students. Capstones also help include this level of integrative thinking.
We still don't have a clear vision of what this program would be, and are looking to ILS for some type of existing structure or inspiration as we continue to develop this potential program. There was additional consideration regarding senior integrative capstone courses, team teaching, using the FIG idea of linking courses...also how does this all tie in with how faculty are motivated to transcend traditional/existing boundaries even within their own departments.
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