School of Arts and Sciences

2016-17 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report

Meeting Dates

Sept. 16, Oct. 14, Nov. 11, Jan. 20, March 3, March 17, March 24, March 31, April 21, May 5, May 17.

Members of the Committee

Ulka Anjaria, Susan Birren, Matthew Fraleigh (Spring 2017), Peter Kalb, Kristen Mascall, Nidhiya Menon, Paul Miller, Ari Ofengenden (Fall 2016), Michael Strand, Matthew Chernick, Jacob Edelman, Niranjana Warrier, Mona (Zimo) Yang. Ex Officio: Erika Smith, Elaine Wong, Mark Hewitt.

Sections in This Report

2016-17 Agenda Items

At its first meeting of the year, the UCC reviewed possible 2016-2017 agenda items, which included recommendations from the Task Force on General Education; reports from the Standing Committees on Interdepartmental Programs on Business, Comparative Literature and Culture, Italian Studies, Legal Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies; approval of new study abroad programs; reports on approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors; review of Justice Brandeis Semester proposals; and other topics to be suggested by committee members and/or faculty, students, and staff.

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Procedures for Conduct of UCC Meetings

Committee members reviewed procedures for the conduct of UCC meetings.

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Appointment of Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

Kristen Mascall and Nidhiya Menon volunteered to serve on the Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.

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Review of Justice Brandeis Semester Proposal: Psychology Research into School Bullying

Phil Dolan, Associate Director of Summer School and JBS, and Yoona Lee, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, presented a Justice Brandeis Semester proposal on the topic of Psychology Research into School Bullying, which Lee proposed to teach in the summer of 2017. This ten-week, 12-credit JBS consists of two existing psychology courses: PSYC 51a "Statistics" and PSYC 52a "Research Methods and Laboratory in Psychology" and a new course on "School Bullying and Psychology: Issues in Methods, Morality, and Intervention." Statistics is a prerequisite for Research Methods, so this program enables psychology majors to complete two core requirements, and a third course that will double count toward the Advanced Seminar and Advanced Research Intensive Seminar requirements for the major. 

The proposal was approved, though a sufficient number of students did not enroll in summer ’17.  UCC members asked if the School Bullying course might also discuss bullying at the college level and its effects on college age youth. Application questions related to bullying might assist the instructor in learning about students’ backgrounds before the program begins.  The committee also suggested revisions to such terminology as "defending the weak" and the "power" of bullies, and asked to ensure that final projects in the later weeks of the program and courses were well-sequenced and coordinated. The Education program could also be consulted regarding the Bullying course's relevance to Education students.

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Report on Previously Approved Summer 2017 Justice Brandeis Semester Proposals

In the summer of 2017, four previously approved JBS programs, which have been successfully offered in past summers, will also be offered: Bio-Inspired Design to be taught by Maria Miara; Emerging Powers and the New World Order: Identities, Politics, and Culture of Globalization 2.0 to be taught by Chandler Rosenberger, Harleen Singh and Pu Wang; Health, Law and Justice to be taught by Sarah Curi and Alice Noble; and Voice, Web, and Mobile Applications to be taught by Tim Hickey and Maria Meteer. (The Dean’s Office was later notified that Emerging Powers would no longer be offered in 2017.)

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Change in the Title of the Sculpture Minor

Tory Fair, Associate Professor of Sculpture, presented a proposed change in the title of the Sculpture minor. The new title, “Sculpture and Digital Media,” would make it clearer to students across campus that digital media courses are part of the sculpture curriculum, and that the minor embraces video, photography and installation art as an essential component of contemporary practice, while recognizing that students will document their work through digital media.  Other titles that were considered included “Sculpture and Extended or Integrated Media.”   UCC members asked which courses required for the minor actually include digital media. FA 4a/b, 6a, FA 10a, and 23b are some of the courses which utilize the 3-D Makers Lab and computer aided design.  The term “digital media” may mean different things to different departments. Fair was asked to inform the FTIM program about the change in title, which the UCC approved.

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Report on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

In November, Katy McLaughlin, Coordinator of the Independent Interdisciplinary Majors (IIMs) program, discussed procedures for IIM approval and reported on proposals from seven undergraduates approved for IIMs by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.  The approved proposals were: Emily Ahr ‘17, “Communication, Media, and Society;” Jordin Carter ‘18, “Health and Human Performance Studies;” Rachel Geller ‘18, “Conflict Studies and Reconciliation;” Rachel Kurland ‘18, “Psychology and Social Anthropology;” Yael Matlow ‘18, “Communication, Media, and Society;” Val Salvador ‘17, “Italian Studies;” and Zach Schwartz ‘18, “Italian Studies.”

In May, McLaughlin reported on six other Independent Interdisciplinary Majors approved by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on IIMs. The approved proposals were: David Heaton ‘18, “Brain and Cognitive Science;” Melina Gross ‘19, “Applied Behavioral Neuroscience;” Gabrielle Tucker ‘19, “Communication Studies;” Maxwell Byer ‘19, “Politics, Philosophy, and Economics;” Justus Davis ‘19, “Digital Art and Culture;” and Maria Alegria ‘19, “Italian Studies.” The UCC also discussed steps that might be taken to ensure that primary faculty advisors understand their responsibilities.

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Proposal of the Task Force on General Education

At ten meetings throughout the academic year, the UCC discussed the Task Force on General Education proposal and its process for implementation.  Dean Birren provided background on the activities and procedures of the Task Force, which began working in May of 2016 to review the curricula of peer institutions; gather opinions and perspectives from faculty, staff, students, and alumni through online surveys; and identify the skills, knowledge and understandings the university wants its students and alumni to acquire.  A liberal arts education aims to prepare well-informed citizens for lifelong learning while also addressing workforce preparation issues.  Employers want to hire those who can think critically, write and communicate well, work in teams, demonstrate leadership skills, and analyze data and text. 

The Task Force planned to discuss its activities and preliminary proposals with the Committee for the Support of Teaching, Division Heads, departmental and interdepartmental program chairs, students and UDRs, curriculum oversight committees, and others by the end of the fall semester, and to organize additional public events and town halls for the wider Brandeis community at the beginning of the spring semester.

The fall framework of the proposal addresses five themes: Foundational Literacies (first year writing and quantitative reasoning as stand-alone requirements, plus writing intensive, oral communication and digital literacy requirements that might be fulfilled in the major); Schools of Thought (our current school distribution requirements); Health, Wellness and Life Skills (a redesign of the physical education requirement, that will now include Navigating Health and Safety [e.g., alcohol and drug education, sexual assault prevention, self-defense, CPR], Life Skills [e.g., financial literacy, career preparation and development, team building and/or negotiation skills, crisis management], Mind/Body Balance [e.g., yoga, stress reduction] and Physical Fitness [PE courses in module form]); 21st Century Changes and Challenges (one “common experience” course most likely offered in the first or second year, focusing on such topics as climate change/sustainability, health inequities, mass species extinction), and Global Citizenship (including Difference/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the US; Difference/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the World; and Foreign Languages and Cultures).   The Task Force will present a set of recommendations to the UCC in the spring of 2017, and the UCC’s version of the proposal will then be forwarded to faculty for votes at two faculty meetings, followed by Board of Trustees review. 

UCC members expressed support for the overall themes, and then asked how many courses counting toward the proposed requirements already exist and how many will need to be created? What innovative models at other institutions were reviewed?  Could learning about Jewish culture or other different cultures be added to the Health, Wellness and Life Skills options?  Are historical perspectives being emphasized, or is the emphasis on the contemporary?

The Task Force on General Education scheduled six open forums in mid- to late January for faculty, staff, and students, and also met with the Brandeis Board of Trustees and other shareholders during the fall.  Most of the discussion of the Dean and Task Force with the Board of Trustees focused on the language requirement and the title of Global Citizenship.

Meetings with the University Advisory Committee and the Integrated Planning and Budget Committee were also scheduled.

The existing framework for Brandeis’s general education requirements was instituted in the early 90’s, although some revisions have been approved since that time (e.g., elimination of required clusters, first year University Seminars, and optional writing labs, and the addition of an Oral Communications option, and new pass-fail options). 

Dean Birren provided background on other issues that the Task Force has been discussing: Will the logistics and model for 21st Century Challenges work for Brandeis students and faculty, or will a new model be suggested, or will this component be dropped?  The maximum number of courses required for Global Citizenship is now proposed to be five (with no student completing more than three language courses in satisfaction of the requirement), but is Global Citizenship the best title, or are alternative titles such as Global and Civic Engagement or Global Literacies and Engagement or Global Awareness or Understanding the World an improvement? Should the Schools of Thought course list be “curated” (that is, limited to some extent)? Progress has been made on defining the learning goals and means of satisfying the Writing-Intensive, Oral Communication and Digital Literacy requirements in the majors.

UCC members asked if the Task Force could determine how many science students exempt from the language requirement.  Some were concerned about the introduction of the new first requirement, 21st Century Challenges, and about its large class format and potential involvement of arts and humanities faculty.  The core features of this requirement are interdisciplinarity; a common, shared first year experience; and exploration of a complex problem.  Ideally the course would also introduce students to foundational literacies, historical perspectives, and critical thinking (e.g., ascertaining the authority of evidence, and the difference between fact and opinion). Should a shared sophomore experience be considered instead?

In March, the UCC welcomed David Powelstock and Derron Wallace from the Task Force on General Education before discussing two 21st Century Challenges models still under consideration. The alternative 21st CC model, created in response to community feedback, would have classes of different sizes, some taught by two or more instructors, with other smaller classes taught by a single instructor.   Still preserved would be the essentials of interdisciplinarity, first year experience and focus on a complex problem or theme (e.g., gender inequality or climate change/sustainability), selected a year in advance.  Two common experiences in the evening or common readings could also be mandated in syllabi, and each School would be asked to provide a certain number of seats, proportional to their faculty size, to ensure the involvement of arts, humanities and sciences.  

In the second theme-based model, could these courses eventually count toward majors? UCC members thought it would be easier to begin with the second model, and some favored it because it allows for smaller class sizes.  However, the original model enables faculty teams to propose topics, while in the alternative model, the 21st CC oversight committee would choose from among possible themes, and some elements of the shared experience are diminished. Has the second model been “costed out”?   Perhaps there might be a sufficient number of proposing teams for the original model to offer three complex problems per year, which could also reduce course size if each team continues to offer two sections, but the original model only works if there are faculty proposers.  In each model, students would rank their top choices, as they do for UWS, and be guaranteed their first or second choice.  

The UCC next reviewed the Schools of Thought Appendix text.  This program is the one which proposes the least amount of change from an existing program (school distribution).  Committee members endorsed the proposal that AP credit would no longer count toward satisfaction of the requirement, and agreed that while School Councils/Divisions would have the authority to review School course lists, the UCC would expect most current courses to count, with exceptions decided upon by each division.  

Regarding Foundational Literacies, Task Force members noted the goals of maintaining the current quantitative reasoning and first year writing requirements, while asking departments and programs to define the writing, oral communication and digital literacy skills needed by students in the context of their majors.  The Task Force is also planning new resource requests to hire and train practicum lecturers, post docs or graduate students to teach new OC and WI two-credit courses to be linked to courses in such high enrollment majors as Economics and Biology, which would otherwise not be able to support OC and WI requirements in their current courses.  Oversight committees will ensure that work load and skills gained are comparable across majors and divisions.  Many students will satisfy OC, WI, and DL requirements by completing required courses for the major, or for one of two double majors.  UCC members suggested edits to the OC and DL sections and to the “Proposed Legislation.”

A proposal that two WI courses substitute for UWS was also briefly discussed, but most WI courses are upper level courses not taken by first year students, and most institutions offer first year writing courses to establish foundational skills different from high school writing.   

At a subsequent meeting, David Powelstock from the Task Force on General Education joined the UCC in reviewing the Global Citizenship/Engagement appendix.  Committee members suggested several courses that could be added to both Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Studies in the US and Difference and Justice in the World (revised title) course lists.  The word “religious” was also added to learning goals for DEIS-US, and “Options a, b, and c” were clarified in the grid at the end of the document.  

Wording for Proposed Legislation was also clarified, typos corrected, and the order of presentation in “B. Academic Structure” revised to match the order of “A. Requirements.”  

Faculty members also discussed curricular topics that could be added to Global Citizenship/Engagement courses in order to ensure that the requirement achieves its highest aims.  Should the requirement be based on what we ideally would like to offer, or on what we are now able to provide?   How might new courses be added to the overall general education curriculum?  What incentives (course development funds or course replacements) might be provided to current faculty, who often lack the time to teach new courses due to other curricular demands on their time? 

At the end of March, updates to the Task Force on General Education proposal, including a change in the title of Global Citizenship to Global Engagement, were shared with the UCC.  Dean Birren also discussed the likelihood that the UCC approved proposal will now first be presented at a faculty meeting in May or in the fall.  

The Health, Wellness and Life Skills requirement is evolving into a structure consisting of modules (six to seven week non-credit courses for which students would enroll).  Task Force members have met with stakeholders (staff from the library, Hiatt Career Center, the Brandeis Counseling Center, Academic Services, etc.) who will likely create new modules for Navigating Health and Safety, Life Skills, and Mind and Body Balance  which now includes Physical Fitness courses.   Exemptions for varsity athletes and military service may be reduced to one module, and Dean Birren was asked to check with Sheryl Sousa to learn if this would create a perceived burden for varsity athletes.   

Two different models of the 21st Century Challenges requirement (the original model and another version of team-taught classes with 35 students each) are no longer being considered, but a First Year Experience which links the first year writing requirement to lectures or other events which all first year students would be required to attend is being explored.  These shared first year events would focus on a selected theme or topic selected by faculty members, and students might be required to write reflections, summaries, or other assignments related to the events.  UWS is already a sort of collective experience, and this new emphasis could elevate the importance of the first year writing course, and model attendance of lectures as part of the Brandeis intellectual experience.  Students in grouped UWS courses might also be brought back together in the sophomore or senior years to consider the same theme or topic in workshops or meetings about related volunteer or professional opportunities.

In April, Dean Birren noted that the Task Force was making progress in defining the First Year Experience, and further refining the Health, Wellness and Life Skills requirement.   In early May, The UCC reviewed and approved the Task Force on General Education’s appendix for Health, Wellness and Life Skills, which now requires non-credit modules in three areas, two (Navigating Health and Safety and Mind and Body Balance) of which are required and one of which can be completed in either of these two areas or in Life Skills options.  The committee also reviewed and approved the appendix for the Brandeis First Year Experience, which replaces an earlier proposal for a first year requirement in 21st Century Challenges.  This new shared experience focuses on enhancements to the University Writing Seminar, and includes required experiential learning components, and attendance of at least one “Critical Conversation” between Brandeis faculty from different disciplines who will demonstrate building persuasive arguments and use of evidence.  UCC members suggested that the conversations not be referred to as debates, and asked how and when the topics and faculty will be selected.  Faculty will be invited to propose topics and conversation partners to the oversight committee at least a year in advance. 

Later in May, the UCC reviewed and revised the Task Force’s “Proposed Legislation,” suggesting several changes to clarify the text. The committee also discussed whether or not it preferred to vote on the legislation at this meeting.   Because the committee believes it has a thorough understanding of the proposal, it decided to formally vote at this meeting.  The proposed legislation, which will be a UCC motion at an October faculty meeting, was unanimously approved.  

Task Force members also provided notes on typos and clarifications for the Task Force Proposal.  Other matters discussed were:  How will Writing Intensive, Oral Communication and Digital Literacy requirements satisfied in the majors be tracked by the registrar’s office?  What will be the role of the oversight committees for WI, OC, and DL?  Could these committees be charged by the Dean of Arts and Sciences to consult with one another in setting standards for requirements satisfied in the majors?  By what date should the UCC begin consulting with oversight committees about data collection and assessment of learning outcomes?  

Two elected faculty members will return to the UCC in the fall of 2017, and one appointed faculty member is willing to accept a second year of appointment in 2017-18.  These three returning members volunteered to lead new incoming UCC members through the 2016-17 UCC’s thinking about the Task Force proposal during fall meetings.  The 2017-18 UCC may choose to confirm or vote again on the proposed legislation.  

The Task Force was thanked for the huge amount of effort that is evidenced by the proposal, appendices and related materials.

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Discussion about the Study Abroad Course Load

In November, Kim Godsoe from the Office of the Provost and J. Scott Van Der Meid from Study Abroad consulted with the UCC about students who wish to drop below 16 course credits (that is, the standard four course study abroad course load) without a medical petition. Students who are studying abroad are required to enroll in the equivalent of four courses per semester; they are not allowed to enroll in the equivalent of 12, 20, or other credit variations. In the last five years, about 10 students have petitioned to drop below 16 credits for medical reasons, but recently students have asked to drop to 12 or even 8 credits, for a variety of reasons including disappointment with course quality and/or less than full engagement in their coursework.  When students fail a course while abroad, it appears on their transcript as “no credit.”  Students are allowed to enroll in as few as 12 credits while at Brandeis, but must still enroll in the equivalent of seven courses in an academic year in order to meet rate of work standards.   Many students take study abroad seriously, but the rigor of programs varies.  UCC members asked if it mattered to host institutions if students drop below the normal course load.  Some programs do not allow drops for legal reasons related to visa status; most of our peer institutions require students to maintain a four course load.   

While not a binding vote or a policy change, five UCC members supported maintaining the 16 credit standard while three favored more flexibility.

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Approval of New Study Abroad Programs

In January, the UCC granted provisional approval to five new study abroad programs presented by J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean of Study Abroad, and Darren Gallant, Assistant Director of Study Abroad.   All of the following programs meet established criteria: American Councils (ACTR) – Business Russian Language and Internship in Moscow, Russia; Arcadia University – London Internship Program in London, United Kingdom; CET Academic Programs – Jordan: Intensive Language and Internship in Amman, Jordan; CET Academic Programs – Vietnam: Development, Public Health, Environment in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and pending HSSP approval, Alliance for Global Education – India: Global and Public Health in Manipal, India.

In March, the UCC granted provisional approval to three other study abroad programs presented by Van Der Meid and Alisha Cardwell, Study Abroad Advisor. These programs included a one course summer program offered by the Temple Siena Biomedical Research Program at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine in Siena, Italy; and two semester-long programs, IES Abroad-Psychology and Sciences Vrije Universiteit, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and SIT Abroad-Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East, in Amman, Jordan.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Legal Studies

UCC members discussed the review report and self-study of the Legal Studies program, before continuing the program for a period of five years. The review committee praised Legal Studies’ interdisciplinary, liberal arts orientation; its strong course enrollments, the talent and dedication of its staff and director, Richard Gaskins; the innovative Brandeis in The Hague program; and student and faculty enthusiasm for the LGLS capstone experience (usually an internship).  The review report also noted student requests for additional help in acquiring “private internships” and for new arrangements to shadow legal professionals in The Hague program, and asked the dean to address LGLS staffing issues, including LGLS participation in related faculty searches.  Consideration of a Legal Studies major was also recommended.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Business

After reviewing the Business self-study and review report, the UCC continued the interdepartmental program in Business, offered through a collaboration with the International Business School, for five more years.  The review report noted that most Business majors complete a second major, frequently in Economics, but did not advise that the program now require an additional major.  The report also commented favorably on the Business faculty’s esprit de corps, the students’ enthusiasm for their studies, the program’s commitment to teaching business “as a social science,” its cultivation of critical thinking, communication skills and ethical dispositions central to liberal learning, and the Chair’s leadership in assessing learning outcomes.  Strained resources limit the number of sections and electives offered, and demand for the program has exceeded expectations, so that standards for admission to the major continue to rise.  Business students and faculty believe that the program would be strengthened by increasing opportunities for specialization and experiential learning.  The review committee recommended that the program provide students with a three year plan of course offerings to assist them in planning their course schedules.

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Proposed Revisions to East Asian Studies Major Elective Requirements

The UCC approved revisions to the elective courses required for the East Asian Studies (EAS) major, which were presented to the committee by Gary Jefferson, Chair of EAS.  The major will now require one course from each of three areas: creative arts, humanities, and contemporary East Asian social science courses (from politics, history, economics and anthropology).  UCC members asked that the complete list of courses satisfying the last category be included in the Bulletin, and suggested improved Bulletin wording.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Committee members discussed the Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MERS) review report and self-study before continuing the program for another five years.  MERS is a small niche program which enrolls focused, intellectually ambitious students, some of whom are interested in pursuing graduate study in associated fields.   The review report noted the commitment of faculty and students to the program, which offers a coherent curriculum related to European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cultures during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Matters to be addressed in the future include administrative support, the possibility of offering a team-taught course, and more frequent faculty-student extra-curricular activities and social events to build community and involve non-minors interested in the historical periods.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies

The UCC considered the review report and self-study of the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies (PAX) program, which enrolls large numbers of students in its core course, but small numbers in the minor.  Committee members discussed the strong student and alumni support for PAX, the program’s attempted collaborations and similarities and differences with the programs in Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP) and Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST), and possible linkages to the Heller School and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.   The PAX program was continued for a five year period, but the dean’s office was asked to inform the program chair of the committee’s concerns about the long term projection and future of the program, and program leadership dependent on a single individual. The UCC also encouraged PAX, SJSP and CAST conversations with one another, and one member of the UCC raised the possibility of creating a major with practical, policy and creative engagement tracks.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Comparative Literature and Culture

After reviewing the COML self-study and Standing Committee report, the UCC approved continuation of the interdepartmental program in Comparative Literature and Culture for a period of five years. The review report noted that the program had been stabilized since the UCC’s 2012 review through consistent leadership and successful revision of the core course, COML 100a, which is now less Eurocentric. While the overall number of majors and minors is still small, COML students are appreciative of the program. The UCC discussed the advisability of numbering some COML courses below 100 to be less intimidating to undergraduates, and of utilizing dual course abbreviations (e.g., COML/ENG) and cross-listing with larger majors such as IGS and ENG as ways of attracting more students to enroll in COML courses. The Office of the Registrar was asked to ascertain how many graduate students enroll in COML courses, as this is the main rationale for numbering courses at the 100 level.

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Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Italian Studies

The UCC approved the program in Italian Studies for five years after discussing the self-study and review report.  More than 20 students enrolled in the minor, independent interdisciplinary major, or Italian language courses attended meetings with the review team and passionately praised Italian language faculty, their outstanding teaching and commitment to students, and the strength of the program. The review report recommended additional teaching resources for the program, and also asked for recognition of Paola Servino’s classroom and programming innovations.  

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