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Sciences Dean Stubbs Hopes to Improve Division's Gen-Ed Offerings

Christopher W. Stubbs
Christopher W. Stubbs, the Dean of Science, teaches in the physics and astronomy departments.

Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs said in an interview on Friday that he hopes to help members of his division develop and improve their General Education offerings in the coming year.

The revamped Gen Ed program premiered this fall with dozens of new and adapted courses designed to transcend both disciplinary divisions and the bounds of the classroom, per its website. Despite delays in its rollout, many of the courses offered this fall proved immensely popular even though the Faculty of Arts and Sciences placed enrollment caps on many.

“Focusing on urgent problems and enduring questions, Gen Ed courses are unusually explicit in connecting the subjects you study to the people you will become and the world beyond the classroom,” the program’s site reads.

Stubbs said that members of the Sciences Division have work left to do in developing Gen Ed offerings that fully embrace the mission of the new program.

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“The challenge that I hope to address for Gen Ed offerings from Science faculty is that the liberal arts educational objective of Gen Ed courses is much broader than just some introductory course in chemistry,” he said. “And I think scientists in particular are often uneasy dealing with syllabus and curricular things that are not directly in their lane.”

Stubbs said that many of his colleagues have “a firm comfort zone,” so when it comes to teaching about the “broader social elements” of their work, “a lot of scientists are reluctant to go there intellectually.” He said he hopes to encourage more Sciences faculty to adopt the liberal arts mindset required for Gen Ed courses.

“[My goal is] empowering my colleagues to be more comfortable to move into that space and take some ownership and share their perspective and understand that it's okay, in the classroom as a scientist, to speak to things to which there may not be a black-and-white, crisp, quantitative, experimentally-verifiable answer,” he added.

Stubbs said he hopes to embark on this mission in the coming year with the partnership of the Gen Ed program office.

“I think that we are going to continue to improve the Gen Ed program and the offerings that we have out of this division to support the curriculum of Harvard College,” he said.

Stubbs added that he is inspired by his colleagues.

“I salute my colleagues for their creativity, scholarship and research accomplishments,” he said.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at juliet.isselbacher@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

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