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• The author of KU's first-ever "Common Book" is on campus this week, taking part in several events.
The university distributed "Notes From No Man's Land" by Eula Biss to all of its freshmen this year, as part of one of several new initiatives designed to help first-year students stay connected, stick around and succeed.
Biss, who teaches at Northwestern University in Illinois, will be taking part in two events today: Student Union Activities' weekly "Tea @ Three" at 3 p.m. in the lobby of the Kansas Union, and then a conversation event, "Who, Then, is One's Neighbor?" at 5 p.m. in the Union's ballroom. She'll follow that up with a morning "Coffee and Conversation" Q-and-A event at 9 a.m. Friday, in The Commons in Spooner Hall.
My colleague Alex Garrison recommends Biss' essay "The Pain Scale" in case you'd like an introduction to her work.
• KU's law school had good news to report this week when it came to the number of student applications it received for 2012 (they increased by 19 percent from last year).
But the story was quite a bit different at Washburn University in Topeka, the Capital-Journal reports. Washburn's application total fell from nearly 900 in 2011 — actually more than the 819 KU received — to 626 in 2012, more than 350 fewer than KU.
That seems to jibe with a theory KU law officials told me about earlier this week: that as prospective law students think more carefully about how much debt they'll be racking up and what kind of investment they're making, they may look more kindly upon law schools at well-known state universities, while private schools and lesser-known institutions may suffer.
Not every law school's 2012 application numbers are yet available. Law Dean Stephen Mazza told me many schools wait until U.S. News and World Report publishes the data with its law-school rankings, which come out in the spring.
But Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, the director of the humanities and Western Civ program at KU, raised a good point to me when I checked with her to find out what schools currently have Western Civ requirements.
She noted that Western Civ won't be the only traditional requirement to be affected by the planned new KU Core curriculum for all undergraduates: The introductory classes in English, philosophy and many other subjects that thousands of undergrads have taken may no longer be required in the same way they were before.
The new Core curriculum is going to be all about flexibility, KU officials have told me, and the less-rigid requirements will probably have a big effect on the paths that undergrads have long followed through certain high-trafficked gen-ed classes, Zimdars-Swartz noted.
So far, we've reported on what might happen with Western Civilization because of its particular notability among KU courses. But watch for us to take a look at some of those other possible changes as the curriculum is finalized during this school year, in advance of fall 2013 when it will go into effect.
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