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Committee To Review General Education Program

By Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writer

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has charged a committee to generate a formal assessment of the undergraduate Program in General Educationthe first of its kind since the program's inception in 2007.

Recruiting members for the committee is the first step in a year-long process, according to committee chair and chair of the Philosophy Department Sean D. Kelly, who said he hopes the review will be completed by the end of the 2014-15 school year.

According to Kelly, who was appointed in December by Dean of FAS Michael D. Smith and Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris to spearhead the review, the committee will spend the rest of the spring semester and the summer term compiling a list of questions that will be used to survey students and faculty members about the program.

The committee will be comprised of approximately ten faculty members from SEAS and the divisions of Arts and Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences and will generate a report based on survey responses.

“We’re going to look at the data we’ve got and try to formulate a story about what the strengths and weaknesses of the program are and make some proposals about how it could be changed,” Kelly said.

Although the review committee has not yet officially convened, Kelly said he has already met with students and faculty members informally to gauge their perspectives on the program. He added that some students have said that they wish more of their concentration requirements would also satisfy Gen Ed requirements.

“It might be not ideal for the students that they can't satisfy [Gen Ed] requirements by taking a course that they are otherwise already interested in,” Kelly said.

During his informal interviews with students and faculty members, Kelly also said he has noticed a disparity in course sizes within the Gen Ed program.

“A very large percentage of the students who satisfy a certain kind of Gen Ed requirement will turn out to satisfy it by taking one of only a very small number of courses,” Kelly said.

Professors in the program have also noticed that there is a large demand for some courses rather than others, and, as a result, many must limit their course sizes.

John E. Huth, a physics professor who teaches the popular general education course Science of the Physical Universe 26: "Primitive Navigation,” said he has had to lottery course enrollment in order to foster a better learning environment for his students.

“I want to make contact with as many of the students as possible,” Huth said. “There’s sort of a scaling limit. When you go beyond a certain number of students you sacrifice that contact.”

After the review committee completes its report, Smith will bring it before the faculty, who may vote on recommendations for the Gen Ed program. These recommendations would in turn become the new guidelines for the program should the committee provide them.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on twitter @Meg_Bernhard.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 29, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated who Philosophy Department Chair Sean D. Kelly has interviewed informally in his early work as head of the committee tasked with reviewing the Program in General Education. In fact, Kelly has met with students and members of the faculty to gain feedback on the program.

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