In what department chair Mary M. Gaylord calls a demonstration of a new commitment to undergraduate students, the Romance Languages and Literatures Department this semester unveiled a new series of courses designed exclusively for undergraduates.
This year the department will also review the curricular of its four language sections--French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese--to see how the courses and the structure of each section could be improved, Gaylord said in an interview yesterday.
And one change students could see in the next few years is the option of taking courses whose syllabi span the romance languages, said Gaylord, professor of Romance Languages and Literatures.
"[On the whole,] there will be major developments in undergraduate studies this year," Gaylord said.
"The primary change has to been to increase the number of courses exclusively for undergraduates," said Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Bradley S. Epps, who last month assumed the new post of director of undergraduate studies in Romance Languages.
"The new courses for undergraduates include a number of new survey courses in the various languages and literatures," Epps said.
In addition, the department is offering a new series of 90-level classes, undergraduate-only seminars with enrollments limited to 15.
"[These courses] may be focused on a specific topic or problem or theme, but are oriented exclusively for undergraduates and designed to enable undergraduates to grasp the essentials of the national literary tradition that they are studying," Epps said.
Gaylord said one reason for the new undergraduate-only classes was that students had complained in previous years that it was difficult to take classes alongside graduate students who had studied the languages for longer periods of time than their undergraduate classmates.
"The courses in the department are often complicated because at times there are native and non-native speaking speakers," Epps said. "The presence of graduate students in courses designed primarily for undergraduates increases the complexity of a classroom interaction."
While Gaylord said that students had offered positive feedback on this change, some students interviewed by The Crimson said they did not think there was a great effect.
"I haven't noticed a major change because most of my classes have been comprised of undergraduate students anyway," said Sarah J. Lacasse '97, who is concentrating in French.
"I'm not sure there is much of a difference in the level of discussion," agreed Julie C. Suk '97, who is taking a French 90 seminar on Flaubert this semester and who took a seminar last year that was comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students.
"It depends on which particular students are in the class, especially since the classes are so small," Suk added.
Epps predicted that proposed new courses which would cover material from more than one romance language would draw many students.
And Gaylord said that, given the level of faculty interest in teaching such courses, they could be listed in undergraduate course catalogues within the next few years.
Already there are concentrators who are focusing on more than one language, Epps said.
"I think it is a great idea," Suk said. "There are many students who are fluent enough in two languages who would perhaps want to take those courses."
The department is also looking into ways in which concentrators can also work collaboratively in other academic fields