2017-18 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report

Meeting Dates

Sept. 8, Sept. 29, Oct. 6, Oct. 13, Nov. 10, Nov. 17, Dec. 1, Feb. 2, Feb. 9, March 9, March 23, April 13, April 25.

Members of the Committee

Susan Birren, Vidit Dhawan, Xinyi Du (Fall 2017), Clémentine Fauré-Bellaïche, Charles Golden, Peter Kalb, Paul Miller, Kate Moran, Tiana Murrieta (Fall 2017), Michael Strand, Rebecca Torrey, Alona Weimer, Shijie 'Jeremy' Xiao (Spring 2018). Ex Officio: Mark Hewitt, Erika Smith, Elaine Wong.

Sections in This Report

2017-2018 Agenda Items

Among the items the UCC planned to consider in 2017-2018 were: proposed legislation from the Task Force on General Education; reports from the Standing Committees on Interdepartmental Programs on Biological Physics, European Cultural Studies, Health: Science, Society and Policy, and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies; approval of New Study Abroad Programs; reports on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors; review of a new Justice Brandeis Semester proposal; proposed changes to the minor requirements in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and  to the major requirements in Language and Linguistics; and proposed minors in Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic.

Return to top

Procedures for Conduct of UCC Meetings

Committee members reviewed procedures for the conduct of UCC meetings.

Return to top

Appointment of Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors 

Michael Strand and Paul Miller volunteered to serve on the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee to approve Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.

Return to top

Recommendations from the Task Force on General Education

At a September meeting, Dean Birren provided background on the work, process, approaches and goals of the Task Force on General Education.  The 2016-17 UCC approved proposed legislation detailing new general education requirements for students entering Brandeis in the fall of 2019, after year-long discussions of the Task Force proposal, careful review of all appendices, and its own amendments to the legislation.  The full-length proposal and appendices were revised over the summer to add new tables and additional clarifying information. A UCC motion could be considered at October and November faculty meetings, as the approval process includes votes at two faculty meetings, and a vote by the Board of Trustees.  If approved, the new curriculum would appear in the 2018-19 Brandeis University Bulletin, and the implementation process would begin; this process would include creation of new committees to approve courses required for each component of the new curriculum, the establishment of support and professional development structures for each component, and the allocation of new resources necessary for implementation of the requirements.

The Task Force on General Education was appointed in the spring of 2016 to review requirements first established over 20 years ago.  The proposed curriculum maintains Brandeis’s commitments to the liberal arts, and reflects changes in the world, our undergraduate population, and the skills and knowledge needed by students and alumni for lifelong career and personal success.   Dean Birren discussed how the five themes of the Task Force Proposal -- Brandeis First Year Experience including faculty-led Critical Conversations; Foundational Literacies in Quantitative Reasoning, as well as Oral Communication, Writing Intensive and Digital Literacy requirements defined in the majors; Schools of Thought courses; Global Engagement including Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Studies in the US (DEIS-US), Difference and Justice in the World (DJW) and World Languages and Cultures requirements; and Health, Wellness and Life Skills modules-- differ from current requirements.  The proposal evolved in response to feedback, suggestions, and engagement with the Brandeis community through surveys, open forums and meetings.

Student members of the UCC discussed their own experiences with current requirements, and a UCC member asked for more information about topics and issues that arose over the last year of community discussions.

At the next meeting, John Burt, a member of the Task Force on General Education, joined the UCC to discuss questions raised at meetings of the University Advisory Council and Faculty Senate, comments from faculty, and revisions to the explanatory text of the proposal.

Faculty feedback related to Environmental Literacy/Sustainability/Climate Justice was first discussed. An Environmental Literacy course requirement was proposed by the Student Senate Sustainability Committee in December of 2015, but the UCC referred the proposal to the Task Force on General Education to consider along with other changes to the curriculum. The Task Force chose to integrate Climate Justice subjects, framed as social and political equity, justice and inclusion issues, in the Global Engagement requirement. In the proposed implementation budget, Dean Birren has requested funds for new faculty to teach additional courses in these areas, and to support a minor. UCC members suggested that the commitment to including Environmental Literacy issues in the new requirements could be more clearly articulated in the proposal.  It was also suggested that a module on “Reducing Your Carbon Footprint” could be added to the Life Skills component of Health, Wellness and Life Skills.  As part of the preparation and implementation of Global Engagement requirements, could professional development opportunities be provided for faculty to learn how to incorporate Environmental Literacy into Difference and Justice in the World and DEIS-US courses?

Overall, the Task Force has attempted to balance many competing priorities, requests and constituencies to craft a set of requirements that would best serve our students/alumni and the community.   Some faculty have asked for more required courses in science, race, gender, coding, sustainability, or for the return of first year seminars.  The Task Force opted instead for more flexible solutions that would not require a course on every public concern, even ones as significant as climate change.  

The UCC next discussed the First Year Experience.  Will the University Writing Seminar be improved by the addition of Critical Conversations and experiential learning assignments?  The goals of the Conversations are for faculty to model for students the building of arguments and civil discourse and critical analysis of important topics, which first years as a cohort will experience and talk about together; the Conversations also emphasize the importance of UWS through greater faculty engagement.  Participating in the life of the university by attending lectures and co-curricular events sets the tone for how students think about their Brandeis education, in and out of the classroom. Could the specific topics of UWS courses also be framed in the context of race and/or climate change, two pressing issues of the day that students care about?   Could the faculty-led Critical Conversations focus on these two issues as well?  What can be done to ensure that the Conversations will be so excellent that students will not want to miss them? Will the new components elevate UWS by making it more meaningful and relevant to students?  What can be done to ensure that the teaching of UWS is at a universally high level?

Dean Birren reviewed other faculty questions/comments, which included mandating that the humanities or all Schools of Thought requirements be completed in the first two years of study; the timetable, oversight, and resources required for implementation; the evolution of the requirements as specific problems may develop; the assessment of each component; the role of research in the themes, or the addition of a new research requirement; the number of science or language courses required; new advising needs created by the requirements; defining a distinctive Brandeis brand; and the need to make the Quantitative Reasoning requirement more rigorous. 

At an early October meeting, Derron Wallace from the Task Force on General Education joined the continued discussion of changes to recent Task Force explanatory drafts. Revisions incorporate suggestions from the last UCC meeting to better articulate the role of environmental issues in the Critical Conversations of the First Year Experience, the DEIS-US and DJW options in Global Engagement, and Life Skills modules in Health, Wellness and Life Skills. Other revisions clarify “co-curricular learning/experiential learning” in the FYE, and how statistical analysis is referred to in the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. 

UCC faculty members asked how voting at the October 20th Faculty Meeting will proceed.  Faculty will vote on the Proposed Legislation; the Task Force proposal provides additional details and a roadmap and explanation of the legislation’s intentions.  Faculty may choose to offer amendments to the legislation from the floor of the faculty at either the October or November meetings, and a vote would be taken on each amendment before voting on the entire legislative motion.

In response to a question about resources for implementation, Dean Birren noted that she has discussed possible implementation budgets (one with essential elements, a second with full time faculty hiring that could supplement the first budget, and a third with interim and one time costs) with the Provost, Chief Financial Officer, and the Integrated Planning and Budget Committee.

The UCC then discussed and approved an amendment to the Proposed Legislation that would enable students who place out of one or more of the three required language courses to no longer take an additional Global Engagement course, selected from DEIS-US, DJW or WLC.

Arguments for the amendment included simplification of the requirement structure and concerns from a large contingent of science faculty that the Global Engagement requirements (especially the World Languages and Cultures requirement) are too large a burden for science students, some of whom must take 19 or more courses for their majors, or up to 27 courses for BS/MS degrees.  Many or most science faculty feel that the proposed requirements are unbalanced in favor of humanities and social science courses at a time when scientific understanding is even more important than in the past, and that international students may not need an additional course in Global Engagement.  Science faculty also do not believe that they will be able to offer courses that satisfy the DJW or DEIS-US requirements for a variety of reasons (staffing shortages, courses that must be taught for majors and grad students, lack of expertise in subjects related to DJW/DEIS-US, etc.). 

Those not in favor of the amendment believe that the aims of the Global Engagement requirement are not achieved by international status or study in a foreign country, and that both domestic and international students benefit from further developing their DEIS-US, DJW and WLC knowledge and skills, through flexible options provided by the original structure.  Students born in US may not be sensitive to issues of gender, race, and disability; international students may not know about gaps in their own knowledge. Data shows that the fourth course in a language sequence facilitates greater and longer lasting proficiency.  The original proposal still requires fewer courses than were required for the revision adopted in the early 90’s.

Return to top

Update on Task Force Proposal and Legislation

Topics discussed at the last faculty open forum before the October faculty meeting included the World Languages and Cultures requirement, environmental literacy, implementation of the Foundational Literacy requirements, current issues with the University Writing Seminar, and suggestions for rewording the Task Force executive summary. The revised Task Force proposal and legislation were approved at October and November Faculty Meetings.

Return to top

Proposed Change to Language and Linguistics Advanced Language Requirement

Lotus Goldberg and James Pustejovsky from the Language and Linguistics program presented proposed changes to the advanced language requirement for this major, which currently requires the equivalent of a fifth semester course in a foreign language in addition to four core courses and four electives.  These requirements were established in 2005 by faculty other than the current chair and undergraduate advising head. Over the years a number of problematic issues have arisen, which include: second language proficiency is not necessary for the study of linguistics, and for some students, the study of a new language would be more educational; some students do not excel at language learning due to hearing-impairment or cognitive disabilities; Brandeis does not offer fifth semester equivalents in a few languages, including non-spoken languages such as Greek or Latin; non-native English speakers cannot use English as the fifth semester equivalent; some students who started as minors or discovered the major later in their studies do not have sufficient time to complete five semesters of language study.  The proposed changes to the requirement would allow students to continue to utilize the fifth semester equivalent, or take one semester each of two languages, where at least one of the languages is at the level 40 or higher, or take two semesters of a single new language not used to satisfy the university foreign language requirement, or take LING 125 Linguistic Typology and one other course from a specific list of LING courses or one semester of any language course not used to satisfy the university foreign language requirement.  The UCC approved the proposed changes after reviewing at a subsequent meeting new Bulletin text describing the ten courses now required for the major.

Return to top

Justice Brandeis Semester Proposal: Human Rights Advocacy in the Immigration Process

The UCC approved a proposal for a summer 2018 Justice Brandeis Semester on Human Rights Advocacy in the Immigration Process, which was presented by Philip Dolan, Associate Director of Summer School, and instructors Douglas Smith and Rosalind Kabrhel, Legal Studies.  This ten-week immersive, experiential learning program would consist of three connected existing courses (LGLS 123b Immigration and Human Rights; LGLS 130a Conflict Analysis and Intervention; and LGLS 89a Law and Society Internship and Seminar) and enable students to explore from an international human rights perspective the legal and human dimensions of immigration procedures, as well as develop skills leading to effective advocacy on behalf of prospective immigrants, including representation in actual hearings.

Return to top

Proposed Brandeis Bridges Practicum Course: "Bridging Black and Jewish Histories" 

Laura Brown, Lecturer in the Department of Romance Studies, Tova Perlman ‘18, and Alyssa Canelli and Daniel Langenthal from the Office of Experiential Learning presented a proposal for a new stand-alone two-credit spring practicum course, “Bridging Black and Jewish Histories,” which would support the Brandeis Bridges student-run intercultural leadership club and its annual one week trip during February break to such locations as Israel, Ghana, Brazil, and the American South.  Each year since 2013-14, five Black and five Jewish Fellows from all four classes have been selected in November for this trip, which is completely subsidized by private donors and fundraising, supported by two student coordinators and accompanied by one Black and one Jewish staff or faculty member. The club is open to all students and sponsors meetings and community events throughout the year.  The intention of the practicum course is to provide students with stronger intellectual preparation, a theoretical framework of comparative ethnic studies, deeper knowledge of topics related to the trip location and the history of Black Jewish alliances and their shared/divergent narratives, more rigorous and structured reflection and critical analysis, and a faculty-supported sustainable group dynamic. Student leaders have not had the academic expertise to plan and lead sessions on readings and trip locations.  The practicum course would create more accountability for Fellows to continue their intellectual investment after the February trip and contribute to a greater sense of group identity.  The proposal meets practicum standards for in- and out-of-class hours and assignments (readings, writing and group project assignments). UCC approval is required because this practicum would not be linked to base courses as are other practicum courses. 

Committee members expressed understanding of the rationale for the practicum proposal, and support for the curriculum and the Brandeis Bridges program, but asked if a course could restrict enrollment to Fellowship-eligible Black and Jewish students.  While other practicum courses limit enrollment to certain categories of students, the categories are not restricted on the basis of race and religion. Are there other ways to structure admission into the course?  What would be the experiences of students who were not able to participate in the trip?

At a later meeting, Dean Birren confirmed that, in the judgment of senior administrators, enrollments in the “Bridging Black and Jewish Histories” practicum could not be limited by race and religion.  Student, faculty and staff proposers were notified of this decision and their responses for moving forward were shared with the committee.   The UCC considered several options before declining to approve the spring practicum proposal due to insufficient time for the proposers to rethink curriculum and admissions aspects before obtaining School Council approval in advance of the first day of spring term classes.  The UCC would be willing to consider a future proposal for a stand-alone practicum on Black-Jewish relations or another focus selected by proposers, if the practicum would be open for enrollment on a basis other than race and religion.  The committee continued to express enthusiasm for the goals of the proposal and admiration for the practicum syllabus.

Return to top

Proposed Minors in Arabic Language, Literature, and Culture; Hebrew Language, Literature, and Culture; and Yiddish and Eastern European Jewish Literature and Culture

Carl El-Tobgui, Director of the Arabic Language Program, presented the proposal for a new five course minor in Arabic Language, Literature, and Culture, which would consist of ARBC 30a Intermediate Arabic I, ARBC 40b Intermediate Arabic II, ARBC 103a Lower Advanced Arabic, and two electives (an additional modern or classical Arabic language course, and either a fifth Arabic language course or a course on the historical, cultural or literary context of Arabic, selected from an approved list of courses). Students who place out of ARBC 30a, 40b, or 103a would replace these courses with other elective options.  This minor has been requested by undergraduates who wish for evidence of their Arabic proficiency recorded on transcripts; the minor would also provide an incentive to other students to continue their Arabic language studies.  ARBC 10a and 20b each meet for six hours per week and will soon generate six-credits per course, thus providing 12 hours of instruction in elementary courses before the 30 level.  Arabic has been classified in Group IV (the highest level) in groupings of languages that require the most hours of study to reach proficiency. UCC members asked if an Arabic minor would draw students away from the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies major, which requires four semesters of a Middle Eastern language, or the IMES minor, which currently requires two semesters of language.  Students could double count two courses toward both the IMES major and Arabic minor, excluding the IMES core course, IMES 104a.

Sara Hascal, Interim Director of the Hebrew Language Program, then presented the proposal for the return of a minor in Hebrew Language, Literature, and Culture, which was last completed by students in the spring of 2014, after being eliminated in 2008 during Brandeis’s termination of academic programs due to fiscal exigencies.  The five required courses would consist of three courses in Hebrew language, and could include one level 30 course and one level 40 course selected from 18 or more HBRW courses; one text-intensive NEJS course in Biblical, Rabbinic or Medieval Hebrew selected from an approved list of at least 14 courses taught in English with texts in Hebrew; and one course in Modern Hebrew literature taught in Hebrew and selected from a list of four NEJS courses.  All courses are regularly taught, with most counting toward the Hebrew language track now offered in the NEJS major.  Students have inquired about the unavailability of a Hebrew minor, as some are interested in achieving language proficiency for cultural reasons.  Hebrew is classified in Group III of languages requiring more than average study to acquire proficiency.  A survey provided by Hascal indicates that there is a 38% drop rate in course enrollments from the second year to more advanced courses in less commonly taught languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Ellen Kellman, Assistant Professor of Yiddish, presented the proposal for a minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Literature and Culture, which would consist of five courses: YDSH 30a Intermediate Yiddish, YDSH 40b Advanced Intermediate Yiddish, an independent study or graduate course with readings in Yiddish Literature, Culture or Historical Texts, and two NEJS courses taught in English and selected from a list of 15 courses on topics related to East European Jewish literature, culture or history.  Yiddish is a Germanic language with Hebraic and Slavic components, spoken in Eastern Europe until the middle of the 20th century.  It has a diminishing number of speakers and is infrequently taught.   All students begin with YDSH 10a at Brandeis, where Kellman is the only Yiddish instructor.  This minor was also terminated in 2008; it was completed by one to two students in each of four years from 2006 to 2014, when YDSH 30a did not count toward the minor.  Kellman hopes that five or six students each year might complete the revised minor if YDSH 30a is now required.  Yiddish is useful for research purposes, and is now used at a Yiddish Sunday School in Boston.

The UCC continued its discussion of all three proposed minors at its next meeting.  All the minors aim to bring students to an advanced level of language proficiency and provide background in related literature, culture or history.  All would allow students to double count up to two courses with another major or minor, such as NEJS or IMES. Arabic would be a new minor, but Hebrew and Yiddish would restore minors terminated in the last major budget crisis.  All three minors would now include level 30 language courses in addition to previously required level 40 courses.  In the past, an average of 10 students per year minored in Hebrew, with as few as five and as many as 17 completing the minor each year. Six students completed the Yiddish minor in its nine years of existence.  All three minors hope to incentivize enrollments in advanced courses, and provide students with transcript evidence of their language achievements. Each of these three languages have had courses cancelled due to low enrollments in recent years, thus requiring that instructors teach overload courses in a later semester.  UCC members spoke about the benefits of offering these minors as part of the university’s overall identity, the probability that enrollments might increase in course electives, and the costs of offering courses with enrollments of 3-5 students if required or optional for a minor.

While supportive of establishing the new minors, the UCC asked NEJS proposers for clarification regarding how each minor would either overlap, correlate or differ from the current NEJS minor, which now allows up to two Arabic 10a/20b, Hebrew 10a/20b, and Yiddish 10a/20b courses to apply toward five courses required for that minor.  How would other Arabic, Hebrew and Yiddish courses be counted toward the existing NEJS minor? Could a student complete the same five courses and choose either a NEJS or a language minor?   Could a student receive a NEJS minor by completing ARBC or HBRW or YDSH 10a, 20b, 30a, 40b, and one other course, and then receive an Arabic, Hebrew or Yiddish minor by taking two additional courses?   Should the NEJS minor be more differentiated from the language minors, or is there justification for possible overlap? And how would the new minors overlap with the IMES minor and major and the NEJS major, or should the university not be concerned with overlap?  After receiving replies to these questions, the UCC will continue its discussion of the proposed minors.

At another meeting, the UCC approved the proposals for the minors in Arabic Language, Literature and Culture and Hebrew Language, Literature and Culture. A statement that "Students majoring in the Hebrew track of NEJS cannot also obtain a minor in Hebrew" will be added to appropriate sections of the Brandeis University Bulletin.  The UCC agreed that cancellation policies on low enrollment course options in these minors should continue to be observed. 

The committee asked for additional information related to the re-establishment of a minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Literature and Culture.  While the committee is supportive of Yiddish studies, it wanted to learn more about the level of interest from current undergraduates in completing this minor.  How much of an incentive would the minor be for students to continue their studies?  How many undergraduates are now in the pipeline for minor completion, and have there been conversations with prospective minors?

At a spring meeting the UCC reviewed comments from students who either completed Yiddish courses before graduating in the classes of 2015 or 2016, or completed Beginning Yiddish in the fall of 2017.  The committee also reviewed arguments from its previous deliberations before approving the proposed minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Literature and Culture.

Return to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Inderdepartmental Programs: European Cultural Studies

Committee members discussed the European Cultural Studies review report, self-study, and response to the report written by ECS program chair, Steve Dowden, but initially took no action on the program’s continuance until program faculty addressed a number of concerns articulated in not only this review report but also that of the prior review in 2012.  The 2017 review committee praised the ECS 100a core course, the strengths of Dowden as a professor and advisor, and the support of faculty for previous recommendations (e.g., a capstone experience and additional course options).  While recommending program continuance, the review committee also identified longstanding issues of concern, including inadequate program definition, the single lens of the ECS 100a course, dependence on a single professor’s leadership, lack of other faculty involvement, small and declining enrollments in the major (but not the core course), and lack of community for both students and faculty.

Questions raised by the UCC were:  How does the ECS curriculum compare with that of the other program in the US (Princeton) and the field as now defined in the US and other countries?  What, if any, other program title might be considered and how could this title be reflected in the curriculum and learning goals?   How is this major serving the faculty, or its small number of students, most of whom now double major?  What are current students gaining from the program beyond participation in a terrific course and a second major to record on their transcripts?   In what ways could the program and its curriculum become more coherent, cohesive and valuable to its majors?  How might the continuity and scope of the program be enhanced by an expansion of leadership? Beyond Dowden’s commitment, is the program a priority for other faculty, and how might they contribute to strengthening the program (e.g., by assisting in recruitment, advising and visibility issues)?  Should a thesis, portfolio, or capstone course be required or would this further reduce the number of majors?  Are there other ways in which the curriculum should be amended? What would be lost if the major were eliminated (if ECS 100a continued to be offered)?  UCC members did not support an ECS merger with COML or HOID, and would regret the loss of a major in the humanities, but wanted to see convincing progress in addressing issues identified in two successive review reports.  

The UCC invited Dowden and other ECS faculty to attend a spring meeting, after ECS faculty had responded to these questions and drafted new text for the Bulletin, which better defines the program and redefines its learning goals.

At an April meeting, Dowden was joined by ECS colleagues John Burt, Jytte Klausen, Robin Feuer Miller, Laura Quinney, Michael Randall, Nancy Scott, Govind Sreenivasan, and Palle Yourgrau, all of whom reported on faculty discussions regarding the program.  In the interim period since the fall review, the program grew to ten majors, a number larger than the number of majors in either German Studies or Russian Studies. Most students choose Steve Dowden as their major advisor, and he does not find the number of advisees to be a burden. Faculty are strongly supportive of the program because of their own interdisciplinary interests, but few have been involved in advising roles or as recent senior thesis readers because of the low number of students enrolled in the program or completing senior theses. While a joint capstone course with other interdisciplinary programs (HOID, IGS) has been explored, the other program chairs were not enthusiastic because of the European focus of ECS. The ECS faculty have discussed providing information to majors about courses that could be topically linked. An alternative name for the program is yet to be determined.

After thanking the faculty for their commitment to the program, the UCC reviewed possible actions and recommendations, and then voted to continue the ECS program for a period of three years, shorter than the usual period of five years. The UCC also asked that faculty who teach, advise, and oversee ECS meet on a regular basis in 2018-19 (at least one meeting per term, and preferably more) and return to meet with the UCC in the spring of 2019 to report on discussions and actions related to the following questions:  Would it be useful to constitute an ECS curriculum committee?  What could this committee learn from reaching out to other "area studies" programs (such as EAS, LALS, IMES, or AMST) about how these programs are addressing similar matters of concern?   Are there "cultural studies" approaches that the program wants to ensure students learn about?  How are "cultural studies" different from literature, and how can we help majors gain this understanding?  How can the faculty be more involved in co-curricular programming decisions, recruitment of students to the major, UDR initiated events, and advising of both majors and senior thesis applicants?  How will ECS majors in the class of 2023 fulfill their WI, OC, and DL requirements in the major? How will the learning goals of ECS majors be assessed? Are there specific "interpretations and understandings of the experiences of European peoples" that the program wishes to ensure its majors learn about? Which "striking and world-shaping features... of literary works,...music and history"  and what aspects of "literary and cultural life...in Europe",  and "struggles for social, political and economic change" should all majors understand?  Considering these and other phrases in the new objectives and learning goals text for the Bulletin, are there ways in which the core course should be revised or the structure of the curriculum refined to ensure that students are introduced to these topics?  Given the fact that five of the last 16 ECS majors completed senior theses, should other capstone or reflection experiences (e.g., senior presentations to faculty) be considered?

Return to top

Report on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

In December, Katy McLaughlin from Academic Services discussed procedures for Independent Interdisciplinary Major approval and reported on two IIMs approved by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors: Elizabeth Cayouette-Gluckman ’20 - Interpersonal and Mass Communications, and Caroline Kriesen ’20 - Film and Performing Arts.

In April, McLaughlin presented 13 Independent Interdisciplinary Majors (IIMs) that were approved by the joint Subcommittee: Madeline Bisgyer ‘20 - Labor Studies and Employment Policy, Emily Botto ‘20 – Communication and Literature Studies, Tyffany English ‘19 - Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation, Ndeye Fall ‘19 - Social Inequality and Global Development, Lillian Feinson ‘19 – Gender and Sexuality Education, Emilia Feldman ‘19 - Conflict, Coexistence, and Identity Studies, Marek Haar ‘20 – Philosophy, Religion and Creative Writing, Nicole Huang ‘20 - Human Computer Interaction, Sophia Kupervaser-Gould ‘19 - Italian Studies, Alexandra Nedell  ‘19 - Italian Studies, and  Libby Williams ‘20 - Land and Wildlife Management and Conservation.  Ten of the 13 students are completing a second major.   

The UCC then approved a new requirement recommended by the IIM Subcommittee, which would change the semester by which undergraduates must submit their IIM proposals from the end of the junior year to the fourth semester before an expected graduation date (usually the fall of the junior year, or the equivalent semester for mid-years); this change will enable the joint Subcommittee to engage in more productive consultation about course selection/completion with both students and their advisors.

Return to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Inderdepartmental Programs: Biological Physics

The UCC discussed the review report and self-study of the Biological Physics program, before continuing the program for a period of five years. The review committee praised the rigor of the BP interdisciplinary curriculum, and students’ enthusiasm for the program, but noted that staffing for one of the core course options, FYS 11a Nature’s Nanotechnology, may soon become problematic.  Because this course is not available to first year students who are not participants in the grant-funded Quantitative Biology Research Community, consideration of a new Introductory Biological Physics course was also recommended.  Other report recommendations included the addition of a computational course related to biology and physics, along with updates to the Brandeis University Bulletin regarding Chemistry requirements and committee membership.

Return to top

Approval of New Study Abroad Programs

In the spring, J. Scott Van Der Meid, Associate Dean of Study Abroad, and Darren Gallant, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, presented proposals for new summer and semester study abroad programs, most of which meet established criteria for approval (duration of program/credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and area institutional support). The UCC granted provisional approval to the following programs: CET Academic Programs – Taiwan: Intensive Chinese Language and Internship at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan; The School for Field Studies - Cambodia: Conservation, Ethics, and Environmental Change at the Center for Conservation and Development Studies in Siem Reap, Cambodia; IES Abroad – Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco; and IES Abroad – Hong Kong Summer Internship Program in Hong Kong. The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation: Conservation, Biodiversity and Society at George Mason University in Virginia was provisionally approved as an off-campus domestic program.

Return to top

Proposed Changes to the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Minor

Nader Habibi, Chair of the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies program, presented a proposal to revise the requirements for the IMES minor, and then answered questions related to the review of the IMES program.  The proposed changes aim to attract more students to the minor by reducing the total number of requirements from seven to six, which is in line with the total number of requirements (five or six) for most other Brandeis minors.  The core course of IMES 104a Islam: Civilization and Institutions plus one course pertaining to the classical period and one pertaining to the modern period would continue to be required.  The requirement for two courses in a Middle Eastern language would be removed, although two language courses in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish or Persian would count as options toward three required elective courses.  The UCC approved these proposed changes pending School Council approval.

Return to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies 

UCC members discussed the review report and self-study of the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies program with Professor Habibi, before continuing the IMES program for a period of five years.  The program has been strengthened by new faculty appointments, and the IMES committee is actively seeking ways to build enrollment in the major and minor. The review report praised the program’s interdisciplinary ambitions, students’ appreciation for the major and faculty commitment to continuing and strengthening the major and minor. Ways to promote the program and foster a sense of community among students, as well as consideration of a capstone course or project, and rotation of administrative responsibilities, were also recommended. 

Return to top

Proposed Changes to the History Major

History professors David Engerman and Xing Hang presented proposed changes to the geographic requirements of the history major and a new option for attaining departmental honors.   The requirement that majors complete one course each focusing on the United States, Europe, and the “Non-Western” world would be updated with a revised requirement that majors complete courses in three different geographic regions selected from six areas --United States, Europe (including Russia), Africa/Middle East, Latin America/Caribbean, Asia, and Global/Transregional.  To encourage more students to pursue departmental honors and to better prepare majors needing a writing sample to apply for graduate study, a new option of presenting two major research papers, 20-25 pages in length, would be established.  All honors candidates would also be required to maintain a 3.5 grade point average in courses for the major and complete courses in four of the six geographic regions. 

UCC members asked how many history courses already require 20-25 page papers (a higher number of courses require 12-15 page papers), and about the timing and logistics of completing, submitting and considering papers for honors.  Would students be motivated to rewrite shorter papers, and what setting would best support this effort?  How will students gain and apply the methodological training to revise papers in the necessary time frame? Regarding the new geographic requirements, there was general support for the new classifications, but some UCC members felt that the department could further articulate how these changes will interact with new Global Engagement requirements to be implemented in the fall of 2019. The UCC postponed action on the proposed changes, and requested more information about logistics and advising for the second honors track.

At a subsequent meeting, Engerman and Hang returned for further discussion of the proposed changes. The geographic requirements of the major are based on research of geographic categories used at comparable institutions. Regarding ways in which students will be advised of honors options, a faculty Honors Coordinator will organize an information session about the new honors option (two 20-25 page papers), send targeted e-mails to students, and be responsible for matching students with faculty who can advise them on paper revisions. Eligible honors candidates will also be recruited by their professors. The level of honors for the two essay option will be decided through a defense of both papers, usually in the spring, conducted by three members of the history faculty (e.g., advisors for the 20-25 page papers, and the Honors Coordinator).  Students will be encouraged to complete one paper in the fall and one in the spring, through a variety of course options including a research seminar, a “history lab” course, an independent study, or a new two-credit independent study course designed for those students who are revising a previously written 12-15 page paper. The latter course will be proposed through the standard course approval process. The Honors Coordinator will also organize optional meetings for students pursuing both this and the senior thesis honors option (a UCC member suggested that these meetings be mandatory). 

Will this new option further reduce the number of students writing senior theses in history? The goal is to increase the number of students pursuing honors and the number of students engaged in intensive primary source research. UCC members briefly discussed the variability of ways in which students can obtain honors in different departments before approving all of the proposed changes to the history major.

Return to top

Proposed Changes to the Religious Studies Minor 

Bernadette Brooten, Chair of the Program in Religious Studies, presented a proposal for changes to the Religious Studies minor.  These changes would delete one of four core course options, and require students to complete courses from two different departments or programs, with each course focusing on a different religious tradition.  One of these courses could focus on two, but not three or more, different traditions.  A total of five courses would still be required. UCC members suggested ways to clarify the proposed Bulletin text, and the Office of the Registrar stressed the necessity of listing specific courses counting for the traditions requirement.

At a later meeting, the UCC approved revised text related to the proposed changes to the Religious Studies curriculum.

Return to top

Proposal for a Psychology Minor

The UCC approved a proposal for a new minor in Psychology, presented by Paul DiZio and Ellen Wright from the Psychology Department, and Undergraduate Departmental Representatives Selen Amado and Caroline Kaye. This minor was first proposed to the department by 2016-17 UDRs, who twice surveyed current and prospective psychology students about student demand for the minor/related issues, and also conducted research on Brandeis enrollment patterns and the curriculum of Psychology minors offered at institutions with comparable numbers of departmental faculty.  Completion of the minor would require three core courses (PSYC 10a Introduction to Psychology, PSYC 51a Statistics or other statistics options, and PSYC 52a Research Methods and Laboratory in Psychology) plus two electives selected from a list of foundational courses in Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience, or Social and Developmental Psychology, or an advanced seminar for which prerequisites have been satisfied.  The university may need to offer an additional section of PSYC 52a if there is sufficient demand from new minors, but this need is still to be determined. Some current Psychology majors may now choose to minor; however, the three core courses are required for both majors and minors.  UCC members agreed with Psychology faculty that the new minor will provide students from other fields with useful knowledge about statistics, experimental design, and evaluation of research.

Return to top

Proposal for a Bachelor of Science Degree/Major in Applied Mathematics

Mathematics professors Dmitry Kleinbock, Mark Adler, Olivier Bernardi, and Jonathan Touboul presented a proposal for a new major in Applied Mathematics.  Enrollments in the math major, minor and courses have greatly increased over the last seven years, and students have increasingly asked for and enrolled in courses related to applied math subjects.  Those who graduate with comparable majors from other universities have many job opportunities in industry, finance, and scientific research.  Newly appointed professors with expertise in applied math now enable the department to introduce a first Applied Math track/curriculum, which focuses on applications of mathematics to natural sciences.  Additional tracks focusing on applications in computational sciences and in the social sciences will be brought forth when staffing allows.   The current math major requires nine courses, but the Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Math would require 12 courses:  five core courses (Math 15a or Math 22a, Math 20a or Math 22b, Math 36a, Math 36b, Math 40, with Math 23b recommended but not required), in addition to three mathematical methods courses (Math 35a, Math 37a, Math 121a) and one course in numerical methods, one course in modeling, and two in Applied Math, the latter four courses selected from specified math, computer science, biology, biochemistry, physics, neuroscience, and economics options, at least two of which must be from departments other than math. Departmental honors would require meeting grade requirements in courses counting toward the major, and completion and defense of a senior honors thesis.  Students would not be allowed to double major in both “pure math” and Applied Math.

Four new courses, one already approved, have been designed for the new major, all to be taught in the next three semesters. The UCC advised the department to complete the new course approval process for all courses as soon as possible, so that these courses could be added to the Brandeis University Bulletin at the same time as the new major. Students in computer science, economics or other quantitative majors may be able to complete the Applied Math major as early as the spring of 2020, and some current math minors may now take additional courses and enroll in the new major.  

The UCC approved the proposed Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics, which must now be approved at two faculty meetings.   Once approved, the UCC will be able to approve a second and third track without additional faculty meeting review. The math department also expects to bring a proposal for a BS option in pure Math to the UCC in the next academic year.

Return to top

Discussion of Triple Majors

The UCC discussed possible new topics for spring discussions: triple majors, the number of weeks required to generate summer school credit, and the undergraduate residency requirement, especially for mid-year students.  Some staff, students and faculty believe that the pursuit of triple majors and/or minors contributes to student stress, and limits exploration of a broad liberal arts education.  The Office of the Registrar was asked to gather information about the policies of peer institutions: how many and what other institutions allow triple majors and minors, and how many grant summer school credit for programs that are four weeks in length?   At Brandeis, what are the combinations of triple majors that students complete?

At a later meeting, committee members discussed the information assembled by the Office of the Registrar regarding combinations of triple majors completed by Brandeis undergraduates, and restrictions on triple majors at other AAU institutions (most institutions do not appear to have restrictions, though some limit students to completing no more than three majors or minors in total).  UCC member Paul Miller surveyed 28 faculty in the life sciences; almost all felt triple majoring was not beneficial for students, but only half wished to ban triple majors (though faculty who most frequently interact with undergraduates were more in favor of a ban).  Faculty advise that students aim for depth in one major, rather than breadth across three majors.  Triple majors do not for the most part increase one’s job prospects, though students often pursue them as a way of “standing out.”  Staff in Academic Services are concerned that peer pressure to triple major can frequently be a source of stress for undergraduates.  The UCC favors early mentoring and advising messages that focus on the positives of diving into a single major, getting to know the faculty in the major very well, and pursuing research, a senior thesis or internships.  Are messages from faculty less influential than messages from advisors in Academic Services, alumni, successful junior or senior students, and peer advisors such as Roosevelt Fellows, UDRs, Orientation Leaders, and Community Advisors?   A partnership with the Hiatt Career Center promoting the benefits and advantages of a single versus triple major could be explored, and a new “Health, Wellness and Life Skills” module might also emphasize the health and career benefits of choosing a single or double major.   Should there be “speed bumps” before a student is allowed to triple major?  Could declaration of major forms ask students to indicate other planned or declared majors to trigger advising conversations about the advantages/disadvantages of triple majoring?

Return to top

Double-Counting Digital Literacy, Oral Communication and Writing Intensive in the 2019-20 General Education Requirements

The UCC was consulted regarding questions related to double-counting DL, OC and WI courses/experiences in the new general education requirements.  Each major, with guidance from the DL, OC and WI faculty oversight committees, will define how the requirements will be satisfied, and can decide whether a single course can satisfy more than one of these three Foundational Literacies.  The UCC expects that most majors will require three different course equivalents.  Will students with double or triple majors need to complete each requirement in each major?   The Office of the Registrar expects students to complete each requirement for each major in which they are enrolled.  Departments/programs can decide to substitute courses/experiences from other majors, and one course equivalent could satisfy the requirement in more than one major.

Return to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Health: Science, Society and Policy

UCC members discussed the review report and self-study of the Health: Science, Society, and Policy program, before continuing the program for a period of five years.  The HSSP major draws many prospective students to the university, and enjoys consistently strong enrollments.  The review report praised the program’s interdisciplinary spirit, rigor, and high quality of teaching; recommendations concerned compensation for senior thesis advisors, the program chair and associate chair, and possible ways to strengthen collaboration with departments contributing courses to the HSSP curriculum.  Because HSSP depends on both Heller and Arts and Sciences faculty, Dean Birren will discuss relevant compensation issues with the Dean of the Heller School, David Weil.  The UCC also recommended that the HSSP Faculty Executive Committee continue to make progress in considering a division of the required Epidemiology course into two distinct courses with different course numbers, descriptions, and target populations (BS and BA?), in addition to providing more specific advising information regarding curricular pathways for both BS and BA students, and addressing matters related to the Hands-On Experience by reconsidering the required length of internships offered through study abroad, distributing a list of approved study abroad HOE programs, sharing more information about internship options, and resolving issues identified in the HSSP 89a course.

Return to top