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The humanities reigned in the latest round of concentration satisfaction ratings, followed closely by the social sciences and life sciences. As was the case in previous years, smaller concentrations generally outperformed larger ones in the survey, which is taken every spring by graduating seniors.
Women, Gender, and Sexuality achieved the highest satisfaction rate among members of the Class of 2012 with a 4.78 out of 5. Only nine graduating seniors last year concentrated in WGS.
“Our students receive a lot of one-on-one attention,” said director of undergraduate studies in WGS Caroline Light.
Government and Economics, which boast two of the largest pools of concentrators in the College, placed in the bottom five in the most recent ratings.
The results did not surprise the government department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch, who said that satisfaction is usually inversely correlated with the size of the department.
“That doesn’t mean that a big department can’t do better,” Welch said.
The government department is in the process of implementing changes in the advising system that were approved last year, but it has been too soon, Welch said, to see their impact reflected on the satisfaction survey.
But according to Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies for the economics department, concentration size may not be the only factor behind the student satisfaction.
“I think some majors tend to get students because the students love those disciplines, and other majors get students because it’s a useful thing to do, and it’s probably going to be useful in terms of getting a job,” Miron said.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
In last year’s survey, several humanities concentrations experienced jumps in ratings, while the average score of life science concentrations has decreased.
History and Literature and English—the two largest humanities departments—both scored above a 4.1 out of 5 in the concentration satisfaction surveys.
History and Literature has seen a steady upward trend in the past 3 years, which Jon W. Oakes ’13 credits to small class and tutorial sizes. Other humanities departments, including Literature, Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Architecture, and Comparative Study of Religion, all scored at least a 4.2.
East Asian Studies saw the greatest increase in ratings—from 4.18 to 4.58. The department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies Michael Szonyi attributes the jump to recent efforts to develop a sense of community within the department.
On the other hand, life sciences’ average satisfaction score has decreased steadily from 4.31 in 2010 to 4.14 this past year. Faculty and concentration advisers in the life sciences said they hope to maintain and improve the experiences of their concentrators, while noting their jump in ratings relative to their scores from a decade earlier. Between 2009 and 2010, the mean rating shot up from 3.52 to 4.14 after the splintering of the life sciences into what are now nine specialized concentrations.
“It’s nice that there’s a cluster [of concentrations] because it gives a lot of flexibility between the life sciences, and students can really find out where their interests lie,” said Tamara J. Brenner, associate director of life sciences education.
To facilitate student research, the life sciences employ a personalized advising system, with Ph.D.-holding faculty whose full-time job consists of offering guidance to concentrators.
“Having small concentrations with a designated adviser for each student helps a lot,” said William J. Anderson, associate director of education in the life sciences.
This year, the Department of Music score dropped .8 points from the year before to score a 3.36—the lowest in the 2012 survey.
But Mary Gerbi, undergraduate coordinator for the department, said that numbers can be misleading for many of the smaller departments.
“Because the graduating senior class is so small, the sample size changes a lot from year to year,” said Gerbi, who added that the department is starting a review committee to address concentration satisfaction.
—Staff writers Francesca Annicchiarico, Jessica A. Barzilay, John P. Finnegan, and Brianna D. MacGregor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Follow them on Twitter @FRAnnicchiarico, @jessicabarzilay, @finneganspake, and @bdmacgregor.
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