Academic Programs and the Curriculum - 2003 Update
Four recommendations were made by the 21st Century Committee in 1998 with respect to the Academic Programs and the Curriculum.
- Provide more coordination and oversight of the curriculum by creating a programs and curriculum committee to advise the Dean of the College on decisions related to the academic program.
- Reassess and perhaps restructure the curricular organization of the College, including departments, interdisciplinary programs, majors, concentrations, area studies and special majors.
- Rejuvenate the advising system, particularly for first-year students.
- Examine the senior year, paying particular attention to the senior integrative exercise and the transition out of Carleton.
Recommendation 1: Provide more coordination and oversight of the curriculum by creating a programs and curriculum committee to advise the Dean of the College on decisions related to the academic program.
In response to recommendation 1, in 1999 the Faculty Curriculum and Planning Committee (FCPC) was proposed by the FAC (Faculty Affairs Committee) and passed by the faculty establishing this “new” committee to advise the Dean on curricular matters. The membership consists of the Dean, Associate Dean and the faculty members currently serving on the ECC (The Education and Curriculum Committee) to provide faculty continuity in issues of curricular matters. To ensure that the workload of those faculty members serving on both committees did not drastically increase, the ECC and FCPC were put on an alternating week meeting schedule.
When asked whether this committee provides oversight of the curriculum, the overriding response was that the academic community as a whole is not sure that the faculty really wants “oversight” of the curriculum. It is generally felt that the FCPC does help those delegated with approving new courses (Liz Ciner and Roger Lasley) by serving as a sounding board for difficult decisions and has provided the Dean with voices of reason to make decisions of FTE allocation. The FCPC has also made recommendations on concentrations and special majors and has issued reports on topics such as the state of the curriculum and the senior year at Carleton. There is also a general perception that the FCPC could be used as a body to recommend, advise, approve or disapprove changes to the curriculum working in concert with the Dean of the College.
Finally, although some faculty members have been quite concerned over the large number of courses offered at Carleton (which some would say is an indication that our curriculum has no core), others would say that we have a rich curriculum that is held together by a fundamental belief in the liberal arts (on the part of both individual faculty members as well as departments). Many members of the Carleton community would say our curriculum works; we have satisfied and successful alums and intellectually stimulated faculty members. The breath of our course offerings is also attractive to prospective students. Some members of the Carleton faculty argue that the curriculum is fractured and has no core while others would assert that our distribution requirements and our dedication to liberal education both serve to hold our curriculum together.
Recommendation 2: Reassess and perhaps restructure the curricular organization of the College, including departments, interdisciplinary programs, majors, concentrations, area studies and special majors.
Viable and intellectually challenging interdisciplinary programs and concentrations are crucial to our academic program. Creating opportunities for interactions and collaborations for students and faculty that are sustainable has been a challenge with the departmentally based organization of Carleton. In the late 1990’s a report was issued from a subcommittee of the ECC, chaired by Professor Bev Nagel, examining the issues relevant to interdisciplinary programs at Carleton and alerting the community to the special needs of programs and the faculty who teach outside of a single department. Over the past several years, the Dean of the College has inherited the role of looking out for the needs of programs, concentrations, interdisciplinary programs, and special majors (particularly in terms of FTE and resource allocations) in the absence of other mechanisms set in place to serve this purpose. In the past year the FCPC has revisited this topic. In the upcoming years we will need to ensure financial support to endow resources for these programs. A revisiting of the ECC reports on interdisciplinary studies and an assessment of the needs and visions for our programs is recommended.
Recommendation 3: Rejuvenate the advising system, particularly for first-year students.
This continues to be a point of concern to many members of the Carleton community. A few experiments have been carried out in an attempt to rejuvenate the first-year advising system. For example, Associate Dean Elizabeth Ciner has attempted to assign first year students as advisees to faculty members who are teaching introductory courses or first year student seminars. This has had moderate success. The number of first year courses and the number of advising slots for first year students in a course taught by a given faculty member does not necessarily allow each first year student to have an advisor who will also be one of their professors in a fall term course. This is seen as an issue in “gridlock” at Carleton. Faculty are concerned about the advising system due to the implications with respect to faculty workload and administrators concerned with first year student advising are frustrated by the inability to impose curricular constraints on departments. We recommend that the ECC, FCPC and other interested members of the Carleton faculty take a fresh look at the first year student advising system to look for creative and innovative solutions. In addition a careful assesment by faculty of the merits of first year seminars is warranted.
Recommendation 4: Examine the senior year, paying particular attention to the senior integrative exercise and the transition out of Carleton.
The ECC/FCPC issued a report on the Senior Year at Carleton in 1999. One major policy change resulted. “The Senior Comprehensive Exercise” was moved out of the general college requirements, into the majors, such that departments had the capability to sculpt the comps experience to fit their discipline within the 72 credit limit for each major. Many people feel that this has been a change for the better and some departments have changed their comps process as a result of this policy change.
This ECC subcommittee also suggested more resources for the Career Center to help seniors, and changes to the advising system for seniors. Members of the Career Center feel that they have not had the luxury of additional staffing to focus on this item, however internally have allocated more time to programs and events for seniors. The Career Center recommends that the College look to the campaign to establish endowed funds to support internships for juniors (as paid stipends to facilitate Carleton students obtaining jobs in a variety of sectors and gaining skills that will enhance their employment opportunities).
A Final Recommendation by the Members of the 21st Century Committee:
Over the last few years, the discussion of issues that are fundamental to a liberal arts education have been the focus of several faculty initiatives. We recommend that we re-examine, reaffirm and in some cases, establish, our fundamental directives in support of the writing requirement, quantitative literacy and informational literacy.