2014-15 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report
Sept. 19, Oct. 10, Oc. 31, Nov. 7, Nov. 21, Jan. 23, Feb. 6, Feb. 27, March 13, March 27 and April 17.
Members of the Committee
Susan Birren, Cameron Anderson, Michael Coiner, Elizabeth Ferry, Timothy Hickey, Albion Lawrence, Helen Lee, James Mandrell, Kathy Nguyen, Daniel Novak (Spring 2015), Adriane Otopalik, Sabine von Mering, Shukai Zhang (Fall 2014). Ex Officio: Lisa Boes, Mark Hewitt, Elaine Wong.
Sections in This Report
- Possible 2014-2015 Agenda Items
- Procedures for Conduct of UCC Meetings
- Appointment of Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors
- Proposed Summer Study Abroad Program: Brandeis in Siena
- Approved New and Semester Study Abroad Programs
- Proposed Guidelines for Departmental Honors in Theater Arts
- Report on Previously Approved Summer and Fall 2015 Justice Brandeis Semesters
- Review of Justice Brandeis Semester Proposals
- Undergraduate Writing Skills and Programs
- Proposed Extension of Graduate and Professional School (GPS) Pilot Courses for Undergraduates
- Proposal to Amend the EL 94 Practicum Guidelines
- Report on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors (IIMs)
- Report from Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS)
- Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Journalism
- Proposed CR/NC Grading for THA 42a-48a Practicum Courses
- Proposed Architectural Studies Major and Minor
- Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Language and Linguistics
- Proposed Curricular Changes to the Education Studies Major
- Proposed Revision of BS Requirements in the Health: Science, Society and Policy Major
- Proposed Curricular Changes to the NEJS Major
- Proposed Curricular Changes to the Politics Major
- Proposal to Clarify Peer Assistant Roles in EL Practicum Courses
- Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: International and Global Studies (IGS)
Possible 2014-2015 Agenda Items
Among the topics that the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee was expected to consider at the beginning of the academic year were reports from the Standing Committees on Interdepartmental Programs on International and Global Studies, Journalism, Latin American and Latino Studies, and Language and Linguistics; reports on approved Independent Interdisciplinary majors; approval of new study abroad programs; review of Justice Brandeis Semester proposals; and a proposed Fine Arts Track in Architectural Studies. Committee members raised the possibility of discussing technology in teaching, undergraduate writing skills, and first year seminars, perhaps in relation to first year advising.
The UCC reviewed procedures for the conduct of its meetings. The committee was willing to experiment with video-conference participation, but planned to discuss possible guidelines only after a first experiment.
Cameron Anderson and Jim Mandrell volunteered to serve on the joint UCC/COAS subcommittee to review Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.
Joseph Wardwell, Assistant Professor of Painting; Candace Matta, Assistant Director, Brandeis-Led Study Programs; and J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean and Director of Study Abroad, presented a proposal for a new faculty-led summer study abroad program in Siena. This program consists of two courses (FA 28a, “Painting Siena,” which has a Fine Arts studio course prerequisite, and FA 45b, “Art of the Early Renaissance in Italy”) taught in English in a five week intensive, culturally immersive, experiential learning environment. Study abroad services (a two to three day orientation, student support, and apartments) would be provided by the Siena Art Institute/Siena School of the Liberal Arts, which Brandeis has partnered with for over a decade. The orientation would include both academic and student service focused sessions, basic Italian language lessons and discussions on health/safety and cultural adjustment topics oriented to the city. A Brandeis professor will teach one course each summer and an instructor from the Siena Art Institute/School of the Arts will teach the other course, with several Brandeis faculty in rotation teaching either the studio or art history course every other year. Incorporated into the curriculum of both courses will be academic field trips to Florence and San Gimignano, as well as many visits to explore the unique cultural and artistic contributions of the medieval city of Siena, Italy. Students will study and practice both traditional and contemporary painting techniques.
Designed for 10-15 students, the program will be useful to studio art and art history majors who will be able to satisfy requirements (an intermediate studio or art history distribution course) not usually offered in Brandeis summer school. Students majoring in other fields could satisfy the creative arts school distribution requirement. There hasn’t been a studio option in Europe for two years, and the studio art major has one of the lowest participation rates in study abroad. The program’s focus on Renaissance art complements the department’s greater focus on modern and contemporary art.
Even though this program concentrates on art, not Italian Studies, UCC members expressed their strong interest in ensuring that students are as fully immersed in Italian culture as possible. There are no language requirements or pre-requisites for summer study abroad programs, but Siena students would be encouraged to take Italian before enrolling in the summer program and to continue Italian once they return to Brandeis. Why not offer a language course? In the second or third summer of the program, a language course might be offered as an option to the art history or studio art courses. Why not offer a two-credit cultural understanding or “Italy Today” course?
Committee members approved the Brandeis in Siena program for a period of three years, but asked that a program report be shared in writing and in person at a fall 2015 UCC meeting. The UCC also recommended that on campus spring orientation meetings be required for Brandeis students accepted into the program, and emphasized the importance of carefully designed cultural adjustment programs throughout the weeks in Italy and before.
In October, J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean and Director of Study Abroad, presented a new study abroad program, National University of Singapore in Singapore, as a proposed exchange partner. This program, which meets the criteria for new program approval (academic credentials, program duration and credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and peer institutional support), was granted provisional approval by the committee.
In February, Van Der Meid presented three other new programs for the provisional approval of the UCC: Advanced Studies in England in Bath, England; CET/ Brazilian Studies and Portuguese Language (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo) in São Paulo, Brazil; and IES/Galápagos Islands Direct Enrollment (Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences [GAIAS]) in Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. These programs, which also meet the criteria for new program approval, were granted provisional approval by the committee.
Later in February, Van Der Meid and Darren Gallant, Study Abroad Advisor, presented two proposals for summer study abroad, and one additional proposal for semester term study abroad, all of which also meet the previously established criteria for summer or term approval. The UCC granted provisional approval to the summer programs of Arcadia University STEM Summer Research Program at Royal Veterinary College in London, UK and Arcadia University STEM Summer Research Program at University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. In addition, the CET Chinese Studies and Internship (Donghua University) in Shanghai, China was approved.
In the fall, Adrianne Krstansky, Chair of Theater Arts; Alicia Hyland, Theater Arts Academic Administrator; and Jennifer Cleary, Senior Lecturer, presented a proposal for new Theater Arts departmental honors guidelines, which would now require a senior thesis and defense and a 3.50 GPA within the major. The department has begun a complete review of its undergraduate curriculum with the goal of increasing rigor, as requested by THA majors. Currently, honors are awarded by the faculty based on GPA within the major, academic work, performance/design work, participation in experiential classes, and quality of senior thesis/projects, but there are no formalized guidelines. The proposed changes will be more equitable and consistent, and will also explicitly state that participation in productions and the senior thesis festival will no longer factor into honors decisions, as such participation is not available to all majors.
UCC members asked how the level of honors might be determined and explained in advance to honors candidates, and about senior thesis festival application/participation before unanimously approving the proposed changes to Theater Arts departmental honors, effective for the graduating class of 2016.
Kim Godsoe, Assistant Provost and member of the Justice Brandeis Semester Committee, and Candace Matta, Assistant Director of Brandeis-Led Study Programs, reported that five previously approved Justice Brandeis Semesters would be offered in 2015. “Brand Marketing and Communications,” “Voice, Web and Mobile Applications,” “Food, Lifestyle and Health,” and “Health, Law and Justice” will be offered in the summer of 2015, and “Environmental Health and Justice” will be offered in the fall of 2015.
In late October, Godsoe and Matta also presented four new Justice Brandeis Semester proposals for UCC review. The following three programs were approved for summer 2015: “Bio-Inspired Design,” a ten-week program proposed by Maria Miara in the Biology department; “Storytelling as Social Practice,” a nine-week program proposed by David Sherman in the English department; and “Social Movements and Web Development,” a nine-week program proposed by Tim Hickey in the Computer Science department and Dan Kryder in the Politics department.
A decision on “Creative Leadership, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship,” an eight-week program proposed by Jesse Hinson, Alex Jacobs and Robert Walsh in the Theater Arts department was postponed, so that aspects of the proposal could be clarified. UCC members asked for case studies or examples of the entrepreneurial projects that students might pursue in the new Entrepreneurship Lab course, more information on how the three courses are integrated to further such themes as leadership and entrepreneurship, and that the Entrepreneurship course be further framed and explained. Will the lab projects be organized in teams, and will leaders from the non-profit world be invited to visit with students? A new JBS title (e.g. “Creativity, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship”) might also be considered.
At a later meeting Candace Matta presented a revision of the Theater Arts proposal from Walsh, Hinson, and Jacobs, which was retitled “Communication and the Business of Show Business” and refocused on interpersonal communication, as applied in theater and arts companies/organizations. After suggesting ways in which the program description could be even more focused by eliminating several references to leadership and placing a greater emphasis on transferable skills, the UCC approved the proposed summer 2015 JBS in “Communication and the Business of Show Business.”
The UCC began a yearlong discussion of undergraduate writing skills and programs by first reviewing Brandeis writing requirements. Brandeis requires every student to complete a University Writing Seminar (UWS), taught in classes of up to 18 first-year students by graduate students or recent PhD recipients. Students are placed in either UWS or Composition through a required online placement test. All UWS courses include three writing assignments (close reading essay, lens essay and research paper). All undergraduates also complete a Writing-Intensive (WI) course, which must include instruction, revision, and frequent writing, and either one other WI course or a course in Oral Communication. Faculty often complain that students do not write at a uniformly excellent level. Why don’t all students write well? Writing reflects comprehension, and writers need to read a lot in order to write well. To improve, writers must practice writing and be held to a high standard. If faculty do not assign writing or provide comments on writing assignments, students will not improve. Faculty sometimes fear that paying attention to writing results in becoming known as a hard grader, which keeps students from enrolling in their classes.
Professors don’t all see teaching writing as their responsibility, and many note that they are not trained to teach writing even if they are very good writers in their disciplines. Some professors believe that students improve primarily through constant writing. Others believe that revision is the key to improvement. Faculty report being asked: do you expect my paper to be grammatically correct and punctuated correctly? Many students have little familiarity with English grammar. Some instructors utilize undergraduate peer review, but not all peers are able and/or willing to give useful feedback, particularly if English is not their native language. Peers (and faculty) are not sure how much grammar to correct. Some disciplines (e.g., economics and computer science) may not assign much writing in their courses, although computer science is considering a capstone writing project, which would be a narrative of a major’s life as a computer scientist.
UCC members asked: Where is writing being taught, and who is teaching it? Perhaps writing assignments do not permeate all classes at Brandeis. Is there a collective agreement about what constitutes good writing? Is asking students to write memos instead of papers a good or bad practice? Are faculty requiring less writing or shorter writing assignments in their courses, in comparison to ten or twenty years ago? Are some Brandeis students writing less than 100 pages during their undergraduate studies? Is the Writing Center used primarily to receive an extension on a paper or by international students, or is it more helpful than UWS or WI courses? How can the university work with faculty to integrate writing in more classes, and encourage more faculty to take responsibility for improving students’ writing skills?
All UCC members were asked to rank possible action steps, which included: invite faculty from our largest majors to a UCC meeting to discuss their approaches and perspectives about the teaching of writing (including how much writing is assigned in courses for the major); invite Director of University Writing Dawn Skorczewski to a UCC meeting; survey departments to learn more about their approaches to the teaching of writing and opinions about the writing skills of Brandeis students; survey all faculty to learn more about their writing assignments, now in comparison to ten to 15 years ago, their suggestions for improving writing skills, and how responsible they feel for improving writing skills; survey students to learn more about their writing experiences, and their suggestions regarding the most effective ways to improve their writing skills; require every major/minor to offer Writing- Intensive courses; require every major to require a capstone writing course; and redefine the guidelines for approval of a Writing-Intensive course.
At a later meeting, UCC members reviewed questions that might be asked of all faculty, undergraduates, and departments in three separate online surveys. After deciding that a survey of departments might not be necessary, UCC members revised draft surveys for faculty and students regarding perceptions of undergraduate writing skills and ways to improve these skills. Second drafts of these surveys were reviewed before their distribution to faculty and students.
In November, the committee discussed survey responses completed by about 750 students and 200 faculty. Undergraduates shared that practicing, revising, consulting with professors, and reading are all helpful in developing their writing skills. Seniors report a higher total number of writing pages assigned in their courses than do first years, but over 50% of all respondents report writing 10 or less pages in their average class. A higher percentage of seniors (87%) feel that their writing skills have improved in comparison with first years (74%), who had been at Brandeis only two months when they completed the survey. Faculty in the humanities reported assigning a higher number of writing pages (83% assign 11 or more pages per course) than do faculty in the social sciences, sciences or creative arts, and also report providing more classroom instruction and opportunities to revise papers than do other faculty.
Some students told of receiving A’s on papers they didn’t feel deserved such high grades. Others suggested that UWS courses should be specifically designed for different levels of writing ability. Students wanted more opportunities to write in their own majors, and noted that their writing improves when they write about topics of interest to them. Some students advised that UWS should be eliminated and more Writing Intensive courses required. Faculty respondents said that the quality of student writing varies tremendously; some want less discrepancy between excellent and poor writers, more help for non-native English speakers, and a university wide agreement on what constitutes good writing.
Committee members discussed how more writing could be incorporated into science and creative arts courses. Can faculty use writing to teach the content necessary for those planning to attend graduate school? Could more academic articles be assigned in science courses, and could writing be taught through “unpacking” these articles? Could more departments be encouraged to offer WI courses each semester? Lab reports are one vehicle for teaching writing in the sciences. Students need to learn how to write in different fields, how basic writing structures are used in different disciplines, and how to write in ways that are intelligible to lay readers.
How can writing be incorporated into more large courses? Faculty might benefit from workshops on how to frame peer review, by emphasizing how students can learn to improve their own writing by reviewing that of their peers. Should we be rethinking specific aspects of the writing program, or the staffing of UWS courses? Could additional support for writing be found through applications to foundations? UCC members asked that closer analysis be conducted on specific topics such as student comments on UWS, and student responses from the most highly enrolled majors.
The committee next discussed how survey information might be shared, and with whom. The raw data was shared with Dawn Skorczewski, the Director of University Writing. A summary with more readable, short narrative sections with representative comments was also shared with the Committee for the Support of Teaching, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Committee on University Writing, department chairs (who were asked to discuss with faculty in departmental meetings), faculty, and undergraduate students (the latter group received only the student summary). James Mandrell and Elizabeth Ferry assisted Elaine Wong in drafting the narrative sections of these reports. Workshops or forums on teaching writing might also be offered to engage more faculty in discussions.
Dawn Skorczewski attended a December UCC meeting to discuss the writing surveys and the writing program’s current strengths and areas in need of improvement. She thanked the UCC for initiating the surveys, which were also shared with a spring 2015 external review committee for the writing program.
In her time at the university, Skorczewski has revised the writing program by replacing the offering of both University Writing Seminars (UWS) and University Seminars in Humanistic Inquiries/Writing Labs, with topic-based UWS courses that all require three consistent writing assignments (close reading, a lens essay, and a research paper). Students complete exercises on subjects such as style, grammar, introductions or conclusions before submitting drafts, and are asked to submit cover letters about thesis topics and reflections on how they’ve written or revised their papers, in addition to conferencing with their instructors. She shared sample UWS syllabi; a copy of Write Now, a collection of prize-winning UWS essays; the teaching manual and exercises for UWS instructors; and a booklet on writing instruction designed for faculty by Davis Grant participants.
UWS courses are taught primarily by graduate students, mostly from the English department. Skorczewski is interested in creating a more consistent UWS faculty, including full time lecturers and/or “post docs” who might teach in the program for more than one or two years. There is a growing shortage of graduate student instructors, because of reductions in PhD programs and a reduction in the number of UWS courses (from five to three) that English PhD students are required to teach. PhD students from history, NEJS, music, and occasionally sociology and anthropology also teach in the program. Graduate students from other disciplines, especially the sciences, would be welcome, but do not have the time to devote to the class. Every year there are 16-20 new instructors, some of whom teach UWS only once. Those who teach more than once receive very good evaluations. Over 20 UWS’s this year were offered by experienced instructors, some of whom taught as many as four sections, but 15 sections had to be replaced when instructors departed for full time jobs at other institutions. A significant portion of jobs available to English PhDs involve teaching writing.
UCC members asked about uneven UWS instruction reported in the student surveys. Course evaluations show that most instructors receive evaluations in the 4.0 to 4.2 range or higher, with only one to two instructors each semester receiving low evaluations requiring remediation. Even when instructors receive high evaluations, students complain about having to take the course. Does it make sense to exempt some students from the writing requirement, or to place students in UWS courses, grouped according to their writing abilities? Every writer can become better. It’s mostly students who receive AP English scores of 3 or 4 who complain about having to take UWS, rather than students with AP scores of 5. Almost every college and university requires a mandatory writing course, and some require more than one. An argument for UWS classes with mixed ability levels is that it’s useful for weaker students to be exposed to strong writers. Should UWS assignments be revised to apply to writing in other disciplines? Skorczewski is open to this kind of revision, but will seek advice from the external review team as current instructors cannot assist in such course redesign.
Brandeis now has many more English Language Learners, who tend to cluster in certain disciplines (economics, business, and the sciences). Many first complete the six-week summer Gateway Scholars program (a little more than half of all Gateway Scholars also enroll in two additional fall Gateway courses), followed by Composition and then UWS. This fall the university hired a specialist in the English department to conduct writing workshops for international students.
Committee members asked if faculty are being too easy in their grading of writing assignments. Skorczewski encourages faculty to return, without grading, those papers that do not meet the standards of the assignment (e.g., page length, correct MLA style, or use of “outlawed” practices, such as too frequent use of passive voice). Undergraduates don’t always study detailed comments or corrections on papers with final grades, so laborious commenting can be a waste of faculty time. If 30% of faculty would return unacceptable papers, more students might change lazy behaviors.
UCC members asked if it would be useful for departments or divisions to offer one-credit writing labs, or more upper division writing courses (“Writing in Biology” or “...in the Law” or “…in the Creative Imagination”), counting toward the Writing Intensive requirement. How can the university create a “culture of writing,” with common standards? This was the aim of the Davis Educational Grant, which brought together faculty interested in teaching writing. Most were already very good writing teachers; though they improved their skills and produced materials posted online and in a booklet, their knowledge did not necessarily permeate their departments. What are creative, fun initiatives to encourage and celebrate good writing? Could the Brandeis website discuss writing and current writing prizes such as the J.V. Cunningham student writing awards?
In the student surveys, students report that the ways to improve one’s writing are to write a lot and read a lot. Students improve by reading others’ writing, and seeing their errors. Skorczewski is going to emphasize grammar and active voice in her next UWS trainings. She and David Sherman also organized a spring faculty learning community focused on writing. UCC faculty members asked that workshops and materials from the faculty learning community be posted online, in as many locations as possible.
What would be useful improvements to the writing program? Would it be helpful to encourage more writing in our largest majors? To seek funding for additional training and support? To come up with university-wide writing standards, or two or three concepts regarding writing to emphasize to all faculty and students (e.g., “Writing is not just about content but about the communication of ideas.”)? To teach students how to study writing assignments to learn what is being asked for? To help faculty design better assignments?
Skorczewski would like to create a writing certificate program to certify writing proficiency, as reviewed by alumni, through (electronic) portfolios consisting of three or four papers, and a writing statement. Stanford and Wesleyan offer similar programs. She is also interested in the creation of a digital writing minor or major, and a larger Writing Center. The Writing Center is always packed with students, and could easily double its hours if space were available.
The UCC asked Dean Birren to discuss the writing surveys with department chairs, and to determine their level of interest in exploring additional writing opportunities for undergraduates across the disciplines, especially in science and other quantitative majors that may not offer many upper level writing courses. How can we offer more writing opportunities in existing courses? Are departments interested in offering one-credit writing labs or two-credit writing practicums, attached to upper level courses? These labs or practicums could be taught by adjuncts, post docs, graduate students or faculty, as long as the instructors are committed and trained to teach writing. What other suggestions do faculty have for offering more writing opportunities in different majors?
UCC members discussed next steps that the committee might take (e.g., gather more data via focus groups, or plan for the assessment of student writing skills in specific departments or for all students via comparison of initial UWS placement writing samples with similar samples written by seniors). In order to review and consolidate the menu of options for possible implementation and advocacy, each committee member was asked to select his or her three top possible actions, which were discussed at the next UCC meeting. The most frequently mentioned suggestions were changes in faculty pedagogy (suggested by all of the undergraduates and several others), changes in the campus academic culture, organization of faculty workshops/meetings/tutorials, the creation of writing practicums for large courses or courses in which writing is not frequently taught, and the undertaking of specific assessment activities. Changes in UWS were also suggested, but discussion of UWS was postponed until the external review report on writing was received.
UCC members suggested that the Provost’s Teaching Innovation grants might fund new online writing tutorials for faculty and also writing practicum courses in the sciences and other quantitative subjects. Elaine Wong checked with the selection committee to learn if writing practicum applications would be welcome, and drafted an invitation to faculty and departments to encourage them to apply; an outline for a writing practicum (two-credits, optional to students, possible limited enrollment, frequent writing assignments designed by the professor but graded by a graduate student, post doc, or other instructor who would lead the practicum and provide writing instruction) was also shared.
Committee members noted that a cohort of excellent writers already exists at Brandeis. How can we make this excellence more visible? The Dean was asked to discuss with the provost the formation of a committee consisting of the director of university writing, and a director from the Writing Center, one faculty member from each Arts and Sciences division and from the IBS and Heller Schools, two undergrads and one graduate student, which would oversee a yearlong Celebration of Writing at Brandeis next year. This group might explore added attention toward writing on the Brandeis home page, greater visibility in the awarding of already existing writing prizes (perhaps with a famous writer distributing the prizes in a more public, campus-wide setting), a lecture series featuring presentations by excellent writers, including those from the professions and the sciences, who would discuss why writing is important in their work (students might receive extra-credit points for attending these presentations), and the development of specific messages or conversation topics for departments regarding the teaching of writing. Funds for the speakers and other activities might be sought from the Center for Teaching and Learning and other administrative offices.
In early March, the external reviews of both the English department and the writing program were concluded. Both review reports discussed staffing recommendations for University Writing Seminars and “Writing Across the Curriculum.” One faculty member applied (unsuccessfully) for a teaching innovation grant for a writing practicum attached to a science course, and the dean discussed the “Celebration of Writing at Brandeis” concept with the provost.
In the fall, Karen Muncaster, Vice President of the Rabb School of Continuing Studies, presented a proposal to extend a UCC approved pilot through which two GPS courses first became available to Brandeis undergraduates. The pilot was begun two years ago when a range of online courses from Brandeis and other “Colonial Group” consortium institutions were made available to Brandeis and consortium students. Only one Brandeis undergraduate actually completed a GPS course, though two others initially enrolled. Now, several ten-week, three-credit courses (RBIF 111, “R for Biomedical Informatics,” RHIN 110, “Perspectives on Health/Medical Information Systems,” RIAS 101, “Foundations of Information Security,” RMGT 101, “Perspectives on Information Technology,” RSEG 120, “Software Development Methodologies,” and RVTM 101, “Foundations of Virtual Management across Cultures and Geographies”) and the 13-week RBIF 100, “Introduction to Bioinformatics Scripting and Programming” would be available as of spring of 2015. No more than one could be completed in each semester of the senior year, for no additional tuition. Support to undergraduates will be provided through an orientation webinar and an assigned GPS advisor.
UCC members approved the extension of the pilot for a period of three years, after suggesting that specific prerequisites for two of the courses be stated, and asking that assessment tools such as exit interviews and student surveys be utilized to help evaluate the success of the program.
Daniel Langenthal, Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching, and Alyssa Canelli, Assistant Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching, presented an amendment to the EL 94 Practicum Guidelines, which would enable students to enroll in a practicum course up to two semesters after the associated base course is completed. Current guidelines enable students to enroll in a practicum either concurrently or in the semester after the base course is completed. Practicums are optional, two-credit, letter-graded experiential learning courses associated with one or more base courses; class meets for 90 minutes per week and in addition requires 4.5 to 5 hours of out of classroom work. Allowing students to participate in practicums up to two semesters after completion of base courses will help align course and practicum cycles when base courses are taught every other year, and also enable work with community partners to be sustained from year to year.
Because practicums are only announced in syllabi and in class, and are not listed in the schedule of classes, most students only learn about and decide to enroll in them at the end of enrollment. Some students are not ready to commit to practicum projects until after they have absorbed the course content. Others realize they want to continue engaging with the subject matter only after the course is over. The “add process” for a practicum is similar to that of an independent study, independent internship or senior thesis course, in that students must enroll by submitting a hard copy form, signed by the instructor. Currently all practicums are numbered EL94 and differentiated by section numbers. The registrar’s office has proposed that each practicum now have its own course number (e.g., EL 15a, 16a, 17a), which would be approved through a new course approval process.
A compromise proposal, which would enable practicums to be offered under the EL94 course abbreviation for up to two years, on an experimental pilot basis, but then require new course approval with new EL course numbers listed in the course schedule and Brandeis University Bulletin, was later considered by the UCC, along with the proposal that students be allowed to enroll in practicum courses up to two semesters after completing base courses.
Practicums are led by faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, but faculty are not compensated for this additional teaching which may deter some from taking on the extra work. Two years ago, the Experiential Learning Committee considered a proposal to compensate practicum instructors with modest stipends, based partially on the number of students enrolled in each practicum. Because the Committee for the Support of Teaching is already planning to discuss rewards and incentives for faculty innovations in teaching, a proposal for faculty compensation was referred to that committee.
The following changes were approved by the UCC. After being offered up to three times within three academic years under the EL94 course number, an EL practicum must be formally approved in order to receive a permanent course number (e.g., EL 15a, 16a, etc.) and be listed in the Brandeis course schedule and Bulletin. Instructors may seek formal course approval at any time. During the approval process, the instructor must consult with the Office of Experiential Learning and Teaching to ensure curricular and pedagogical quality and consistency. All EL practicum courses must have a minimum of three students. A student may enroll in a practicum up to two semesters after enrolling in the base course with which the practicum is associated.
Committee members recommended that the EL Office post this new information online, with links to sample practicum syllabi, and also share with department and program chairs.
In November, Julia Moffit Mani, the Academic Services IIM Coordinator, discussed the procedures and process for IIM approval and reported on the proposals of six undergraduates who were approved for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors. The approved IIM proposals were: Louise Cafiero ‘16, “Urban Studies;” Robby Howell ’16, “Interactive Storytelling;” Sarah Waldron ’16, “Writing for Performance”; Hannah Wulkan ’16, “Communication and Media Studies;” Breanna Small ‘16, “Italian Studies;” and Hope Turock ‘16, “Italian Studies.”
In April, Mani presented four additional IIMs approved by the Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors: Anna Coplon ‘17, “Global Justice and Human Rights;” Ben Huth ‘17, “Studies of Religion in Peacebuilding;” Emily Reich ‘17, “Communication and Media;” and Alyssa Roy ‘16, “Religious Studies.” Two other proposals still pending final subcommittee approval were also presented: Ruth Fertig ‘17, “Gender, Sexuality, and Social Policy;” and Bronte Velez ‘16, “Arts, Identity and Community Building.”
Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Latin American and Latino Studies Program
The UCC began consideration of the Latin American and Latino Studies program review by discussing the self-study, review report and additional comments from LALS program chair, Charles Golden. LALS faculty are very enthusiastic about the program which is financially well-supported by a large annual gift. However, the program is not able to offer its desired range of courses in politics, economics, and Latino topics, and has not offered a dedicated capstone course in several years, substituting instead a rotation of writing-intensive LALS seminars. While enrollments in LALS courses are healthy, the number of majors and minors is relatively and consistently small (an average of four majors and seven minors graduating each year); students attending review meetings candidly shared their disconnection to the program.
After suggesting topics for the Dean to discuss with the program chair, the UCC at a later meeting approved the continuance of LALS for a period of three years. Topics to discuss included initiating more formal outreach to undergraduates who seem unaware of the program (or the difference between it and Hispanic Studies), creating a single entry core course (perhaps in history), and/or eliminating the capstone if a single, dedicated course cannot be offered every year. UCC members also support expanding the number of faculty and departments contributing courses to the program. LALS would especially benefit from more courses on immigration and race, which focus on the growing Latino population in the U.S.
Committee members next discussed the review report and self-study of the Journalism program. Program strengths include the strong commitment of the program director, Maura Jane Farrelly, and the faculty who regularly teach in the program. Issues include staffing of certain courses taught by professional journalists, who may find Brandeis’s location and block scheduling system to be impediments to accepting positions, and the difficulties that international students encounter in completing U.S. internships due to the university’s interpretation of state department regulations. The latter problem might be resolved if the program could also offer a major, or if an Independent Interdisciplinary Major in Communications and Media Studies might be offered on a fast track similar to the Italian Studies major. Before voting to continue the Journalism program and minor for a period of five years, the UCC asked Dean Birren to discuss the possibility of offering a major in Communications Studies with senior administrators and faculty, and to raise the possibility with the Office of Development of raising funds for an endowed chair/visiting professorship in the practice of journalism to help staff a new major or the current minor.
Adrianne Krstansky, Chair of Theater Arts, and Alicia Hyland, Theater Arts Academic Administrator, presented their department’s proposal to change the grading in ‘area specific’ practicums (THA 42a-THA 48a) to credit/no credit, as opposed to the current letter grades. These area practicums serve as optional two-credit courses for THA majors/minors and other students, and are taught by both THA faculty and guest artists. They enable students who participate in Brandeis Theater productions in the areas of acting, design, directing/assistant directing, dramaturgy, choreography and stage management to receive course credit for their leading ‘roles’ or work in an assistant capacity. Because the nature of the work and the collaborators (faculty, professionals and peers) are so different, it has not been possible for the department to ensure fair and equitable letter grading criteria for all. Changing to credit/no credit grading, which the UCC approved, will allow instructors to simplify the grading criteria to such factors as attendance, tardiness, full engagement in the work process, and fulfillment of responsibilities.
Charles McClendon, Talinn Grigor, and Jonathan Unglaub from Fine Arts presented their department’s proposal for a new Architectural Studies major (12 courses including “Architectural Drawing and Design,” “Three Dimensional Design,” and one other studio course, two core courses in architectural history, at least one methods and one non-western course focused on themes and periods in architectural history, three additional courses in the history of architecture, and two other electives) and minor (six courses). Grigor, a trained architect, and McClendon would teach core and elective architectural history courses. “Architectural Drawing and Design” has now been offered for several years and is frequently over-enrolled. Many Brandeis alumni who majored in History of Art have been accepted into top Schools of Architecture, and there is strong student demand for a formal major that would be recorded on transcripts from those now applying for graduate study in architecture or related fields. Five or six students would be expected to enroll in the major immediately with a minimum of 8-10 majors expected to graduate annually; about 20 students are now trying to establish a new architecture club. The department feels it has an obligation to provide clear guidance to students about graduate admissions standards and portfolio preparation for Architecture Schools, and believes that a major would also benefit Brandeis’s own undergraduate recruitment efforts. Research reveals that Wellesley, Amherst, Tufts, Northeastern, Boston University, UMass-Amherst, Brown and Yale all offer either majors or concentrations in Architectural Studies.
UCC members asked questions about the proposal’s “administrative details,” which would prevent students from double majoring in art history and architectural studies because of course overlap, but do enable students to double major in studio art, or minor in sculpture while majoring in Architectural Studies. Would an Architectural Studies track be another viable option to a new major? Committee members also asked about additional resources that might eventually be needed to support the strongest possible program, such as an “Advanced Architectural Drawing” course.
After discussion, the UCC voted to approve the Architectural Studies minor, but tabled the Architectural Studies major proposal. While UCC members found the research and rationale for the major to be well documented, they prefer to gauge student demand for the major by first asking the department to consider implementing one of two interim options, an Architectural Studies track in History of Art, or a "fast track" Independent Interdisciplinary Major, which would enable two Fine Arts professors to approve a student’s proposed curriculum from the "pre-populated" list of courses detailed in the major proposal, and waive the requirement for a student to provide research regarding other institutions with comparable majors. The IIM option would allow the student's transcript to be recorded with "Independent Interdisciplinary Major: Architectural Studies," and the diploma with "Major in Architectural Studies." Tracks are not currently recorded on transcripts nor on diplomas, but transcript notation might be explored with the University Registrar. In three years, the UCC could review not only the numbers of majors and minors, but how enrollments affect/interact with other existing Fine Arts majors and minors, and what faculty staffing and other resources are needed.
At a subsequent meeting, UCC members considered a memorandum from the Fine Arts department indicating strong preference for an "Architectural Studies track" in the Art History major -- provided that the track appear on the transcript. This option was preferred over the “fast track” IIM, which would require IIM subcommittee approval and additional student effort.
The committee reviewed its previous discussion about resources needed to sustain an Architectural Studies track or major, and also asked for the Admissions office to be consulted about the appeal of an Architectural Studies track, which would only record participation if noted on a transcript. Committee members also reviewed information from the Registrar’s office about the number of other majors with tracks, and what the university might consider in deciding which tracks might be listed on an undergraduate transcript. Such tracks could be listed as “specialization in….” when the following conditions are met: a track comprises a minimum of five distinct courses; the title of the track is unambiguously within the scope of the major; and the major is clearly divided into distinct tracks.
The UCC asked the Registrar's office to gather more information about how tracks or specializations are recorded at peer institutions. There was some concern that adding specialization notation to transcripts might create student demands for new tracks/specializations in multiple existing majors where no such tracks exist, and that unforeseen consequences might arise. While the committee agreed that the Architectural Studies track could proceed as a listing in the Bulletin, it was unwilling to add transcript notation at this time for only the Fine Arts department, when four other majors (CHEM, CLAS, MUS, and NEJS) now have tracks meeting the suggested criteria, and many others have foci or thematic electives that might wish to become tracks.
The Dean of Arts and Sciences was asked to discuss the possibility of noting "specializations" on transcripts with all department chairs at a meeting early in the fall, as there isn’t sufficient time for full discussion at a spring chairs’ meeting; majors with tracks will also be consulted. If departments wish to move forward with transcript (not diploma) notation across the university, the Registrar’s office would be able to implement notation for majors electing this option during the 2015-2016 academic year. In Fine Art's case, the notation would read "Art History with a specialization in Architectural Studies."
(When the Fine Arts department received notification of these developments, it opted to include the Architectural Studies minor in the 2015-16 Bulletin and adopt the interim solution of “fast track” IIMs for three rising seniors.)
Committee members discussed the review report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs and the self-study prepared by the chair of the Language and Linguistics program. Students in the program praise the rigor of the interdisciplinary curriculum and the commitment of Linguistics faculty, but request regular offerings of the phonology course, a new field methods course, and more research opportunities. The program’s strengths include the steady growth in enrollments, the strong placement rate of graduates in PhD programs in theoretical linguistics and MA programs in speech/language pathology, and interaction and integration with the Computational Linguistics masters curriculum and students. UCC members also discussed staffing recommendations in the review report, before voting to continue the program for five additional years.
Marya Levenson, Chair of Education, presented a proposed change to the Education Studies major, which would eliminate one core course, and group elective courses into four clusters: Education, Equality, and Social Change; Teaching and Learning In and Outside of Schools; Human Creativity and Development; and Jewish Formal and Informal Education. Newly declared majors, as of fall 2015, would now take three courses in one of the clusters, one course in each of two other clusters, and two other electives. The total number of courses required (nine) for the major, and the two other core courses, ED 155, “Education and Social Policy,” and the capstone ED 165, would not change. Students would not be allowed to double count courses to fulfill more than one cluster.
This change was initiated in assessment discussions by program faculty, and is intended to provide greater programmatic coherence for both students and faculty. Students would benefit from the structure and guidance provided by the clusters, and faculty teaching cluster courses would engage in substantive conversations about appropriate course assessments and how courses complement one another. Because of the new structure, the second disciplinary core course was no longer considered necessary. Pending school council approval, the UCC approved the proposed changes to the requirements of the Education Studies major.
James Morris, Interim Chair of HSSP, presented a proposed revision to the BS requirements for the Health: Science, Society and Policy major that would modify the current requirement of five Focal Area electives and 24 credits of “Additional Basic Science requirements” (any BIOL, BCHM, CHEM, PHYS, MATH, COSI course at or above the 10-level) by now requiring the introductory biology sequence (a total of 18 credits consisting of BIOL 14a + lab, BIOL 15b + lab, and BIOL 16b) plus Focal Area A, B, and C electives and 16 credits in Additional Basic Science requirements. The six core courses for the BS degree would not change, but the total number of required credits would increase slightly. This change was initiated when the HSSP chair and Undergraduate Advising Head noticed that some BS candidates were primarily selecting math and computer science courses to fulfill their basic science requirements, rather than biology courses. HSSP faculty believe the BS degree should require lab experience, with a science focus on health. HSSP students who double-major in Biology or are preparing for pre-medical/pre-health study are already completing the proposed new requirements. After discussing possible alternatives, the UCC approved the proposed revisions.
Jonathan Sarna, Chair of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, presented proposed curricular changes to the three tracks of the NEJS major. These changes are intended to simplify requirements that may be contributing to a drop in the number of majors and which students complain are hard to understand and contradictory. Substantive changes include allowing courses to be double-counted toward different requirements, eliminating the required introductory courses of NEJS 5a for the Judaic Studies and Hebrew tracks and NEJS 9a for the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies track, eliminating the requirement that students complete a course in both a pre-modern or classical (Hebrew or Aramaic) text and in a modern text, and clarification/articulation of the “comparison” requirement. For Judaic Studies majors, the chronological period requirement would be retained, but the foundational sequence eliminated.
NEJS 5a, “Foundational Course in Judaic Studies,” would now be recommended rather than required, for two reasons: students were not completing the course until their senior year, and it was not working well for its two audiences (those with Jewish day school backgrounds and those with no background in Judaic Studies). Eliminating the second text requirement would allow students to focus on only one period, reduce the number of classical Hebrew courses that must be offered in each semester, and acknowledge that many students are not prepared to complete a course in classical Hebrew.
A UCC member suggested that the department might consider reviewing its course titles with students to see if the titles could be more appealing. The committee, while agreeing that the new requirements are less confusing, postponed action on the proposed revisions until its next meeting, when there would be more time to review answers to such questions as: Should the core courses be redesigned, rather than eliminated? Is the recommendation that students complete the core course sufficiently prominent, so that students will notice this recommendation? If the department wishes students to complete courses in both Classical and Modern Hebrew texts, should this be discussed in the revised requirements? What is the total number of courses currently required in each track, and how does this compare with the newly proposed tracks? Could the proposed text for Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Track be rewritten so that the total number of courses required is clearer?
At a later meeting, Jonathan Sarna presented revised text for the proposed changes to the three NEJS tracks, and answered remaining UCC questions about the revisions. The latest version takes into account questions and suggestions from the previous UCC discussion: The new language for each track now clearly states the number of courses required (nine in addition to language requirements). The number of courses required for the Hebrew Language track distribution requirement has also been corrected (it is now five advanced level courses taught in Hebrew). Sarna explained that the former core courses, NEJS 5a or NEJS 9a, will not be redesigned but, as the UCC requested, will be strongly recommended. A committee member offered an additional suggestion about how to more strongly recommend completion of the former core courses. The department also agreed to provide examples of courses counting toward “comparison” requirements.
The UCC approved the proposed revisions for all three tracks of the NEJS major.
The UCC approved a proposal presented by Jill Greenlee, the Politics Undergraduate Advising Head, which would necessitate that students take six rather than five of nine courses required for the major with Brandeis Politics faculty. In addition, cross-listed courses from other departments would be classified as electives, and no longer count toward the major’s subfield requirements in political theory, American politics, comparative politics, and international politics. These changes aim to ensure that students graduate with a stronger foundation in political science and political theory by completing more courses offered by the department.
In March, Daniel Langenthal, Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching, and Alyssa Canelli, Assistant Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching, presented a proposal from the Experiential Learning Committee, which would no longer allow undergraduates to be solely responsible for leading and teaching practicum courses. Undergraduate peer assistants would still be able to assist faculty or staff (but not graduate student) practicum instructors by leading discussions and course activities, acting as project liaisons with community partners, organizing project logistics, and offering constructive peer feedback. They would no longer be able to create curricula or syllabi for practicum courses nor schedule class meetings without faculty supervision. This proposal, which the UCC approved, aims to preserve the benefits of peer mentoring, within a structure of consistent faculty/staff supervision, support and guidance.
UCC members discussed the self-study and review report for the International and Global Studies program, now one of the most populated majors, before continuing the program for a period of five years. The review committee praised Chandler Rosenberger, the IGS chair, for creating a stronger sense of student community by offering an impressive array of events and opportunities for majors and minors to meet with one another, and for strengthening the curriculum by requiring all students to take two courses from each of three streamlined distributional categories (Media, Culture and the Arts; Governance, Conflict and Responsibility; and Economy, Health, and Environment). The report also noted the need for affiliated and core faculty to become more engaged with program administration and student advising. UCC members recommended that IGS majors be advised to pursue second majors (to enhance their disciplinary approaches and understanding of IGS topics). They also suggested that service-providing members of the core IGS committee might become eligible to apply for small research grants provided by IGS, to encourage and support their commitment to the program. The UCC also urged the dean's office to find a physical space for majors to meet informally, as requested in the report.