Turning An Idea Into A Core

Suppose you are a tenured Faculty member interested in helping the Faculty increase the number of Core courses by offering a course in your area of expertise.

And suppose, as Gruff Professor of Goats and Goat Technology, your area of expertise is the world of goats and the men and women that herd them.

Your idea would join a number of others attempting to fill out the new Quantitative Reasoning Core Requirement and other areas which had become anemic in recent years. You would become part of a process of course creation now in full swing in restaurants and committee rooms across campus.

In the roughly year-long process of getting your goats with dialogue, review and revision, you might get angry as your academic methods face their most rigorous review since the beginning of your teaching career.

You will almost certainly get lunch at the Faculty Club, perhaps several lunches if you get angry enough.


However, at the end of the process, you will also get a place in the Course catalog, for Historical Studies A-98: "Goat Herding in World History"--to be known affectionately to your future students as "Goats."

Step 1: The Idea

Like your own idea for "Goats," most new Core courses are a reflection of their instructor's academic interests, although in some cases these interests become Core course ideas through the suggestion of Core subcommittee members.

Professor of Psychology Patrick Cavanagh, whose Science B-44: "Vision and Brain," entered the Core in 1992, says that he and a co-instructor were approached with the idea by the Core office.

"The Core office came to us and said 'What's the most fun thing you can ever imagine doing?' and we just laid it out for them," Cavanagh says.

Subcommittee members recruit Core instructors from their own departments, and new tenured Faculty members are frequently given the option of teaching in the Core even before they are given office space.

"Eighty to 85 percent of the ideas that materialize materialize out of the imagination of instructors," says Director of the Core Program Susan W. Lewis. "Sometimes this thinking is provoked by a conversation with the chair of a subcommittee--frequently they get together for lunch."

Lunch at the Faculty Club is an almost indispensable step in the process--Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Jeremy R. Knowles says that Historical Studies Subcommittee Chair Jorge I. Dominguez has eaten more Faculty Club-prepared wild mushrooms than anyone else he knows.

Dominguez, who is also Dillon professor of international affairs, says these lunches begin with a general conversation about the professor's research interests--in your case, the world of goats and the men and women that herd them.

He says the conversation then turns to an attempt to wed the Faculty member's research with the stipulations of Historical Studies.

"If you can identify a research topic that fits well within Historical Studies, that's the equivalent of 'bingo'" Dominguez says. "We try to fit their research within the guidelines [of the Core]. That's the task of lunch."

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