Strengthening the undergraduate experience was one of President Michael Roth’s seven proposed initiatives for faculty members to explore last year. As part of the initiative, within the next year the University will offer a new Writing Certificate and a multi-disciplinary pilot course geared at sophomores, as well as continuing to explore the idea of a senior capstone experience.
By next fall Roth hopes that a certificate program, in the same vein as International Relations and Environmental Studies certificates, will be available to students in writing. Roth and Professor of English Anne Greene, who chairs the committee on the proposed Writing Certificate program, hope that students who major in fields outside of English but have an interest in writing will take advantage of the program.
“We imagine that the certificate will allow students to think about writing in their major with technique courses and to take advantage of writing courses taught by interested visiting writers,” Greene said. “It’s incredibly exciting to have someone say, ’Go and invent something.’”
Due to the uncertain financial climate, courses counting towards the certificate will be those that are currently in the curriculum, running the gamut from creative non-fiction to fiction writing. Additionally, a pilot course, “Writing the Post-Human” will be offered in the fall. Greene hopes to see a science-oriented writing component added to course offerings in the coming years.
“You always have to be concerned about that [funding],” Greene said. “We’ve been told that there will be funding to support the program.”
Greene explained that the program will be implemented in stages to ensure that a minimum amount of funding is used.
This coming semester, Professor Henry Abelove of English and American Studies will pilot a multi-disciplinary course called, “The Sixties.” The course will be aimed specifically at sophomores and will enroll up to 100 students.
In response to Roth’s request for suggestions from faculty, Abelove noted that freshmen have specifically designed First Year Initiative (FYI) classes and junior and seniors often find specific courses within their majors, but there are no courses aimed directly at sophomores.
“There aren’t programs designed specifically for sophomores,” Abelove said. “Part of my thought was to provide that. I’m interested in courses that aren’t discipline bound.”
“The Sixties” is cross-listed in English, American Studies and History and will range in topics from the Cuban Missile Crisis to environmentalism. Abelove hopes that students will come away with a deeper knowledge of the decade.
“I think the ideas for strengthening the undergraduate experience are all strong and worthwhile,” Abelove said.
Additionally, Roth and faculty members are continuing their discussions about a senior capstone experience. Roth explained that for certain students, pursuing an internship or another creative project would be a better jumping off point in their fields of study after graduation as opposed to writing a thesis.
“Learning in a major should be a transition to whatever comes next,” Roth said.
Roth also feels that a healthy University curriculum involves review—allowing old programs to die and new ones to be born.
“You should always be proposing new programs and getting rid of old ones,” Roth said.
Despite the current financial climate, the University will continue pursuing new initiatives within its financial means.
“While we’re cutting back on some things, we are continuing to create a flexible and dynamic curriculum,” Roth said. “[It’s] not always about money but about ideas.”
Over fall break, Roth traveled to Seattle and California to speak with alumni about the initiatives as well as the importance of their generosity despite the difficult financial circumstances.
“It is hard to plan initiatives and think for the future,” Roth said. “We can plan, we need to be innovative so we’re not pursuing the same old. I worry that the cost of the economic crisis will be that we won’t have the money to get the job done. We need to be good stewards of the money we have.”