School of Arts and Sciences

2013-14 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report

Meeting Dates

Sept. 13, Sept. 27, Oct. 25, Nov. 8, Nov. 22, Jan. 24, Feb. 28, March 14, April 11, April 25.

Members of the Committee

Susan Birren, Jennifer Cleary (spring 2014), Michael Coiner, Elizabeth Ferry, Laura Goldin, Lys Joseph, Adrianne Krstansky (fall 2013), Harry Mairson, Daniel Novak, Adriane Otopalik, Susan Parker, David Sherman, Shukai Zhang. Ex Officio: Lisa Boes, Kim Godsoe (fall 2014), Mark Hewitt, Elaine Wong.

Sections in This Report

Procedures for Conduct of UCC Meetings

The procedures for the conduct of UCC meetings were reviewed.

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Appointment of Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

Michael Coiner and Laura Goldin volunteered to serve on the joint UCC/COAS subcommittee to review Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.

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Report from the Review Committee on the Environmental Studies Program

The UCC discussed the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs’ review report of Environmental Studies and the program self-study.  ENVS began as a minor in 1996, and after many students petitioned for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors, was established as a major in 2007.   About 15-20 majors will graduate in spring of 2014.  The curriculum requires 13 courses for the major and six for the minor.  ENVS’s strengths include its interdisciplinary approach, strong faculty commitment, and the enthusiasm of students (who plan for a diversity of careers in environmental science, law and management), and innovative, pioneering field programs (Environmental Field Semester and Environmental Health and Justice), which exemplify community engagement.  Its curriculum relies heavily on adjunct instructors, and core faculty are stretched thin.  Students have suggested that the program would be enhanced by more laboratory environmental science courses (climate and atmospheric, ecology, conservation biology, earth sciences), perhaps eventually resulting in a B.S. option.  Would having more environmental science courses better prepare our students for post-graduate careers?  Yes, but they still do very well because their internship placements make up for the lack of courses.

The UCC approved the continuance of the ENVS program for a period of seven years, while also recommending that students be advised to enroll in more science courses, and that a renewable position in environmental science be seriously considered in the university’s hiring plans.  UCC members commended the program for its excellence. 

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Review of Justice Brandeis Semester Proposals

In September, the UCC reviewed and approved two new summer Justice Brandeis Semesters from the Business program: “Brand Marketing & Communications” proposed by Grace Zimmerman and “Real Estate Development & Investment” proposed by Ed Chazen.  The two proposals were presented by Amber Thacher, Program Manager for Brandeis-Led Study Programs, after prior approval from the Justice Brandeis Semester Committee. 

Later in the fall term, the UCC reviewed and approved six additional new summer Justice Brandeis Semesters, again presented by Amber Thacher.  The approved programs were “Exploring the Past, Impacting the Future--Archaeological Fieldschool” proposed by Donald Slater and Javier Urcid in Anthropology; “Voice, Web and Mobile Applications” proposed by Tim Hickey and Maria Meteer in Computer Science;  “Architectural Design Studies” proposed by Christopher Abrams in Fine Arts; “Health, Law, and Justice” proposed by Sarah Curi and Alice Noble in HSSP/Legal Studies; “Breaking Boundaries: Ethnographic Fieldwork in Education and Immigration” proposed by Kristen Lucken and Mitra Shavarini in Sociology; and “Civil Rights and Educational Equity in the U.S.” proposed by David Cunningham in Sociology.  The programs, which vary in length from eight weeks to ten weeks, all consist of three integrated experiential learning courses (12 credits), and have been approved by the Justice Brandeis Semester Selection Committee.  

The UCC completed its discussion of the “Understanding the American Jewish Community” proposal at two other meetings attended by Amber Thacher.  Committee members discussed the role of Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and Steinhardt Social Research Institute scholars in supporting the curriculum of this proposal, which would include courses on “The American Jewish Community,” “Social Scientific Research Methods for Studying Jewish Life,” and “Supervised Field Research.”  UCC members requested additional information about the proposed courses, including preliminary syllabi with reading lists, and later reviewed these syllabi along with documents prepared by UCC member Harry Mairson before discussing the role and contribution of Brandeis’ centers and institutes to the curriculum and mission of the university.  Committee members also discussed the field research projects and research questions that students would be able to pursue in their JBS coursework, before approving the “Understanding the American Jewish Community” proposal.

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Report on Previously Approved Fall and Summer 2014 Justice Brandeis Semesters

Three previously approved Justice Brandeis Semesters were also expected be offered in the summer or fall of 2014: “Food, Lifestyle and Health” and “American Democracy: Version 2.0” in the summer, and “Environmental Field Semester” in the fall, although the latter two were eventually postponed.

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Possible Agenda Topics for Future Meetings  

Future topics suggested by UCC members included review of particular components of Brandeis’s general education requirements, and discussion of a departmental review process.

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Proposed Changes to the Requirements for the Economics Major

Kathryn Graddy, the Chair of the Economics Department, presented a proposal to add MATH 10a to the requirements for the economics major.  Research into the practice of other schools indicates that 16 peer institutions also require calculus.  Intermediate theory courses required for the major (ECON 80a, “Microeconomic Theory,” ECON 82a, “Macroeconomic Theory,” ECON 83a, “Statistics for Economic Analysis”) as well as ECON 184b, “Econometrics,” and other upper-level electives all require calculus as a prerequisite, but the department realized several years ago that more than a few students were ignoring the prerequisite and enrolling in courses without the necessary calculus background, resulting in poor student grades and difficulties for instructors.  To combat this problem, the department began enforcing the prerequisite by checking students’ background after enrollment and automatically dropping those without calculus. 

Making calculus a requirement of the major will signal to students its importance to the curriculum and allow the Registrar’s office and the department to verify more easily who has completed the requirement.  For some students, the addition of MATH 10a will mean the addition of an 11th required course, though the new requirement simply makes an existing prerequisite more visible.  

The calculus requirement can be fulfilled by completing MATH 10a, an equivalent course, or a more advanced calculus course with a satisfactory grade, or through AP scores, or by passing a departmental placement exam, taken only once.  According to the Registrar’s office, 78% of majors have completed or pre-enrolled in calculus; some others have passed the test or submitted AP scores.  The proposal, which has support from the mathematics department, was approved by the UCC. 

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Total Number of Courses Required for Majors  

The committee discussed information prepared by the University Registrar’s office that lists the minimum course requirement for each major, based on the registrar’s auditing process, which takes into account courses that may be double-counted.  The number of courses required varies from nine to 17 for BA degrees (with nine being the mode), and from 14 to 20.5 for BS degrees.  There are three majors that don’t explicitly state a nine course minimum: these majors enable students through language proficiency, prior knowledge or exemption to complete only eight courses. 

Should the university establish a minimum requirement of nine courses for all majors?  Does mastery of a discipline require at least nine courses?  Should the number of courses be disregarded if a student demonstrates mastery of core competencies?  Are a smaller number of course requirements a way for departments worried about their number of majors to make it easier to complete the major?  Some departments are comfortable with having students double majors, and others less so.  The high number of courses required in some disciplines is caused by the need for students to complete many prerequisites before beginning their true core courses. 

Dean Birren was asked to consult with Department Chairs about establishing a minimum “floor,” which would require both UCC and Faculty Meeting approval.  The Registrar’s office was also asked to survey peer institutions to learn if they have established minimum and/or maximum numbers for major requirements.

At a subsequent meeting, Dean Birren reported that department chairs have no interest in establishing or enforcing a minimum number of courses required for each major; the UCC thus decided to take no further action on this topic. 

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Report on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

In November, Julia Moffit, the Academic Services IIM Coordinator, discussed the procedures and process for IIM approval and reported on the proposals of eight students who were approved for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.  The approved IIM proposals were: Victoria Aronson ’15, “Italian Studies”; Sophia Liliana Baez ‘15, “Italian Studies”; Charles Madison ‘15, “Musical Theater Writing”; Ryan Daniel Millis ‘15, “Communications Studies”; Aviva Paiste, Fall ‘14, “Sexuality and Visual Studies”; Alec Spivack ‘15, “Italian Studies”; and Michelle Wexler ‘15, “Social Justice Social Change.”

In April, Moffit presented the proposals of five more students who were approved for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors by the joint UCC/COAS subcommittee.  The approved majors were Ariana Casellas Lopes ’16, “Communication and Media Studies;” Alisa Feinswog ’16, “Global Hunger and Food Security;” Brittany Joyce ’15, “Italian Studies;” Rebecca Lantner ’16, “Applied Math and Data Science;” and Leah Staffin ’15, “Social Justice Studies.”

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Exception to the Study Abroad Foreign Language Requirement

J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean of Study Abroad, presented a proposed exception to the foreign language requirement for a new program in Film Studies at Hebrew University in Israel.  The Film, Television and Interactive Media program has asked that students be exempted from the foreign language requirement, which in this case is equivalent to Hebrew 10 and 20.  The new study abroad program, taught totally in English and enrolling only students from the United States, fills a “film production” gap in the FTIM curriculum, and is one of a handful of film programs offered abroad.  The Foreign Language Oversight Committee, after consultation, recommended that students be encouraged to complete the full requirement, but be allowed to petition to complete only one semester of Hebrew.  This recommendation honors the goal of assisting students to deepen their knowledge of the country and culture in which they will be studying.

The number of students studying in Israel has dropped over time from 40 to 6 in 2013-2014.  Although most of the programs at Hebrew University are taught in English, a five-week Hebrew session is offered at the beginning of classes and completed by the majority of students.  A motion to require all students who enroll in the Hebrew University Film Studies program to complete this five-week session as well as at least one semester of Hebrew was approved by the UCC.  An amendment waiving the two semester foreign language requirement and enabling students to petition to complete only one semester of language study for any study abroad program in a non-English speaking country for which English is the language of instruction failed.

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Brandeis-India Science Scholars Program

J. Scott Van Der Meid also provided an update on the Brandeis-India Scholars Program. In the spring of 2014, three junior science majors, all male, will be earning study abroad credit at the India Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India.   The Institute, established in 1909 as a graduate research institution and now home to several national research facilities, began its four-year undergraduate program in 2011.  Because of the rigorous curriculum, it is not the right fit for the average science student, but outstanding students majoring in biology, chemistry, physics, math, computer science, and HSSP are all encouraged to apply.  Applied science courses not offered at Brandeis will be taught in English by Indian faculty, and students will have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in their research projects, as well as participate in a non-credit extended orientation program enabling students to learn about the customs and culture of India.   In the summer of 2014, two or three IISc students will travel to Waltham to participate in summer research projects with Brandeis faculty.

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New Study Abroad Programs

In January, J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean of Study Abroad, presented two new study abroad programs to the UCC:  Minnesota Studies in International Development (through University of Minnesota)/International Development in India in Bangalore, India; and Rehearsing Change:  Empowering Locally, Educating Globally in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  These programs, which meet the criteria for new program approval (academic credentials, program duration and credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and peer institutional support), were granted provisional approval by the committee.

In April, Van Der Meid and Darren Gallant, Study Abroad Advisor, presented four new summer study abroad programs for the UCC’s provisional approval: Tufts in Talloires, Tufts University in Talloires, France; Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project (through UMASS – Amherst) in Murlo, Italy; Israel Summer Business Academy at Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel; and Tunisia-Zita Archaeology Field School in Jarvis, Tunisia.  The UCC provisionally approved all four programs, but requested that future offerings of the program in Tunisia, because its schedule in the fall of 2014 overlaps with the Brandeis fall academic calendar, require student applicants to consult with the study abroad office about the program schedule and to gain advance approval from Brandeis instructors if classes will be missed.

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Review of Proposed Ten Semester BA or BS/MAT Education Program

Marya Levenson, Professor of Education and Director of the Teacher Education Program, presented a proposal for a ten semester BA or BS/MAT Education program to commence as of 2014-15.  This program has been informally piloted with five students, and is designed solely for students who are ready to graduate with bachelor’s degrees after seven semesters.  Students will apply in their junior year, and once accepted, will join other MAT students in an intensive five-week three course summer program before their senior year.  They will then complete their undergraduate coursework in the fall of their senior year, and the remainder of the MAT program in the following spring and summer (including student teaching in the spring).

The new program will be especially attractive to prospective elementary school teachers, who need an MAT degree in order to be competitive for job placement. Many school districts prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree, and a master’s degree is required for professional status in New York.  The Brandeis MAT offers prospective teachers opportunities to develop a reflective stance on teaching and learning challenges in the classroom and to pursue teacher research projects to learn how to conduct educational research.  The regular MAT degree is completed in two summer and two academic year semesters; BA or BS/MAT students will be able to eliminate a fifth year at Brandeis, move more quickly into the workforce, and reduce tuition payments by one semester, thus reducing student debt.   All of last year’s graduating MAT students were placed, mostly in MA or NY, but also in California, DC, and Florida.

UCC members suggested ways (a brochure or handout, or a “fair”) in which the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and/or Academic Services could better inform students (perhaps as early as the sophomore year) about five year bachelor’s/master’s options before approving the proposal for the ten semester BA  or BS/MAT program. 

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Departmental Honors Participation

The UCC reviewed data from the University Registrar’s office, which provides information on the percentages of students completing departmental honors in 2002-2003, 2007-2008, and 2012-2013, in addition to the numbers of students enrolling in senior research “99” courses, sorted by major, in the spring of the same academic years.  These percentages do not indicate a consistent pattern of rising or falling numbers across all majors. 

UCC members suggested reasons why the percentages of students pursuing departmental honors may have declined in some majors.  In some departments, the standards have been toughened.  As more students study abroad, some may not know how to sequence their courses abroad while pursuing honors work, which may include writing a proposal by the end of the junior year.  Students may also be opting to complete a second major instead of an honors thesis.  In the sciences, because demand has risen, it’s harder to find research positions in labs.  Some departments are fairly passive about encouraging honors work, while others organize meetings for juniors who may be interested in applying for honors.  Do students most want the opportunity for intensive interaction with their faculty advisors and the experience of doing research, or do they mostly want to list “honors” on their resumes?

Committee members discussed ways of better informing students about the menu of options available to them as they plan their undergraduate studies at Brandeis, and about the advantages and disadvantages of each choice.  How should students think about completing a single major and an intensive research experience, in relation to double majors, double minors, or a five year BA/MA?   This information could be provided to UAH’s, advisors, students, and their parents, and certain options could be showcased in, for example, a thesis fair or undergraduate research panels, either division wide or departmentally based.  Could there also be incentives or rewards offered to thesis advisors (e.g., a cash award to the advisor of the “most outstanding thesis”)?  Could PhD students also mentor undergraduates pursuing honors work?  What options does the university most want to encourage?

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Education Studies and Teacher Education

The UCC discussed the Education program self-study and review report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs, before continuing the Education Studies major and minor and the Teacher Education program for a period of five years.  The Teacher Education program at Brandeis was initiated over 50 years ago; the Education Studies minor was created in 2003-04 and the major established in 2008-09.  Program strengths include the liberal arts approach, co-curricular programming, and passion and commitment of both students and faculty.  The review report recommended that program staffing needs be addressed by the administration and that program faculty continue to follow up on issues raised by students, while praising the program for its ambitious growth and contributions to the community, the state of Massachusetts, and the university’s social justice mission. 

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Social Justice and Social Policy

Committee members discussed the Social Justice and Social Policy review report and self-study.  The review report commended the program for establishing a new core introductory course to draw more students into the minor and for strengthening the internship requirement, while also noting students’ desires for a more cohesive sense of community, given the variance in their elective choices from amongst the large number of course options.  Before voting to continue the SJSP program and minor for a period of five years, UCC members suggested ways in which the program could encourage community building activities (e.g., charge the Undergraduate Departmental Representatives with this task, establish regular meetings of program faculty, invite minors to sit together or meet for pizza before or after a large public event, encourage faculty to ask students in their classes if they are enrolled in the SJSP or other interdepartmental programs so that they could form small groups  for project work, or share specific readings of interest).

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Proposal for a New Interdepartmental Program and Minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation

Cynthia Cohen, Director of Peacebuilding and the Arts and Senior Lecturer, Kathryn Graddy, Professor of Economics, and Thomas King, Associate Professor of English, presented a proposal for a new interdepartmental program and minor in “Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation.”  The minor is designed for undergraduates in the creative arts, humanities and social sciences who wish to understand how creativity and the arts can be used in service of social transformation.  It responds to student demand, as demonstrated by the number of Independent Interdisciplinary Majors in such topics as Visual Culture, or Theater and Social Justice.  Brandeis has the resources (Music Unites Us, Rose Art Museum, Peacebuilding and the Arts) to support the program, and the minor aligns well with the strategic plan, which discusses “…promoting the study of the arts as a means of social transformation,” while reaching out “to foster mutually enlightening exchanges with other disciplines sharing these goals.”

The requirements include a core course, “Introduction to Creativity, Arts, and Social Transformation,” that provides an overview of the field and its frameworks, in addition to one elective in each of the divisions of Creative Arts, Humanities and Social Science, and a fourth course/capstone requirement, which could be fulfilled by an internship, a directed study or special topics course, a creative project or paper in a co-curricular context, or a portfolio of work.  Students in the minor will be expected to engage in multifaceted inquiry and to demonstrate the ability to think critically about artistic and cultural interventions, link theory with creative practice, and develop increasing capacities to engage communities in creative processes that contribute to social, economic, environmental and restorative justice, and to the creative transformation of conflict, while minimizing risks of harm.  The program will be governed by faculty committee representing each of the three divisions, and will receive initial support from the Peacebuilding and the Arts staff.

Committee members asked about the number of elective courses that would be offered each year and about the range of social transformation issues that might be addressed by creative practices, before recommending ways to strengthen advising for the co-curricular capstone options (e.g., the program should announce application deadlines and acceptance procedures for both the portfolio and co-curricular options, and guidelines that explain expectations for these capstone experiences). To create a sense of community among minors, the committee also recommended group meetings for all students completing capstone experiences in a given year, and that students present their capstone experiences to the public.  Other suggestions included emphasizing that the core course should be taken as early as possible, preparing handouts about recommended pathways for new minors with specific interests, creating advising/reflection suggestions for faculty who are supervising capstone courses, and adding text describing creative and artistic approaches to social transformation to the rationale section.  After expressing strong support for the proposal, the UCC postponed action until the next iteration of the proposal could be shared with the committee.

At a following meeting, the UCC reviewed the revised draft of the proposal before approving a motion to establish the new minor and program in “Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation” for a period of five years beginning in 2014-2015.  This motion was then approved at two spring faculty meetings.

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Proposed Revisions to the Requirements of the Business Major

Edward Bayone, Chair of the Business Program, presented a proposal to revise the requirements for the Business major.  The Business program is now educating well over 400 students per year, if declared majors and minors are both counted.  About 80-85% of business majors have declared a second major. 

After assessing curricular needs, program faculty propose a new course requirement, “Operations Management,” that is a requirement in almost all other business programs.  To keep the total number of courses required for the major the same, the program also proposes to reduce the number of electives needed to complete the major from five to four.  The BUS 89 and 98 internship and independent study courses would be removed as options counting toward the major and minor, to direct students to the most consistently challenging coursework.  ECON 20a, “Introduction to Macroeconomics,” would be shifted from the category of “Business Administration” to “Business and Society,” where it will join other lower level economics electives, and BUS 1b would become a prerequisite to three courses required for the major (BUS 71, 152, and the new Operations Management course) to encourage students to enroll in BUS 1b earlier in their studies.  These changes were initiated after the program’s assessment committee evaluated how well the program was accomplishing its rigorous learning goals.   Currently declared majors will have the option of completing the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 requirements. 

The UCC approved the proposed revisions to the Business major and minor.                       

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Proposal for a Five-Year BA/MA Degree Program in Comparative Humanities

David Powelstock, Associate Professor of Russian Language and Literature and Chair of Comparative Humanities, presented a proposal for a five year BA/MA program in Comparative Humanities.  The MA in Comparative Humanities (MACH) requires one year of residency, and eight courses including the fall term COMH 201a “Proseminar,” the spring term COMH 201b “Graduate Seminar,” the COMH 301b “Capstone Project” course, and five 100 level courses representing at least two disciplines and/or cultures.  The degree is targeted at students who want to expand their comparative humanities knowledge across disciplines or subject matters while earning an MA, perhaps in anticipation of application to a PhD program. The five year BA/MA program would enable students, after applying in their junior or senior year, to begin participating in the MACH community in their senior year, transfer two courses completed as an undergraduate, and more likely finish the program at the end of five years (some students in one year MA programs do not complete all of their coursework until the second year).

The five year BA/MA, while providing no financial savings, is designed to attract Brandeis undergraduates, especially those who discover the humanities later in their academic careers, and thus increase the MACH applicant pool.  After approving the proposal for the BA/MA in Comparative Humanities, the UCC requested that the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences regularly review all four and five year BA/MA programs as part of their ongoing review of MA programs.

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Proposed Name Change and Revision to the Requirements of the Major in Women’s and Gender Studies

Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), and Shannon Hunt, Program Administrator for WGS, presented a proposal to change the name of the program to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and to revise the requirements for the major by requiring that one of the seven electives include a focus on sexuality, in order to reflect the changed program name and better include and integrate sexuality into the curriculum.  Students would thus have three required foci for their electives – one course with a historical focus, one with a cross-cultural focus and one that includes sustained attention to sexuality, taken as three separate classes with no double counting.  The title and description of the two core courses, WMGS 5a and WMGS 105b, would also be slightly revised.  These changes have been approved by all 15 WGS core faculty members, after benchmarking the names of other programs across the nation, and reflect the evolving teaching interests of the faculty.  The UCC approved the proposed name change and revision to the curriculum.

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Proposed Revision to the Composition Track of the Music Major

Professor David Rakowski, Walter W. Naumburg Professor of Composition, presented a proposal to revise the requirements for the composition track of the music major by requiring MUS 106a, “Undergraduate Composition,” and reducing the number of electives from three to two, thus maintaining the total number of courses required for this music track.  MUS 106a had previously been listed as an elective, because it was not offered every year, but the department is now committed to annually offering this course.  The music major has six tracks, most of which require four semesters of music theory, four semesters of accompanying two-credit music labs, and three semesters of music history.  Composition is now the largest track, with 12 students enrolled, and the required MUS 106a course will help create a sense of community for students enrolled in the track. The UCC approved the proposed changes to the composition track.
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Proposed Revisions to the Theater Arts Curriculum

The UCC approved proposed revisions to the Theater Arts major and minor, presented by Susan Dibble, Chair, and Alicia Hyland, Academic Administrator of Theater Arts.  The minor was revised by requiring that students take a second foundational course in literature, THA 11a, “Text and Theory I,” or THA 11b, “Text and Theory II,” and by reducing the number of electives from five to four courses to maintain a total number of six required courses.  In addition, only one cross-listed or study abroad course will be allowed to count toward the minor.  

The major was amended by requiring students to complete, in addition to the four credit THA 190, “Ensemble Production” practicum course, either two semesters of THA 30a, “Theater Practicum,” a two-credit lab course in production support, or one semester of THA 30a and one two-credit practicum course in an area of interest, such as stage management, acting, directing, design, dance, or dramaturgy (THA 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48).   In addition, more course options were added to the “Exploration” section of the major:  the “Literature, History and Theory” requirement added two course options (THA 123a and 155a), and “Design/Production” added six course options (THA 101a, 125b, 135b, 154b, 164a, 177b) and eliminated a course no longer offered  (THA 80a).

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