The Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC) reviewed the recommendations of the College's seven Task Forces and the comments and exchanges with faculty from the three recent open forums that were held in January. This process began nearly three years ago when the College hosted seven faculty focus groups; the associate deans and the Dean of the College met with all departments individually. During all of these discussions, consistent themes regarding the College's core curriculum emerged: the core is too big, too restrictive, and too prescribed; the core reads like a "check-list"; the core isn't rigorous enough and doesn't adequately reflect the mission of the University.
The underlying rationale for examining the core curriculum was to enhance the College’s ability to provide a rigorous and academically relevant education to its students in a university that is committed to being a premier liberal arts college in keeping with its Augustinian heritage and the Catholic intellectual tradition. This premise was the basis of all the curriculum discussions, beginning with the Faculty Focus Groups in March 2007 (the results of which were posted on the College Web site, the meetings held with the faculty of each department in the college, the establishment of the Task Forces in September 2007 and the invitation to the faculty to serve on the Task Forces in February 2008. An Open Forum was held on May 5, 2008, where the co-chairs of each task force presented the findings of their committee and addressed any questions or comments. In December 2008 and January 2009 the Task Force Reports and Recommendations were submitted and made available on the Web to the faculty.
Next, the review of the Task Force Reports and recommendations was undertaken by the DAC. The chairpersons from the departments of English, Theology, Philosophy, History, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geography and the Environment, Physics, and Mathematics, and the director of the Ethics program contributed to the process.
Here are the final Task Force Reports:
Task Force I: Benchmarking
Task Force II: Foundational Courses
Task Force III: Unity of the College
Task Force IV: Role of Science Education in the Core Curriculum
Task Force V: Role of Cluster and Interdisciplinary Courses
Task Force VI: Physical Learning Environment
Task Force VII: Experiential Learning Compendium
II. Dean’s Advisory Council Deliberations
The report from the Benchmarking Task Force (Task Force I) recommended the core be reduced from 21 to 17 courses. The DAC took the recommendation a step further and recommended a 15-course core (47 credits). This has since been revised. It is important to emphasize that the DAC's first impulse was not to reduce the core for the sake of size; rather, the DAC focused on that which it believed is essential to the Villanova’s commitment to the liberal arts and its mission. This involved increasing the rigor of courses, smaller class sizes, more emphasis on writing, and creating a core over which the College itself could exercise greater quality control.
The DAC presented the first draft of the proposed core on January 19, 2010. The proposed core would consist of the following courses: 2 Augustine and Culture Seminars; 2 Theology courses; 1 Philosophy Course; 1 Ethics course; 2 Modern Languages; 1 Math course; 2 Core Science courses each with a lab; 1 Literary Imagination course; 1 Historical Perspective course; and 2 Social Science courses.
III. Open Forums of January 2010 to Discuss the Proposed Core
A meeting was held with the Science Faculty to discuss the Core Science proposal of Task Force IV and the Mendel Science Experience proposal that followed on January 22, 2010, in the Driscoll Auditorium. Two additional Open Forums were held with faculty on Tuesday, January 26, 2010, and Wednesday, January 27, 2010, in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center. Judging from the comments, the exchanges were highly positive and proved to be very useful to the DAC.
The minutes of these meetings are posted on the Web, as are the Seven Task Force Reports and the Full Report, Re-imagining the College: How Can the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Offer Its Students a Premier Liberal Arts College Experience?
For the Full Report, Re-imagining the College: How Can the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Offer Its Students a Premier Liberal Arts College Experience?, please click here.
IV. DAC Deliberations After the January Open Forums
The minutes of the Open Forums contain numerous comments and, indeed, some impassioned pleas regarding the absence of a Fine Arts requirement and the Mendel Seminar (proposed by Task Force IV) in the proposed core. The DAC carefully considered these comments.
Fine Arts Requirement: After a thorough review of the fundamental purpose of the Fine Arts requirement, the DAC decided that the Fine Arts represent a unique way of knowing and learning about ourselves and about culture. Furthermore, the evidence, such as the positive overall CATS scores for Fine Arts courses, suggests that Villanova is doing well with the current Fine Arts requirement.
Recognizing that the Fine Arts courses foster the values of critical thinking, insight, and creativity, and that “art” made well always involves serious thinking and active reception of past works of art, the DAC concluded that the Fine Arts, can be offered through different courses. Receiving art thoughtfully is itself an activity and the Fine Arts requirement recognizes the activity both in making works of arts and in viewing or appreciating them.
Decision: The DAC reinserted the Fine Arts as a core curriculum requirement.
The Core Science Requirement/Mendel Science Seminar/the Seminar on Science and Society
The role of the sciences in the Core Curriculum proved to be a complex issue and generated considerable discussion (see Open Forum minutes). Task Force IV recommended: (1) the College Core Science requirement will be fulfilled by taking any two Mendel Science Experience (MSE) courses with labs—students will not be restricted to taking back-to-back courses within a single discipline and (2) establishing a Mendel Science Seminar as a “third” core science course. In addition, working with the co-chairs of Task Force IV, the DAC proposed that the Mendel Science Experience courses could be taught by newly created Mendel Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows.
Mendel Science Experience: According to this proposal, students may select any two MSE courses to complete their core science requirement — they would not be restricted to taking back-to-back courses within a single discipline. Consideration may be given to sequential courses (i.e., within a single discipline) on a case-by-case basis if a compelling argument is made for a specific thematic course set.
Task Force IV continued to meet and developed a second and final report with refinements to the core science proposal. MSE courses would have a general structure of 3 hours per week of lecture (capped at 30 students) and two sections of 3 hours per week of laboratory or field experimentation (capped at 15 students per section; caps could vary depending on availability of laboratory space), which may include sessions reserved for field trips, independent or group projects, discussion, etc. Although MSE courses are intended to be topically diverse, they all share a common approach, incorporating all of the following in a meaningful way: Problem Solving; Laboratory/Field Experience; Use of Technology and Application of Quantitative Tools; and Interdisciplinary Understanding.
Decision: The DAC approved the Mendel Science Experience proposal.
Mendel Science Seminar: Proposed to be taken in the freshman year and to complement the Augustine and Culture Seminar, the Mendel Science Seminar (MSS) recommendation was intended to provide context to the study of science, foster excitement for the role of science and technology in modern society, and better establish for our students the fundamental links in their education between the natural sciences, technology, humanities, and social sciences. As conceived, the MSS would provide a broad overview of the fields of science and would enable our students to choose their core curriculum science lab courses in an informed way.
The Dean’s Advisory Council met with the Task Force IV co-chairs and the science department chairs to discuss the task force report. In subsequent deliberations, the DAC was receptive to retaining two semesters of science with laboratory, but struggled with adding a third science course to the core in the face of a strong desire to reduce the size of the core. In November 2009, at the request of the DAC, Associate Dean Kel Wieder and the Task Force IV co-chairs met and developed the Mendel Science Experience proposal that included interdisciplinary understanding (fostering independent thinking and discussion at the intersections of science, the humanities, and the social sciences) as an element that must be present in each core science lecture/laboratory course.
Feedback on the Mendel Science Experience proposal, from individual communications with the Dean’s office and at the Open Forums, revealed strong support for the initial Mendel Science Seminar proposal. At the same time, discussions were turning to the report from Task Force III, Promoting the Unity of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which included a proposal for a freshman Seminar on Science and Society (SoSS). The Mendel Science Seminar (Task Force IV) and the Seminar on Science and Society (Task Force III) had several common elements (freshman year course to complement ACS; interdisciplinary nature, bridging sciences, social science, and humanities; seminar format; allowing non-science students to make more informed choices about their two-semester science sequence).
Enthusiasm for a Mendel Science Seminar or Science and Society Seminar led the Dean’s Advisory Council to revisit the issue. The possibility of making one of these seminars an option to ACS II was discussed, but felt not to be viable, given the centrality of ACS II to the mission of the College, the close linkage between sections of ACS and the freshman learning communities and the fact that ACS is the common course for all Villanova first year students regardless of school or college. There remained a reluctance to adding a new component as a core curriculum requirement and an important concern about staffing implications (did we have the faculty with interest to fully staff a new required course?).
Decision: The DAC concluded that the Mendel Science Seminar/Seminar on Science and Society will not be one of the required elements of the new core curriculum.
Future Possibilities for Incorporating the MSS/SoSS Concepts: In the March and April 2010 meetings of the Dean’s Advisory Committee, there was considerable optimism that faculty who were passionate about the MSS/SoSS concept would move forward with innovative proposals for new seminar courses that could potentially:
1) Count as a Mendel Science Experience course (a thematic, possibly team-taught, course with a laboratory component that might have a greater emphasis on the interactions of science, social science, and humanities than a more traditional core science course might have), or
2) Count as a social science core curriculum requirement (e.g., the course outlined as an example of the Mendel Science Seminar in the 21 October 2008 Task Force IV report).
Decision: The DAC was favorable toward these possibilities.
Mendel Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows: According the second and final report of Task Force IV, several departments made it clear that the Mendel Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow proposal was not suited to their disciplines. Other departments currently employ this approach and have experienced success. Accepting that Mendel Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows may not be suitable across all disciplines, a one-size fits all model may not be inappropriate. Given that same logic, however, the proposal for a Mendel Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow program remains viable. Those departments that wish to avail themselves of this resource, and make it work, are encouraged to do so.
Decision: The DAC accepted the Mendel Postdoctoral Fellows proposal as a viable option.
Other Items Deliberated and Decided Upon by the DAC:
Core Requirement Narratives: Each of College’s core areas will have a narrative/rationale, which explains why it is in the core, why it is fundamental to a liberal arts education in the Augustinian tradition, and what it is hoped a student will gain from the experience. These rationales/narratives are currently being developed.
Core Curriculum Committees: Since core courses fulfill College requirements, not just department goals, the College would oversee them via a series of curriculum committees, perhaps administered by an associate dean for the core curriculum. These committees would be tasked with specific duties, such as coordinating material to prevent or minimize redundancy across courses, and have short time lines in which to accomplish their initial tasks. Course proposals for the core would be developed by departments or programs and submitted to the core curriculum committee. These committees would be charged with implementing change, approving core courses, overseeing the process, and monitoring progress. They would be composed of a combination of elected and appointed faculty members.
The DAC approved the following core curriculum committees to consider courses in their respective areas:
· Foundational Courses Committee: ACS, Ethics, Theology, and Philosophy
· Humanities Committee: History, Literature, Fine Arts
· Natural Sciences and Mathematical Sciences Committee
· Social Sciences Committee
· Diversity Committee
· Writing Committee
AP and IB Courses: Since the core curriculum is designed to provide students with what is truly unique and distinctive about Villanova’s commitment to the liberal arts, its Catholic educational mission, and its Augustinian heritage, AP and IB courses will not be accepted as replacements for required core curriculum courses, with the possible exception of the foreign language core course requirements, where proficiency can be demonstrated by AP or IB credit.
Core Course Proposals: Proposals for core courses would be vetted by the appropriate core curriculum subcommittee to ensure that specific courses fulfill the purpose of core courses, consistent with the rationale/objective of each core curriculum component.
Course Enrollments: The DAC envisions many of the core courses being capped at 22-25 students, to be discussion oriented, writing intensive (the writing designations of "enriched" and "intensive will go away; it is assumed that courses in the core will emphasize writing), and seminar-styled.
Advising: The DAC believes that advising will be the key to the success of the new core. With enhanced student choice and freedom comes the need for more purposeful and engaged advising. Undeclared arts students are advised through the Advising Office, and declared majors are advised through their major disciplines. Often, however, advising for the core and for the major occurs separately. It is not desirable that core courses to be the last courses a student takes. The core is meant to be an integral part of a students’ learning, not a hurdle to jump over. To get a sense of best practices, the College is in the process of studying advising models from different colleges/universities via site visits. Some schools, for example, have Deans of Advising for each year of a student’s academic experience: orientation (first year), selecting a major (sophomore year), fulfilling requirements (junior year), and preparation for graduation (senior year). Site visits to Fordham, Notre Dame, and Georgetown are currently underway.
Promoting Unity in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Task Force III): The DAC engaged in a thorough discussion of the recommendations of Task Force III, Promoting Unity in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This task force created proposals to encourage students to take curricular risks; improve interdisciplinary curriculum communications; enhance co-curricular socialization opportunities; foster interdisciplinary curricular development; and promote faculty development.
Among its recommendations are: that the College disseminate full information about each semester’s course offerings in every department in a format easy for non-majors and advisors from other departments to find, provide course descriptions, including course content and necessary prerequisites, and, where possible, the frequency of the course offering and its potential appeal to students from other disciplines. The Task Force called for the creation of a searchable database of courses. Students and advisors should be able to search by keyword, prerequisite, and CAPP placement.
The DAC supports these suggestions. It was noted, however, that integrating Novasis and Banner to accomplish the laudable goal of creating a searchable database of courses would be difficult, since both Novasis and Banner are not designed for this purpose. Since the College’s online syllabus repository is very helpful, perhaps a similar tool could be developed for courses.
It was further suggested that the College host a “Courses Fair” similar to a “Majors Fair” where students would learn about available course offerings. The DAC believes that the goal of encouraging our students to take curricular risks should be supported.
Task Force III also recommended encouraging collaborative research opportunities to promote College unity. It suggested that a list of faculty volunteers interested in supervising/mentoring undergraduate research be generated and put on the Web, and that departments and the College should strive to work together in support of College-wide undergraduate research initiatives.
The Bucknell Forum was mentioned in DAC as a good way to foster unity among the arts and sciences. The Bucknell Forum, “Global Leadership: Questions for the 21st Century,” is a national speakers series focused on major issues at the forefront of today’s discourse. It features nationally renowned leaders, scholars, and commentators who examine issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives and a diversity of viewpoints and provide a model for civil discourse. (See: http://www.bucknell.edu/x37526.xml).
Thematically-Focused Cluster and Interdisciplinary Courses (Task Force V): The DAC discussed the recommendations of Task Force V, Cluster and Interdisciplinary courses. It agreed that the College should offer these types of learning experiences. The DAC decided that the College will entertain proposals for cluster and interdisciplinary courses, but will not require them to be a part of the core.
Diversity Requirements: The DAC decided to integrate a fourth category, economic diversity, to the diversity requirement, which does not change substantially the current policy. Thus, the diversity requirement will be:
Diversity Requirement (2 courses)
Each student is required to select one course in two of the following three areas:
New Core: Courses that focus on ethnic groups, minority groups, or poverty in the United States.
CURRENT: Courses that provide a focus on studies emphasizing ethnic and minority experiences in the United States.
Diversity (2): No change.
CURRENT: Courses that provide a focus on women’s experiences and highlight the ways in which gender influences experience.
Diversity (3): No change.
CURRENT: Courses that provide a focus on the culture, economics, politics or ecology of societies and nations other than those of Europe and the United States.
Service learning courses, internships, and other experiential courses may be applied toward this requirement, provided they include a significant reflective component, just as traditional diversity courses do. Study abroad courses may also be applied toward this requirement; such courses will be assessed the same way as courses at Villanova.
1. A student may not use a single course to fulfill more than one category of the diversity requirement.
2. The diversity requirement cannot be fulfilled by independent study or a senior thesis.
3. Language courses cannot fulfill the requirement, although literature courses in a foreign language can fulfill the requirement provided they focus on appropriate material.
To summarize, the New Core Curriculum will consist of the following courses and will take effect in Fall 2011:
o 2 Augustine and Culture Seminars: These seminars focus on the question: Who am I? The first seminar contains readings from Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Greek and Roman antiquity, Augustine, and the High Middle Ages and is dedicated to understanding the foundations of our shared intellectual tradition. The second seminar will address the question of identity with texts from the Renaissance to the modern era.
o 2 Theology courses: The first course introduces students to theology as a discipline by examining the Bible and Christian literature of the post-biblical centuries. The second course in Theology allows students to pick from a spectrum of courses; current courses are predominantly from the Christian tradition.*
o 1 Philosophy Course: The core course will explore the philosophical responses to the questions of how we can know, what is real, and what is the nature of the human person.*
o 1 Ethics course: The course will provide critical reflection on distinctive and viable visions of the moral life, with particular focus on Christian, especially Roman Catholic, Augustinian accounts, and explore the significance of different visions though an examination of various contemporary moral questions.*
o 2 Modern Languages fulfilled by:
· Passing a proficiency test offered by the ML Department or the Villanova Global Institute every fall, winter and spring, or attaining a 4-5 score in the high school AP test. C
· Completing at Villanova two courses above the elementary level (in one Romance Language, Latin, or German) or two courses at the elementary level (in all other critical languages) with a passing grade of at least C.
o 1 Math course TBD.*
o 2 Core Science courses each with a lab. The College Core Science requirement will be fulfilled by taking any two Mendel Science Experience courses — students will not be restricted to taking back-to-back courses within a single discipline.*
o 1 Literature and Writing Sophomore Seminar
o 1 History course TBD*.
o 2 Social Science courses*. SSC 1000 would satisfy one of two social science core requirements.·
o 1 Fine Arts Course*.
* Courses reviewed and approved by the appropriate core curriculum committee.
Total: 16 courses and 50 credit hours.