2019-20 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report
Meeting Dates: September 20, October 4, October 18, November 22, and December 6, 2019, January 24, February 7, March 6, March 20, and April 24, 2020.
Committee Members: Cameron Anderson, Jacob Diaz ‘20, Antonella DiLillo, Christina Dioguardi, Leah Gordon (Spring 2020), Lyle James ‘21, Tom Pochapsky, David Powelstock, Joe Reimer (Fall 2019), Carrie Sheng ‘20, Sara Shostak, Sheida Soleimani, Sabine von Mering.
Ex Officio Members: Mark Hewitt, Dorothy Hodgson, Erika Smith, Elaine Wong.
Actions Taken During the 2019-20 Academic Year
Among the items the UCC planned to consider in 2019-20 were reports on Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation, Education/Education Studies, International and Global Studies, and Social Justice and Social Policy from the Subcommittees on Interdepartmental Programs; approval of new study abroad programs; reports on approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors; review of a revised Justice Brandeis Semester Proposal; updates from European Cultural Studies; a report on student engagement in Latin American and Latino Studies; a proposal for a credit/no-credit EL practicum course related to the HHMI STEM Initiative; a proposal for an interdepartmental program in Asian American Pacific Islander Studies; a proposal for a combined bachelors/masters in HSSP and Global Health Policy and Management; consideration of procedures for approving modules, practicum, and credit/no-credit courses, and internship credit for international students.
Committee members reviewed procedures for the conduct of UCC meetings.
Antonella DiLillo and Cameron Anderson volunteered to serve on the subcommittee to approve Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.
UCC members discussed the “Guidance for Advisors and Chairs Regarding Add/Drop and Pass/Fail Periods,” prepared by members of the 2018-2019 UCC. All chairs were asked to distribute the guidance to faculty in their departments, which not all faculty on the UCC had received. Committee members suggested that the document could be added to the syllabus checklist, and that it should be redistributed by the School of Arts and Sciences. The registrar’s office could also distribute in materials regularly sent to chairs and faculty, and the new Committee on Teaching, Learning and Assessment might also be asked for distribution suggestions.
In September, J. Scott Van Der Meid, Associate Dean of Study Abroad, and Alisha Cardwell, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, presented the criteria for new study abroad program approval (academic credentials, duration of program/credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and area institutional support) and details on newly proposed programs. The UCC granted provisional approval to the following: Middlebury School in Moscow, Russia; Earlham College Border Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona; Exchange- Keio University, Faculty of Economics, in Tokyo, Japan; Exchange-The University of Tokyo, Faculty/Graduate School of Economics in Tokyo, Japan; and Exchange: Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. In October, a program at the Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy was also granted provisional approval by the UCC.
In January, two new study abroad programs presented by Van Der Meid were provisionally approved: SIT Argentina “People, Environment, and Climate Change” in Patagonia and Antarctica, and CIEE Liberal Arts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Van Der Meid then presented a proposed change to the German language requirement for study abroad. This change, which was originated by faculty in the German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature department and discussed by the World Languages and Culture Committee, was approved by the UCC, and removes for a trial period of five years the German 20b prerequisite for study abroad programs in Austria and Germany not requiring prior German language study. There are currently more students studying in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Prague (all in programs without language requirements) than in German cities. This proposal aims to increase student interest in programs in Germany for students majoring in politics, economics, IGS, ENVS, business, and music. Enrollment in post-study abroad German language courses and the number of German Studies majors/minors both pre- and post-study abroad will be monitored during the trial period.
In February, the UCC approved two summer study abroad programs presented by Van Der Meid and Ashley Trebisacci: IES/Summer “Society, Culture, and Gender” in Amsterdam, and IES/Summer “Immigration and Multiculturalism in the Mediterranean” in Nice.
Keith Merrill, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, presented a proposal for a new EL practicum two-credit course which would be graded on a Credit/No-Credit basis. This pilot program is part of the Brandeis STEM initiative supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and aims to change the culture of science on campus, especially for underrepresented minorities. The practicum would provide credit expected by six student observers recommended by instructors in specific biology, economics, fine arts, physiology, physics, and anthropology courses. Five of the students have completed and done well in the classes for which they are providing feedback to the instructors via weekly meetings and observation notes on such topics as opportunities for active learning. Merrill meets with the students about once a week to discuss the pedagogical methods they have observed, and ways to deliver constructive feedback, utilizing a model created by Allison Cook-Sather at many other universities. The student observers are also collecting online feedback from students, as well as offering “office hours.”
UCC members asked if these students might be introduced to other university resources such as the Ombuds, ODEI, OEO and PARC offices to learn more about mandated and confidential reporting. It can be difficult for students to share criticisms with faculty, and hard to predict what will be said.
The UCC postponed its decision on course approval and asked for additional information, including a more detailed syllabus listing reading assignments and additional resources that students might be introduced to during the semester. What is the future of the course? Is this a “one time only” course, or will other instructors teach it in the future? What would be the procedure for adding this course to students' fall course schedules?
Committee members wanted student observers to be prepared if they were to hear troubling feedback about current or future instructors. Is the expectation that only excellent instructors would ever be invited to participate? How should the success of this or future iterations of the course be evaluated? Should the students' findings be "documented" for other purposes related to improvement of teaching?
At the following meeting, Irving Epstein, Kim Godsoe, Melissa Kosinski-Collins, and Keith Merrill discussed information about the EL practicum course provided to the UCC in response to their questions. The pilot practicum appears to be going well, with faculty reporting excellent experiences. Funding support, which comes from both a Center for Teaching and Learning teaching innovation grant and an AAU inclusive excellence grant, is providing small stipends to the faculty participants and the course instructor. Future student-teacher partnerships will always be based upon strong existing relationships, and problematic faculty will not be recruited. Once instructors are recruited, they will be asked to suggest several possible student partners, as not all suggested students will agree to become classroom observers.
UCC members asked how the practicum would be administered in the future, and where it might “live”? Would the Education program be an appropriate home? Faculty who have been “observed” might become the next practicum instructors. The HHMI team plans to evaluate the program after the first semester through focus groups and surveys, though the pilot might continue in the spring. The UCC approved the proposed practicum course, which will be graded on a C/NC basis, for the 2019-2020 academic year. The Registrar’s Office will manually add the practicum to the schedules of the students who are expecting credit for their participation. The proposers will return to the UCC with a more detailed syllabus and information about what was learned through the pilot if the course is to be offered in future semesters.
Credit/no-credit courses, modules, and experiential learning practicums are three course structures created by past Undergraduate Curriculum Committees, with specific approval procedures mandated. All new C/NC courses, modules, and free-standing EL practicum courses must be approved by the UCC, but the practicum structure is currently being used far more frequently due to new Foundational Literacy (FL) requirements in the Brandeis Core. Several new practicum courses were approved last year by Divisions followed by UCC review when approving increases to the total number of courses required for certain majors due to the addition of new FL courses. Because the practicum course structure has now become well-established, the UCC, which historically approved all practicum courses, voted to allow practicum courses to now follow standard new course approval procedures, except for those stand-alone practicum proposals without an academic departmental home (e.g., the HHMI practicum course, and practicum courses previously approved for Student Support Services and the Waltham Group). The Registrar’s office was asked to replace most current EL course abbreviations with departmental/program abbreviations (e.g., ECS, LGLS). Because not all two-credit courses involve experiential learning, some should probably not be labeled practicums in the future.
Credit/no-credit grading was originally established by the UCC at the request of two departments, which argued that letter grading inhibits creativity in certain disciplines and courses. All courses graded C/NC must be approved by the UCC. Committee members believe it is important for courses to not flip between letter and C/NC grading because of the preference of individual course instructors. While C/NC courses may count towards the major, and there is no limit on the number of C/NC graded courses that a student may complete, students must enroll in at least three letter-graded courses in each semester. In answer to a question, student representatives stated that students prefer grades in comparison to credit/no-credit grading.
The undergraduate module course structure (two-credits for work completed in six to seven weeks) was also established by the UCC; only one undergraduate module course has ever been proposed.
Committee members agreed that module courses and courses graded credit/no-credit should continue to be approved by the UCC.
In the fall, a committee member asked that the UCC consider involving the World Languages and Cultures Committee in approving new world language courses numbered below 100. In January, it was reported that the World Languages and Culture Committee was willing to offer advice and consultation to the Division of Humanities regarding new course approval for language courses numbered below 100. Anonymous feedback will be provided to the course instructor and their department chair prior to Division consideration.
Philip Dolan, Director of Summer and Continuing Studies, Professor Tim Hickey from Computer Science and Grace Zimmerman from the International Business School presented a proposal to replace one course in the approved App Development and Marketing Justice Brandeis Semester, a nine-week program taught in the summer of 2019 and scheduled again in the summer of 2020. The program’s offerings include a Business course in marketing, a Computer Science course in Application Development, and the “The JBS Incubator” experiential learning course in which students work in small teams to develop a smartphone app and a marketing plan for the app. The UCC approved replacing BUS 152aj, “Marketing Management” with BUS 134aj, “Entrepreneurial Marketing,” a new course which will count as an elective for the Business major and minor, and better align with the curriculum of this JBS.
Discussion of Pass/Fail Grading for First Semester Undergraduates, or for One Course Counting Toward Majors
In November, UCC members began a discussion of pass/fail grading for first semester undergraduates by asking the Registrar’s office to research the experience of other institutions (e.g., M.I.T.) with this grading system, including its reported effects on student learning, mental health, and the retention of underprepared students. What are the pros and cons?
At M.I.T., letter grades are used for purposes of advising and assessment of academic standing in the first semester, but do not appear on students’ transcripts. The Registrar's office at M.I.T. reports that this system creates problems for students when they are asked to provide first term grades to medical or graduate schools. Some first semester M.I.T. students may enroll in classes perceived to be “hard” so that these grades do not appear on their transcripts. Hampshire College is another institution that does not provide letter grades to its students. Non-graded semesters are intended to reduce academic pressure and obsession with grades, encourage exploration, and contribute to the retention of less well-prepared students.
UCC student representatives believe that Brandeis students would prefer to receive letter grades. Committee members discussed other modifications to grading such as required C/NC grading for introductory courses in the major, or C/NC grading in required first year courses such as UWS, but were most interested in exploring the possibility of allowing one or more courses in a major to be taken with the pass/fail grading option. This modification might also encourage exploration and aid retention. If there was sufficient interest, the UCC could advance a proposal which would eliminate the prohibition in counting a P/F course toward the requirements of a major or minor, thus enabling academic programs to make their own decisions about whether to count one or two P/F courses toward requirements.
Department chairs were asked at a January meeting with Dean Hodgson to discuss with their faculty the level of interest in allowing one or two courses counting toward their majors to be taken with the pass/fail grading option. A few UCC members reported that their departments had begun these conversations; it was suggested that a Google form be created to gather feedback from departments and programs before the UCC considered further action on a possible change to pass/fail grading policy. About 700 pass/fail requests out of 12,000 to 14,000 grades per term result in about 200 grades covered by “pass” grades each semester.
Internships for International Students, Number of Internship Credits Counting Toward Graduation, and Encouraging More Departments to Offer 92a/b Internship Courses
The Office of International Students and Scholars was consulted regarding internship issues for international students after this topic was first suggested at the September UCC meeting. While international students may enroll in INT 89a/b two-credit courses, this course has a prerequisite, which is an internship course completed in the major, when available. While the UCC may wish to consider removing the prerequisite for INT 89a/b, the ISSO suggests that a better option would be to offer 92a/b Independent Internship courses in more majors. Although the 92a/b four-credit internship course is available to and can be offered in all majors, not all departments and programs utilize the option. Brandeis’s policy on internship credit is that undergraduates may take as many internship courses for credit as they wish, though only eight total credits (equivalent to two full courses) may count toward graduation. Before allowing a student to register for more than eight internship credits, the registrar’s staff and Academic Services advisors must ensure that no more than eight credits are counted toward the total of 128 required for graduation.
At a subsequent meeting, the UCC considered a proposal from the Registrar’s office to eliminate limits on the number of internship credits that may count toward graduation. The committee also discussed how to encourage greater use of the 92 internship option, which would especially benefit international students who for visa issues must be enrolled in a course for credit while pursuing an internship.
In November, Mark Hewitt presented a proposed change to Brandeis’ undergraduate internship policy, which would enable students to count as many as 28 credits for internship courses toward the total number of credits required for graduation; this would be accomplished by changing the restriction from no more than eight total internship credits to no more than four internship credits in a semester or term. The current policy is hard to enforce and requires additional advising. Very few students enroll in eight internship credits in any semester. First year students are unlikely to enroll in internship courses, though mid-year students could participate in study abroad programs offering internships for credit.
After discussion of internship completion patterns in different majors, and students’ and faculty perspectives on the benefits of internships, both for and not for credit, committee members asked Hewitt to revise his proposal to allow no more than 16 internship credits in total (normally no more than four credits in any one semester, with exceptions to be reviewed by the Executive Council of the Committee on Academic Standing). He was also asked to consult with registrarial colleagues about the internship policies of other peer institutions.
Discussion about encouraging more departments to offer 92a/b Internship Courses was postponed until Jodi Hanelt from the ISSO was able to participate. In which majors are the lack of internship courses most detrimental to international students? Constraints on internship courses for credit have an inordinate effect on international students who are not allowed to pursue uncredited internships or even volunteer in their fields of study due to Curricular Practical Training visa issues.
At a December meeting, Jodi Hanelt, Director of the International Students and Scholars Office, distributed a survey in which a small number of international juniors or seniors discussed their internship experiences. Most had utilized the one-credit summer INT 92 course, created to enable international students to participate in summer internships in compliance with visa regulations, and a few had completed the two-credit INT 89 course offered during the academic year for students who have already completed internship courses in their majors. From the ISSO’s perspective, expanding the internship credit options in Computer Science would be the action that would benefit the greatest number of international students. The UCC will bring this matter to the attention of the CS department. International students must be able to enroll in credit-bearing courses in their majors (not minors) to be in compliance with Curricular Practical Training eligibility requirements. These rules, established in the 60’s perhaps to protect the jobs of domestic workers, may be more stringently enforced with more required documentation in the future.
At this same December Meeting, UCC members reviewed a second draft of the Bulletin text that would now enable undergraduates to count a total of 16 internship course credits (instead of the previously stated eight credits) toward the 128 credits required for graduation. Undergraduate representatives questioned this phrase: “Normally a student may not receive more than 4 credits of internship in a semester or term.” After some discussion about the differences between internship seminars (numbered 89) and independent internship courses (numbered 92 or 93), the committee agreed to revise this sentence to state that not more than four credits may be earned through independent internships in a single semester. A total of 14 students have completed two internship courses in the same semester in the last five graduating classes.
In January, the UCC learned that the Committee on Academic Standards and Policy had unanimously approved the UCC’s revised policy regarding the number of credit-bearing internships that may count toward the Brandeis degree. This approval and the new policy were reported at the January 31st Faculty Meeting.
In November, the UCC briefly discussed an email from ECS Chair Stephen Dowden regarding the Humanities Council rejection of a proposed program title change (to “European Literature in its Contexts”). ECS faculty were asked in the spring of 2019 to attend a 2019-2020 UCC meeting to discuss revisions to the curriculum that would articulate vertical and/or horizontal connections (e.g., period and/or disciplinary requirements) and a new culminating reflection activity of the program's choice, in addition to a proposed new name. One UCC member expressed the opinion that a change in the program’s title is less important than the curricular revisions.
In April, the UCC approved a proposal presented by Stephen Dowden to revise the requirements of the ECS major by now including at least one course focused on material before 1800. The committee asked that Bulletin text describing the new requirement provide examples of such courses to help students understand what would and would not count in a degree audit for the ECS major. Committee members also clarified that neither the 2017-2018 nor the 2018-2019 Undergraduate Curriculum Committees demanded specific changes regarding a reflection activity or other changes to the ECS curriculum, but asked the ECS faculty to consider changes discussed during meetings attended by Dowden and others in the springs of 2018 and 2019. While a change in the title of the program was requested, this request originated in discussions after the 2017-2018 review, at which time ECS faculty agreed that the title of European Cultural Studies, a unique program not offered at any universities other than Princeton, was less than transparent to prospective majors. Alternative titles have not yet been identified, other than one refused by the Humanities Council.
A UCC student representative reported on student complaints about the expense of course readers. The UCC will refer this matter to the Committee on Teaching, Learning and Assessment, which will be asked about best practices regarding course readers versus readings provided in LATTE.
In December, Katy McLaughlin, Senior Academic Advisor, presented four IIMs reviewed by two members of the UCC (Cameron Anderson and Antonella DiLillo) and two experienced IIM advisors (Laura Miller and Marion Smiley). The IIMs approved by this UCC subcommittee are: Claire Ogden ‘21, “Media, Culture and Communication”; Leah Sagan-Dworsky ‘21, “Italian Studies”, Irma Zamarripa ‘21, “Public Policy”; and Rose Archer ‘20, “Performance Studies”. The most frequent IIM topics continue to be related to Communications. It is possible that the procedures/guidelines for approving Italian Studies IIMs, which are “fast-tracked” due to the former existence of an Italian Studies major at Brandeis, may be slightly revised by the subcommittee in the future. Students in the class of ‘23 will also be asked to detail fulfillment of Foundational Literacies in their IIM proposals.
In April, McLaughlin reported on two more IIMs approved by the UCC Subcommittee: Kristina Fricker ‘22, “History of Science” and Julian Snyder ‘21, “Peace and Conflict Studies”. The UCC also discussed a change in the title of an IIM approved in 2018-19 before referring this matter back to the Subcommittee.
Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation
The UCC considered the self-study and review report of the program in Creativity, The Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST), before continuing the program for a period of five years. The review committee praised program faculty for their thorough, thoughtful self-study and responsiveness to identified challenges and student feedback; their deep engagement with students and one another; their dedication to mentoring, which has created a sense of belonging for its diverse community of students; and their co-curricular programming contributions to the university.
After the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation program was reviewed, the UCC at a later meeting approved a proposal presented by CAST Co-Chairs Thomas King and Toni Shapiro-Phim to revise the curriculum by requiring a new two-credit capstone practicum. The practicum, soon to be offered each semester, will replace and add rigor to more casual capstone options that included an ungraded, co-curricular option with a final presentation scheduled outside of class time, which was difficult for peers and CAST faculty to all attend. The total number of courses required for the minor will change from five to five and one half courses. Students may elect to take practicum courses in each semester, and the supervised projects in both practicums will provide opportunities for minors to reflect on and integrate learning from other completed courses, and develop skills in documenting and evaluating projects. While current CAST students are governed by the old requirements, most have enrolled in and appear to be benefitting from the new practicum course, offered for the first time this spring. Six students will graduate with the minor in May of 2020, with ten expected to graduate with the minor in May of 2021.
Dean Dorothy Hodgson led a discussion of possible improvements to the UCC’s process for reviewing interdepartmental programs. Committee members began by considering the current process and then suggested improvements (e.g., a template for self-studies, a template for review reports, questions for review committees to ask faculty and student program participants, a rubric), drafts of which were revised at subsequent UCC meetings before sharing with interdepartmental program chairs, who were asked for feedback at an early spring meeting. Brandeis utilizes external review committees for departmental reviews, but does not have sufficient resources to support external reviewers for regularly scheduled interdepartmental program reviews. The goals of revisions to the review process are to provide more clarity to reviewers and program chairs, ensure that review criteria are distributed to all in advance, and establish a more productive consultation to programs (“let’s think together and problem-solve issues identified by the programs”). Future program reviews will arrange for meetings with students before meetings with program faculty and utilize the materials developed and approved by the UCC.
Committee members agreed to a trial period of allowing students to receive both credit and compensation for PEER 94 course credit. Credit and compensation are already allowed for credit-bearing internship courses, but a similar policy was not established for Peer Assistantship courses, perhaps through an oversight, when the policy of allowing both credit and compensation for internship courses was revised. Students are not allowed to receive credit for more than one PEER 94 course, graded on C/NC basis. Most departments do not have sufficient funding to pay for all Peer Assistants, so credit is often provided for the first undergraduate teaching assistant experience, and hourly pay for subsequent experiences.
Student representatives discussed issues brought to their attention by undergraduates (e.g., credit for college courses completed while in high school, study abroad credit that may or may not count toward the 128 credits required for graduation), which the Offices of the Registrar and Study Abroad were asked to resolve.
In January, Jonathan Unglaub, Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MERS), presented two proposed changes to the requirements of the program, intended to increase the number of students completing the minor by making the curriculum more accessible. Most current MERS minors are majoring in English, Fine Arts, History, Music, NEJS, or majors offered by Romance Studies. The proposed changes would eliminate required completion of a core course (HIST 110b or HIST 123a) and capstone (currently either an independent study, senior thesis in a major, or designated seminar course), while still requiring five courses from at least three different departments/disciplines. MERS faculty had considered adding other optional core courses, but in the end decided to simplify and streamline the curriculum by eliminating this requirement, as the core courses were not always offered every year. UCC members asked if a sense of community might be lost without students taking courses in common. Could offering more core courses from different disciplines help ensure that students are introduced to essential knowledge related to the program’s learning objectives? The MERS faculty were asked to consider expanding the number of core options to at least five courses, or as many as the MERS committee prefers, including courses from FA, ENG, NEJS, HIST, MUS, or other contributing fields (COML, IMES, etc.) in whatever configuration is preferred (one course from several areas, or two from one discipline and one from others), selected from courses that are likely to be offered every other year so that one or two options are available every year.
At a later spring meeting, the UCC approved nine MERS core course options identified by the faculty and chair. These options include HIST 110a “The Civilization of the Early Middle Ages”, HIST 110b “The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages”, HIST 123a “The Renaissance”, HIST 123b “The Reformation in Europe”, HIST 126a “Early Modern Europe 1500-1700”, COML/HUM 21a “Renaissance Literary Masterpieces”, ECS 100b “Making European Modernity” (to be retitled, with focus on new 1250-1550 date range), FA 42b “The Age of Cathedral”, and MUS 131a “History of Music I: Ancient through Early Baroque”. Termination of the MERS capstone requirement was also approved.
Professors Chen Chen, Yuri Doolan, Sarah Lamb, and Harleen Singh presented a proposal for a new
interdepartmental program and minor in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Studies. Other faculty on the planning and future oversight committee include V Varun Chaudhry, ChaeRan Freeze, Faith Smith, Naghmeh Sohrahbi, and Grace Talusan. The requirements for the minor are one core course (selected from “Asian American Literature,” “Introduction to Asian American Studies” or “Asian American History”), three elective courses, and one related course in another area of ethnic studies or related field (approved by the program director).
Students have been advocating for more AAPI courses at Brandeis since campus protests in 2015 resulted in the hiring of a Kay Fellow and then a tenure-track professor charged with establishing the new minor. AAPI students are the largest racial minority group (14%) on campus, and the Asian population more than doubles when international students from Asian countries are also considered. AAPI Studies is an intervention in the study of race beyond the black-white binary, and offers an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the histories, literatures, cultures, and contemporary realities of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Over 50 other U.S. Colleges and universities already offer AAPI programs including majors, minors, Ph.D. or M.A degrees. University funds have been allocated for current and future programming, such as an upcoming guest lecture co-sponsored by AAAS and AAPI.
UCC members suggested that the proposal include the learning goals for the minor and text for the Brandeis University Bulletin before approving the establishment of this new interdepartmental program and minor in AAPI studies for a period of five years, beginning in the 2020-21 academic year. The proposal was then considered and approved at two faculty meetings.
Proposal for Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP)-Heller Five Year Bachelors/Masters Program in Global Health Policy and Management (GHPM)
Darren Zinner, Associate Chair of HSSP and Associate Dean for Academics at the Heller School, presented a proposal for a five year Bachelors in HSSP/Masters in Global Health Policy and Management, which was approved by the UCC. The new program would enable students who are completing either the B.A. or B.S. degree in HSSP to apply in their junior year (preferably by March 1, but no later than June 1) for admission to the M.S degree in GHPM. The target is to admit 3 to 5 undergraduates to the M.S. program, which now enrolls up to 30 students per year. Admitted students would take three GHPM core courses (one fall four-credit course and two spring two-credit modules) in their senior year, which would count toward focal area C or general electives in HSSP as well as enable students to take more GHPM electives in the following year of Masters study. Students would also complete an approved GHPM internship (paid or unpaid) in the summer after their senior year, and receive a 50% tuition scholarship towards Heller tuition for their graduate study (as do all Brandeis alumni).
Dmitry Kleinbock and Omer Offen from the Math department presented a proposal approved by the UCC to create a B.S. degree in “pure math” which would require three more courses (including at least two at the 100 level) than the number (nine) now required for the B.A. degree in pure math. This change was initiated in response to demands from current math majors, especially international students. The UCC also approved a proposal to create the same requirements for honors in both the B.S degrees in pure and applied math (either completion of an honors thesis or two Math courses numbered 130 or higher). Committee members asked the department to consider offering the thesis option to B.A. honors candidates. Because students are rarely ready to do thesis work in Math without completing additional courses, the department reported after further consideration that it will not offer this option.
Elizabeth Brainerd and Scott Redenius from the Economic department presented a proposal to change the requirements of the Economics minor by increasing the number of required courses from five to six, while removing two current restrictions on electives. The two core courses, ECON 10a and 20a, would continue to be required, but the number of electives would be raised from three to four. Congruent with the requirements for the Economics major, only one of these electives would require an introductory Economics prerequisite rather than the three currently required. This would enable students who had expected to complete the Economics major, but later decide to complete the minor to count the same elective courses toward either the major or minor, reducing confusion and “lost” minors. In addition, the restriction on Business courses would be changed so that one Business course could count toward the Economics minor (the major does not restrict BUS courses, though “double-counting” rules restrict the number that might be counted). ECON minors often ask why certain classes that count for the major do not count for the minor, and this proposal eliminates these inconsistencies and simplifies advising, while maintaining the rigor of the minor by increasing the total number of courses required. The UCC approved these proposed changes.
Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: International and Global Studies (IGS)
After reviewing the International and Global Studies self-study and report from the standing committee on interdepartmental programs, the UCC continued the IGS program for a period of five years. The review report noted progress made in developing an IGS learning community and assisting students in navigating the curriculum through creation of new “planning documents” that organize the curriculum into five overarching topics. The report also noted IGS’s healthy enrollments and course availability, the university’s recent investments in additional IGS contract faculty, and positive student regard for the faculty.
The UCC asked that the IGS chair and faculty and university administration continue to make progress on the following issues. While the contributions of contract faculty are deeply valued, more tenure-track faculty should also be involved in program governance. Faculty cohesion should be built through regularly scheduled meetings for IGS faculty to discuss such issues as the perceptions of domestic majors that international students do not participate in the major (in fact, 26% of the enrolled students are international) and that study abroad scholarships are not available (the Study Abroad office offers scholarships and would like to partner more actively with IGS). Another topic that might be considered at an IGS faculty meeting is whether or not tracks desired by students (e.g., in global health, in international relations) might be defined in order to be listed on undergraduate transcripts. IGS’s space issues (e.g., a gathering place for students, and faculty offices, ideally with windows, in closer proximity to one another) should also be addressed by the university’s administration to the greatest extent possible.
Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP)
The UCC considered the Social Justice and Social Policy self-study and review committee report. The mission of SJSP, a program with 39 current minors, aligns well with the university’s mission and core educational commitments. The two students who met with the review committee greatly appreciated the experiential learning and “real world” internships supported by the curriculum, as well as its flexibility, which enables courses they had taken out of interest to “count” toward a program that can be reported on transcripts and resumes. Melissa Stimell, the chair of the program, has been stalwart in her service to the university, extending her chairmanship into the fall and then the spring of this academic year, but future leadership of the program has not been identified despite her best efforts. Over time, the faculty who originally founded and then led or served on the program committee have resigned or retired from the university or departed because of other commitments more important to them. The original goal of developing a strong curricular connection with the Heller School has not materialized.
The self-study, program faculty, and review report all emphasized that the following are needed for the program to flourish: joint hires of faculty in Sociology and Politics to teach new courses with embedded experiential learning for the progra; high level coordination and support from the deans of Arts and Sciences and Heller; a dedicated faculty member to chair/direct the program; and a stable, engaged steering committee. Without commitments from Arts and Sciences and Heller to fund these initiatives, the review committee could not recommend renewal, and neither could the UCC, which discussed several options: continuing the program for a one to two year period, suspending admissions to the program, and discontinuing the program. If SJSP were discontinued this spring, students entering Brandeis in the fall of 2020 could still enroll in and complete the program, and arrangements could be made for all of the currently enrolled students to complete the program.
Faculty members on the UCC believe that most social science (and other) faculty do not know about SJSP’s leadership issues. The committee asked that members of the Social Science division receive both the self-study and review report and be informed of the status of the program. Could the division assist in identifying a chair and a faculty committee, which would review the curriculum, perhaps pursuing self-study suggestions to reorganize and refocus the curriculum around: a. the policy cycle; b. policy-making levels (local, state, national, international); or c. the link between justice, policy, values, and action. The committee also asked the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of the Heller School to find time to discuss what, if any, commitments they could jointly make to sustain the program. If the division and university are unable to identify new leadership and fund new curricular commitments, the 2020-21 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee would be expected to discontinue the SJSP program.
Faith Smith, Chair of Latin American and Latino Studies, Edith Suarez, Academic Administrator, and committee members Elizabeth Ferry and Charles Golden reported on efforts to build community amongst undergraduates majoring and minoring in LALS, as requested by the 2018-19 UCC. LALS sponsored programs in the past year were more collaboratively produced by students and faculty (for example, a forum on immigration, a theatrical performance initiated by the Caribbean Cultural Club), and included student-initiated events, opportunities for faculty-student interaction, and a closer partnership with the Intercultural Center. UCC members thanked the LALS faculty and staff for their efforts, which appear to have resulted in closer engagement with Latinx students and majors and minors.
The UCC approved a credit/no-credit grading proposal presented by Professors Irving Epstein, Melissa Kosinski-Collins, and Kene Piasta for two new two-credit “Navigating STEM” courses, which build on the non-credit “Galaxy” STEM program piloted for the past five years. This offshoot of the Science Posse aims to increase retention of underserved STEM populations and has involved about 60 students in the past year. The new fall and spring courses are likely to increase retention in the program, as well as provide a safety valve for students who often drop a class during their Brandeis career. The C/NC grade will reward participation and thoughtful reflection and remove the stress of competing for a grade, while replacing competition between students with a peer cohort and mentoring model. A culture of inclusivity emphasizing collaboration with peers from different backgrounds is expected to translate to higher levels of student resilience, retention and success. First years who participate in the summer program will become eligible to enroll in the fall two-credit course, and then the spring two-credit course. The curriculum emphasizes setting goals, practicing skills used in STEM courses, developing strong study habits, identifying and remedying weak spots in college preparation, and making connections with faculty and staff resources.
In April, UCC members considered current fall 2020 COVID-19 curricular contingency planning, which included creating a suite of 10 courses that could be offered online to up to 150 first year international students who are not able to be on campus in September due to visa, travel and health issues. These courses were selected on the basis of a review of past registration data (the primary courses that first semester students from East Asia have taken in the past) and a five-year history of online summer courses taught by faculty through the Rabb Summer School.
The university is aiming to prepare all faculty to teach remotely whenever the need should arise, while also ensuring that intentionally remote courses meet high pedagogical standards. Over the summer, all faculty will be encouraged to take advantage of Center for Teaching and Learning resources to learn how to design courses that enable a flexible pivot to remote learning. We are also considering ways to utilize faculty who gain experience in teaching remotely during the summer of 2020, and ways to limit classroom density, as well as a process for reviewing courses that faculty/departments wish to offer remotely.
Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Education Studies and Teacher Education
The UCC reviewed the Education Studies and Teacher Education program self-study and report from the interdepartmental program review committee, before unanimously approving continuation of the program and its major and minors for a period of five years. The review committee and the UCC both commend the program for its new attention to advising and the research activity of faculty and students, its contribution to the university’s multi-disciplinary liberal arts values, and its planning for the future. The self-study also discussed ways in which the program would benefit from becoming a department in a manner similar to WGS, and from efforts to diversify both its faculty and students.