I met Tuesday with KU's dean of liberal arts and sciences, Danny Anderson, to learn more about where the College of Liberal Arts of Sciences will be going in 2013 and where it stands on revamping its curriculum for next fall.
You can expect to read more on both of those subjects soon, but I thought I'd share one piece of the conversation now that might be of interest to a lot of folks.
After we reported this fall that KU's two-semester Western Civilization sequence will likely no longer be required for every student seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree from the CLAS, it prompted consternation in some corners. The Western Civ program is obviously important to a lot of folks. One guest column from a former KU student body president worried it was an indication that KU would become a "glorified trade school."
But Anderson told me Tuesday that a well-rounded liberal-arts-and-sciences education is not on the way out.
Yes, KU officials have said they want to reduce the general-education load on students; right now for a BA from the College, they need to take 70-plus credit hours' worth of gen-ed courses, which those officials say is pretty seriously out of whack compared with other similar universities.
So the new Core curriculum, which will be the first ever to apply to all KU undergraduates in any school, will require only about 36 hours of general education. And you can see from the list of classes already approved that students will have a range of options for each of its 12 required units.
But at the same time that university-wide effort is going on, the College is considering its own degree requirements. That's pretty significant, as about two-thirds of all KU undergrads are in the College. The aim is still a more streamlined general-education experience, but students seeking a BA will likely still have some additional requirements for the sake of a well-rounded education, he said.
What those additional requirements might be is still being sorted out, so he couldn't provide many details. But he said laboratory science courses and foreign languages were two areas being discussed. More broadly, he said the College will aim to produce students with some knowledge of science, familiarity with Western heritage but also the rest of the world, mathematical skills and more.
Overall, he said the goal will be to "prepare the whole person." We'll keep you updated as things come more clearly into focus, likely in the middle of the spring semester.
As I talked Wednesday with Sara Rosen, KU's senior vice provost for academic affairs, about the fate of the Mount Oread Scholars program, I also asked her for an update on the effort to revamp KU's undergraduate curriculum — the "KU Core," as you might know it.
She told me that about 450 courses have already been approved to be a part of the Core curriculum, which will apply to undergraduates in any KU school. You can even look at the list of all of them at the KU Core website, which also has a whole bunch of other information about the effort. Several of them are duplicates, listed more than once because they could possibly fill more than one requirement.
Most of those have been "fast-tracked": That is, they are courses that already fill general-education requirements for KU undergrads, and staff picked them out as likely to be included in the new curriculum. Most of the courses that will be "fast-tracked" have already been added to the list, as well, Rosen said. (Sorry if you'll have to read that paragraph slowly for it to make sense.)
That's as opposed to how the rest of the courses on the list will be chosen: Faculty members can pitch courses for inclusion, and they'll be evaluated by a committee of faculty and students.
Now, a bit about what it means for courses to be "included" — an included course will be one of many options from which students can choose to fill 12 required "units." Those units are divided among six "goals," which are essentially skills or areas of knowledge that KU would like its students to learn.
That committee I mentioned before is right now meeting regularly to decide what other courses to include. In addition, Rosen said, committees at each school and college are discussing what requirements THEY want to have and how they'll fit in with all this Core business.
This whole process — at least for the 2013-14 academic year — needs to be totally done by mid-March, Rosen said, so catalogs can be printed and such. The Core committee will continue functioning in future years, adding or removing courses from the curriculum.
Rosen said she'd eventually like for about 1,000 courses to be included as options.
Right now, there's enough for you to go through and figure out what kinds of course combinations could add up to fill your requirements, if you're an interested current or prospective student. Keep in mind that current students will be allowed to opt in to the new curriculum, substituting the new (and, for many students, much lighter) general-education requirements for the old ones.
Be prepared to read more about all this and the various ripple effects it may have during the spring semester as things fall into place.