Part I: The Curriculum
5. Components of the Curriculum
Table of Contents




A. Concentrations

As is the case in liberal arts colleges generally, the concentration is the largest single component of a Colgate student’s academic program, averaging almost a third of all courses taken. In this section, we look at the concentrations: the variety, the distribution of concentrators, requirements of the individual concentrations, how students experience their concentrations, how students choose their concentrations, second concentrations, and minors. At the same time, most of the courses a student takes are not for a concentration, so it is a critical task for a liberal arts student to see a concentration as part of the curriculum as a whole. This section begins with a caveat similar to the one we invoked in section 4: our data are again assembled only for descriptive purposes.

Variety of concentrations

Colgate offers BA degrees in 48 concentrations approved by the State of New York. Three of these—Environmental Biology, Environmental Geology, and Environmental Geography—have just been approved in the last year, and a fourth (number 49), Environmental Economics, is under submission for State approval. These most recent concentrations have had no graduated students yet and will not be part of this discussion. Also, some degrees include Teacher Certification (seven in Secondary Education areas, five in Elementary Education areas); although the State lists these as distinct concentrations, we will not. In addition, the University also offers MAT, MA, and combined four-year BA/MA degrees, a total of 24 programs; these will also not be part of this discussion. The 45 BA concentrations are listed in Table B by the administering department or program. Recall that the University has 23 academic departments and seven interdisciplinary programs, organized into the four divisions.

Colgate has a wider range of concentrations than many liberal arts colleges. For example, Bowdoin offers only 30 different concentrations, Hamilton 36, Williams 29 (although they also have interdisciplinary contract majors), Middlebury 37. Much of this is probably because of Colgate’s greater size; Wesleyan, with the same number of undergraduates as Colgate, also has about the same number of concentrations. Colgate should make sure prospective students know about this richness:

The number and variety of concentrations at Colgate should be featured in University publications as a distinguishing characteristic of the curriculum. Publicity should apprise prospective students of the implications of this richness, emphasizing the depth to which students can pursue fields of study, particularly those that may be unfamiliar to them from secondary school curricula, and how depth in so many programs allows students to supplement their chosen concentrations with significant study in areas related to the fields in which they ultimately choose to concentrate.

The variety of our academic program is an advantage we have over liberal arts institutions with which we compete for ambitious students, and we should claim that advantage.

 

Table B. Concentrations and Administering Departments or Programs

HUMANITIES

Administering Department Concentration (Emphasis)
Art & Art History Art and Art History (Art History, Studio Art)
The Classics Classical Studies, Greek, Latin
East Asian Languages see Asians Studies
English English (Literature, Creative Writing), Theater
German German
Philosophy & Religion Philosophy, Religion, Philosophy and Religion
Romance Languages French, Spanish
Russian Russian Studies
division office Humanities

 

NATURAL SCIENCES and MATHEMATICS

Administering Department Concentration (Emphasis)
Biology Biology, Molecular Biology, Environmental Biology
Chemistry Chemistry, Biochemistry
Computer Science Computer Science, Computer Science/Mathematics
Geology Geology (Geology, Environmental Geoscience, Marine Geology), Environmental Geology
Mathematics Mathematics
Physics & Astronomy Physics, Astronomy-Physics, Astrogeophysics, Physical Sciences
Psychology Psychology, Neuroscience

 

SOCIAL SCIENCES

Administering Department Concentration (Emphasis)
Economics Economics, Mathematical Economics
Education Educational Studies
Geography Geography, Environmental Geography
History History
Political Science Political Science, International Relations
Sociology & Anthropology Sociology and Anthropology
division office Social Sciences

 

UNIVERSITY STUDIES

Administering Program Concentration (Emphasis)
Africana & Latin American Studies Africana Studies, Latin American Studies
Asian Studies Asian Studies (China, India, Japan)
Environmental Studies see Biology, Geography, Geology
Jewish Studies none
Interdisciplinary Writing none
Native American Studies Native American Studies
Peace Studies Peace Studies
Women’s Studies Women’s Studies

 

The concentrations listed in Table B are classified as departmental, topical, or interdisciplinary. Departmental programs are administered by one department and involve courses all in one department, occasionally with cognate course in other departments. A single concentration can have different emphases (e.g., the concentration in Art and Art History has emphasis either in art history or studio art); and a single department may offer more than one departmental concentration (e.g., philosophy, religion, and philosophy and religion are separate concentrations in the Department of Philosophy and Religion).

A topical concentration involves courses from different departments, usually in the same division, but is still administered from within one department (e.g., Biochemistry under Chemistry, Neuroscience under Psychology), the exception being topical concentrations that can be particularly devised by students and is administered through a division office. Some topical concentrations are common enough to be listed separately in the catalogue (e.g., Molecular Biology, International Relations). The possibility of self-designed topical concentrations such as those administered through the divisions is scarcely used now. Given the vagaries of projecting when courses may be offered, students who embark on a self-designed program are sometimes well advised to adapt an existing concentration to their interests. While this may be the responsible thing for the institution to do with respect to an individual student for whom failure to complete a concentration carries a heavy penalty, the institution may be the poorer for not encouraging ambitious students to consider structuring their own education.

The interdisciplinary concentrations involve courses from departments in different divisions and are administered by one of the seven interdisciplinary programs, each of which has its own director and advisory board. These programs are all in the Division of University Studies and offer a small number of their own non-departmental courses. The many possibilities outlined in catalogue descriptions of interdisciplinary concentrations suggests analogies with topical concentrations.

The concentration programs students follow or consider following outside of departmental structures may be useful indicators of future curricular directions.

The Curriculum Committee should regularly collect accounts of topical and interdisciplinary concentrations, whether students actually complete them or not, and share them with the faculty as provocations to departments and programs to consider curricular revision.

Both self-designed topical concentrations and interdisciplinary concentrations may tell us something about the interests of our more ambitious and creative students. In considering such concentrations, these students of necessity must know the potential of the full curriculum in more detail than is usual for students.

Distribution of concentrators

Any discussion of the concentrations must begin by appreciating how unevenly students are distributed through the system. The class of ’97 graduated 664 students in 779 concentrations (115 students had two concentrations). There were five concentrations with 50 or more students and ten with fewer than three. The largest concentration had 50 per cent more students than the 20 smallest concentrations combined. Five concentrations accounted for a little under half (356) of the total of 779. At the departmental level, the distribution is just as skewed. The nine departments with 40 or more students accounted for more than 80 per cent of all the concentrations. Checking these characteristics against another graduating class suggests that there is nothing unusual about the class of ’97 in this regard. For example, for the class of ’96, the largest five departments again accounted for half of all concentrations, and the largest nine—each with more than 40 students—accounted for almost three quarters of all concentrations. A less recent comparison, for the class of ’85, exhibits the same trend: three departments with 90 or more students each account for more than 40 per cent of all concentrations.

There is one aspect of the distribution of concentrations for the class of ’97 that is particularly noteworthy. Of the 45 possible concentrations, 44 were taken by at least one student. For the class of ’96, 41 of 45 were taken by at least one student. Thus, almost all concentrations are active each year, even if many only have one or two students.

Volatility in the distribution of concentrations by field is also an important factor, especially for institutional staffing plans. With major swings in the number of concentrators in individual departments, especially the largest ones, the institution must work to alleviate overcrowding. Over the last five years, the largest departments have always been the same departments. English, Political Science, Economics, and History have always had more than 60 graduating concentrators, and Philosophy and Religion always 50 or more. For the classes of ’96 and ’97, the nine largest departments were the same departments. On the other hand, between 1996 and 1997, the number of concentrators in one large department decreased by 32 and in another increased by 42. Between 1992 and 1996, one department more than doubled in size from 28 to 62. Over an even longer time span, the largest departments again tend to be the same departments; but there have been some major differences. For example, two departments went from consistently in the low teens in and around 1985 to consistently in the forties in and around 1996. We conclude that which departments are the largest tends to stay the same, but the number of students in the large departments can vary considerably from one year to the next or over longer time periods.

By division, as with departments, the ranking by number of concentrators stays the same with the most in Social Sciences and the least in Natural Sciences. The changes from year to year in one division are generally 10 per cent or less, so there are not such sudden swings as in departments. Over the long term, however, there can be more noticeable differences: in 1985 Natural Sciences and Humanities had approximately the same number of concentrators, in 1992 Humanities had almost twice as many as Natural Sciences, and in 1996 Humanities had only a third more than Natural Sciences.

Because Colgate began its existence as an all-male institution and has now been coeducational for over 25 years, we briefly considered the question of whether men and women experience the curriculum differently by noting their patterns of concentration. A gender analysis of concentrators, to come extent, confirms anecdotal evidence. More men than women concentrate in the Social Sciences, especially in Economics. More women than men concentrate in the Humanities, especially in Romance Languages. Slightly more women than men concentrate in the Natural Sciences. This pattern in Humanities and Social Sciences has been consistent for some time; in the Natural Sciences, however, there were more men than women in the past.

Requirements for the concentrations

There can be considerable variation in the structure of different concentrations. All concentrations require at least eight courses. The actual number varies from eight to fifteen and may depend on a student’s prematriculation record. For example, a concentration in French involves eight courses above the 200 level; conceivably a student might have to take some lower-level courses before entering the concentration proper. Concentrations in the natural sciences require cognate courses, anywhere from two to six. Finally, the same concentration but with different emphases can require a different number of courses (eight for English literature and ten for English with an emphasis in creative writing). A count of the number of courses required for a concentrator starting from scratch gives about one-third of the 45 concentrations requiring eight, about one-third requiring nine or ten, and one-third requiring eleven or more. There are four concentrations requiring fifteen courses. On the other hand, of the five largest concentrations two require eight and three require nine, and many students have prematriculation credits, so the typical concentrator probably needs to take only eight or nine courses.

Most but not all concentrations mandate particular courses to be taken by all students. They are most often introductory courses leading to a sequence of higher level ones. Natural sciences tend to have more vertical structure and prerequisites and therefore have more mandated courses. All departmental concentrations in this division have between four and eight mandated courses; if mandated cognate courses or entry courses are included, the range climbs to six to twelve, except in Psychology. Topical concentrations in this division tend to have even more mandated courses. In the Social Sciences, two departmental or topical concentrations have no mandated courses, one has two, three have three, and one has four; only the Mathematical Economics topical concentration has a highly mandated curriculum like the Natural Sciences. In the Humanities, Art and Art History mandates two courses, and all other concentrations, except Music mandate one or none; Music mandates seven courses (like the Natural Sciences). One should recall here that in the languages, proficiency requirements can in effect mandate up to four more courses. For interdisciplinary concentrations, Asian Studies mandates three or four; Latin American Studies, four; and all others, one or none.

All concentrations have a GPA requirement of 2.0 to complete a concentration; sometimes this average must be in all courses taken in the concentration, sometimes just eight or nine courses. Two concentrations require a C or better in every course in the concentration, with exceptions only by petition. A few concentrations have entry requirements in the form of a grade of C or C- and higher in certain introductory courses. Not including the two concentrations requiring C or above in all courses, there are four departmental programs in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, two in the Social Sciences, and three interdisciplinary programs having such entry requirements. Such a restriction might be understandable in a large concentration; but many of these concentrations are relatively small and could conceivably make less systematic decisions about a student’s entrance. Noteworthy here is the fact that when a single grade prevents a student from declaring a concentration, an individual faculty member is making a decision about the accessibility of that concentration to the student. While students should be cautioned to heed the indications of such a grade, perhaps all such decisions should be subject to some form of appeal besides the costly and sometimes impossible option of retaking the course.

A liberal arts education, to many, connotes a curriculum with a lot of freedom, and this seems to be the case for most non-science concentrations at Colgate. Even in the Natural Sciences, the amount of mandating is typical of most liberal arts colleges, and less than most public institutions; in fact, some of this is itself mandated by professional societies or accrediting agencies. Nevertheless, one might ask whether mandated courses are a factor when students choose a concentration. The picture is not at all clear. Two of the eight largest concentrations for the class of ‘97 have no mandated courses and one has only one; however, the largest concentration of all has four. Moreover, there are a number of moderate-sized concentrations (graduating ten or more students each year) that mandate ten or more courses. Students do not seem to be deterred simply by the number of mandated courses. On the other hand, mandated courses that are part of a vertically structured curriculum can effectively bar students who have not taken the appropriate course their first year; it is almost impossible to concentrate in many of the sciences beginning the sophomore year. This is a serious issue in advising and a significant difference between concentrations in the Natural Sciences and concentrations in the other divisions.

One might also ask whether concentrations with heavily mandated curricula somehow work against the less narrow, more interdisciplinary connotation of a liberal arts education. Again, the picture is not at all clear. Many mandated courses in science concentrations are cognates in other departments and therefore, to a degree at least, interdisciplinary. The least mandated departmental concentrations usually offer the most courses (e.g., History or English), which means concentrators in those areas have the most courses to choose from and consequently are able to take more courses in the department. It is not unusual in such concentrations to find students taking 14 or more courses in the same department. By contrast, Chemistry mandates six of its nine required departmental courses and four cognates; but there are only 15 courses offered by the department and it is rare to find a Chemistry concentrator with more than ten courses taken in the department. Mandating fewer concentration courses does not guarantee a broader perspective. Freedom includes the freedom to confine one’s interests.

The unmandated courses in a concentration are nearly always governed by some distribution restrictions; these are designed to ensure breadth in content and sophistication in approach, but they may also be designed to provide certain tracks through the concentration for students with special interests. There may also be a recommended selection of courses for students planning to go on to graduate or professional school. In general, the distributional rules in the concentrations are too complicated and varied to summarize in any numerical way.

The final required component of all but four of the 45 concentrations is a 400-level course or "senior seminar." Of the eight largest concentrations, all had such a requirement, and only a few students are consequently graduated without such an experience. This is a critical piece of the Colgate curriculum from the viewpoint of assessing career-related goals, since most of these seminars involve a major paper or project, which can last the whole semester. Thus, although very few concentrations require a senior thesis or public presentation, senior seminars often provide an effective equivalent. Senior seminars are capstone experiences, demanding greater sophistication from students with opportunities for closer contact with faculty.

Each concentration has programs through which students can earn degrees with honors and high honors. These entail required minimum grade-point averages (GPA) in certain groups of courses. The actual required GPA varies from department to department but is always at least 3.0. Usually the number for high honors is higher, but not always. The major component of honors or high honors is a thesis; it is required in all concentrations for high honors and all but one for honors. Moreover, for high honors an oral defense or presentation is also required in most concentrations. In three concentrations, there is also a comprehensive exam for honors or high honors candidates. Finally, honors or high honors often requires more courses.

The number of honors and high honors degrees in concentrations has increased significantly over the last ten years. For the classes of 1995-97, there were an average of 40 high honors and 110 honors per year; for the classes of 1985-87, the average was only about half as much, 20 high honors and 60 honors per year. Nevertheless, some eligible students apparently choose not to pursue honors or high honors (exact numbers cannot be gathered without knowing how many students who are eligible attempt honors and do not succeed), and this is a cause for concern among faculty. At the same time, faculty should not encourage students in the belief that honors in more than one program is necessarily better than honors in one. We must beware of societal pressures on students to accumulate duplicate credentials as an end in themselves.

Comparing the concentration requirements at other liberal arts colleges

We briefly surveyed catalogues at some comparison schools—Bowdoin, Bucknell, Hamilton, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Williams, and Wesleyan—to see what their concentration requirements were like. At Middlebury the minimum number of courses needed for a concentration is ten; at all the other schools it is eight. Naturally, each school has concentrations requiring many more courses, just as Colgate does. Patterns in mandated courses are similar to Colgate’s: Natural Sciences mandate the most and Humanities the least. The actual number mandated in one department is too complicated to summarize. To pick one example, at Colgate, Economics requires nine courses and mandates four. For the seven schools we looked at, Economics required 8,8,8,8,9,9,10 courses and mandated 3,4,4,5,5,5,6 courses. As another example, English (literature emphasis) at Colgate requires eight and mandates none. For the seven comparison schools, English ( literature) requires 8,8,8,8,10,10,11 and mandates 0,0,0,2,0,2,2. Both at Colgate and at the other schools, an English concentration has quite detailed distribution requirements for concentration courses.

The senior program

In one particular area, we did see a noticeable difference between Colgate and these comparison schools. Most had a well-defined senior program required of all concentrators in all programs, usually consisting of one or more seminars, tutorials, or independent studies and a significant paper or independent project. The catalogues often highlight the senior program as a critical component of the curriculum. As we have already observed, nearly all concentrations at Colgate require a senior seminar and many, in effect through this seminar, require a significant paper or project. Our commitment to this practice is not specified, however, in any organized way across the curriculum; and it receives no special attention as a feature of a Colgate education. This lack is also an issue with respect to outcomes assessment and the goals of the institution. When, later in this part (section 9), we identify various outcomes Colgate should be assessing, many of them—for example, writing and speaking, information literacy, thinking, persistence and focus, independence, organization—are cultivated by a carefully designed Senior Program involving a significant paper or project.

It is ironic that the Colgate has not paid more attention to this issue since it already supports an ambitious program of student summer research with faculty (see section 5.B below), a clear indication of the value the institution places on intensive, long-term study.

The Curriculum Committee should articulate the development of a Senior Program, describing the common features of existing practices in departments and programs and recommending, if it seems warranted, some further developments. Such a program should be featured in Colgate publications. We should clearly identify the benefits and agree upon the importance and value of long-term, in-depth projects.

If Colgate promotes its summer program of student research for some of its students, it should do the same for what is virtually a regular feature of its curriculum.

How students experience a concentration

The student view of a concentration is first influenced by the size of the program. More than 80 per cent of the class of ‘97 concentrated in the nine departments with more than 40 students. In these departments, this means there may be as many as ten junior-senior concentrators per faculty member, and it would not be unusual for a faculty adviser to have twenty or more junior-senior advisees. A single department has a difficult time keeping in close touch with 100 junior and seniors (in the largest case, 200). Only two or three classrooms on campus could even hold them all. In the large departments, probably fewer than a quarter of the students in any class become well known to a reasonable number of faculty members; one can hope that many of the rest find a small niche with one or two faculty members, but many remain anonymous. Students in large departments have a big cohort of possible colleagues, but large class sizes in mandated courses and the wide variety of unmandated courses may make it difficult for students to find each other. Doubtless many concentrators in large departments remain anonymous to many of their peers as well as to faculty. At the same time, about a quarter of all students have a concentration (or even two) in a department with fewer than 20 concentrators in a graduating class. These experience a more intimate, closely supervised concentration, perhaps more in tune with what students expect at a liberal arts college.

There is no doubt that students can sense the difference between small and large departments. In our conversations with students about the curriculum, when two students were comparing their experiences in their respective departments, one small and the other large, they were astonished at the differences: "It’s like we went to different schools!"

Given the difference in sizes of concentrations, it is important to emphasize that what might be a good practice in one concentration may make no sense at all in another. Requiring attendance of all concentrators at a weekly departmental colloquium may be a crucial ingredient to Chemistry, but an analogous practice in, say, Sociology & Anthropology or Philosophy & Religion would make less sense and would be burdensome to administer. For larger departments, building more intimate subcommunities through study groups may be the best idea. Above all, one must remember that the vast majority of students concentrate in the large departments. Biology is not more important than Computer Science, but whatever is done there affects many, many more students.

Beyond size and the structure of the curriculum, there are a number of factors that influence the student view of a concentration. Is there a space where concentrators can gather—a lounge, a computer room, or even an open classroom for evening study? In large departments, this may be a meeting place for the small cadre of intensely committed students. Is there a study group associated with the concentration? A special interest house? Are there summer research opportunities? Thirteen concentrations have active student clubs. (See page 23 of the Catalogue for a list.) Some departments hire student tutors or even teaching assistants, most often in laboratories. Do they function as a group? What is the ambiance of a department or program? Bulletin boards, display cases, even the location of the secretary’s desk or mail boxes: all of these make a department or program more of an entity with which students can identify.

Departments and programs should develop strategies to create attractive learning

communities for concentrators, appropriate to the size and nature of the concentration. Funds and space to support such efforts should be part of the budget and planning process.

In attending to their responsibility to establish the curriculum and maintain its quality, faculty may need to be reminded that their indirect encouragement of students to develop their own intellectual communities may do as much as anything to set the tone of their intellectual life. (See also section 7 below.)

Communication with concentrators

How a department or program communicates with concentrators is also critical. Departments must make clear at an early point in a concentrator’s career what the requirements are, and "early" in some cases means the first year. The catalogue and the first-year student registration booklet for new students are crucial sources of this information. Editing and maintaining accurate and up-to-date copy for such publications and maintaining it in online form should be near the top of a chair’s list of priorities, and it should be a department- or program-wide responsibility. Students may not instinctively read the catalogue, but at least it is available to all, including prospective concentrators; and advisers can model, in conversations with students, reference to the catalogue as a valuable habit. (See section 6 on advising, below.) Campus mail, or e-mail, is also a sure way of reaching all concentrators about events, changes in course offerings, changes in requirements, even which faculty will be on leave when. In this regard, every department should have a distribution list of e-mail addresses for all concentrators, so that sending out an e-mail notice to all concentrators is a 10-minute task. It would be good if the Registrar kept such lists, or Information Technology Services could help every department secretary learn to construct and maintain one. Special meetings for prospective concentrators or all honors candidates can be effective. Periodic meetings of all concentrators is an obvious tack.

Of course, frequent discussion with a wise faculty adviser is the ideal form of communication, but as we have already observed this is more difficult in larger concentrations than in more moderately sized ones. One piece of information that students often lack are two-year course projections. Departments may be understandably reluctant to release these, as they involve staffing projections that are not firm; but even approximate projections, withholding professors’ names and, if necessary, the precise titles of courses, can be extremely useful when a student is planning his or her course schedule, especially if that student is going on a study group. Information about courses that impinge on graduate work, professional school, or career plans, must also be communicated early; finding out in the senior year that two semesters of calculus are expected for admission to graduate school is too late. Again, the catalogue may be the best place for this advice.

Finally, it is also important for students to have the opportunity to communicate to faculty. Students may have crucial observations about areas of overlap or conflicts with courses outside the concentration. A sense of partial ownership fosters commitment and responsibility.

Effective and timely communication with concentrators must be a priority for the

chairs of departments and programs. This includes accurate and useful catalogue copy, in print and online, and imaginative use of e-mail distribution lists or web pages. All concentrations with ten or more students should have a student advisory committee or student liaisons.

In our conversations with departments and programs, we found that faculty do listen to student feedback about a concentration but often in a haphazard, informal way—from a select group of students who may or may not represent the majority of concentrators. We think it would be better to do this with a student liaison committee; faculty in some concentrations already do.

Recruiting concentrators

How do students choose their concentrations? Should departments or programs openly recruit students? Although competing for students does not make institutional sense (it is a zero-sum game, after all), a department that is unable to attract enough concentrators to offer many of its upper-level courses finds little solace in knowing the students have found a comfortable home in some other department. Any faculty member who believes in his or her discipline wants to teach at least occasionally upper-level courses or seminars for concentrators. It is natural to want to recruit. Moreover, many of the means of recruitment are exactly the behaviors the institution should want to encourage: teaching first-year seminars, teaching Core courses, supporting study groups, making introductory departmental courses more interesting or widely applicable, encouraging and praising students, creating in a concentration an intellectual comradeship that engages students.

On the other hand, recruitment can turn into building up one’s own department or program at the expense of others. Disparaging other disciplinary approaches, although usually good-natured, sends mixed messages that undermine the mission of any educational enterprise, and students notice it. Our conversations with students revealed that they hear such talk and are quick to interpret its motives in wholly negative ways. Some expressed particular sensitivity to it because they are pressured by similar remarks among students themselves—who works the hardest, which concentration demands the most.

Advising a student about a concentration in ways that respond to the student’s abilities and interests is obviously the tone to set in such conversations; faculty can put advice about a concentration in the context of discussing with the student other requirements and elective patterns he or she might consider—talking, in other words, about the whole curriculum. Faculty who do this responsibly and succeed in getting to a student’s motives in choosing a concentration can well be dismayed by confronting the pressure students feel: should I major in something I like or just something I do well? My parents think I should concentrate in this field because it will help me get a job; is that true? All my friends are concentrating in that department, so should I try that? Our jobs as teachers are particularly complex when we face these questions, but we should not dodge them.

Second concentrations

As we have observed in looking at the distribution of concentrations, an appreciable number of students have two concentrations. Faculty have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, one admires the energy and ambition of double concentrators; moreover, there are double concentrations that make a great deal of intellectual sense, sometimes as interdisciplinary enhancements of a single focus and sometimes as ways for students to balance their personal interests and still satisfy their own or their parents’ anxieties about preparing for a career or further study. On the other hand, some faculty fear that a double concentrator may not be able to give either concentration the commitment it deserves and may be able to satisfy only the minimal requirements of each. After all, a concentration is exactly that, a concentration, and concentrating on two things is, on one level, paradoxical. For this reason, some schools have restrictions against double concentrations. At both Hamilton and Williams, declaring a double concentration requires a written petition with a rationale that must be approved by both department or program chairs and the Committee on Academic Standing; other schools—Bucknell, Wesleyan, Middlebury, and Bowdoin are ones about which we inquired—have no restrictions.

If there were a trend to ever-increasing numbers of double concentrators, there might be cause for concern. The number of such students in each graduating class from 1986 on looks like this:

70 59 70 75 88 94 97 121 123 118 133 115

Thus, after averaging in the 1970s through 1988, the number climbed in four years to around 120, but it seems to have stabilized there. The question then is whether this number, a little under 20 per cent of the graduating class, indicates anything good or bad about the curriculum as students experience it. Without necessarily adding the administrative complication of making students petition, we recommend that

The Curriculum Committee should collect information about students’ motives in double concentrating and minoring (see below) and share with faculty their assessment of what these phenomena indicate about the curriculum.

And at the point of a student’s declaring a second concentration, advisers should discuss with students the pros and cons of a double concentration and ask students to consider whether the decision makes intellectual sense. The data in section 4 of this report about the numbers of courses students take at the 100- and 200-level suggest that a crucial element of this decision may be the degree to which a second concentration returns the student inappropriately to introductory-level work. If so, the student might be encouraged to consider other ways to pursue his or her interests in the second area, or the adviser might initiate a conversation with the chair to determine if some waiver of lower-level prerequisites might be arranged.

Division Directors should keep track of the other curricular entities with which departments and programs in their division share double concentrators and minors. The patterns that emerge may suggest full department conversations among faculty from those departments about enabling students to pursue their two interests in integrated, intellectually aggressive ways.

The logic of this recommendation is that we should take an interest in the intellectual coherence that double concentration programs can have, both so that we can encourage students to exploit the challenges of those programs and so that we can think ourselves about some of the issues students confront as they pursue them. Students will sometimes characterize their motive in pursuing a second concentration, and it may reflect in an interesting way on what they are doing in a course. At other times they will share what they see to be differences between fields—the habits of thinking and writing and of the collection and mastering of information can be very different. How different? And why are they different? And if the differences are profound, is it fitting that our students should appreciate them more than we do?

Students feel that a double concentration on a transcript impresses potential employers. From our discussions with recruiters, that seems not to be the case, although one employer did say that a double concentration might be taken as evidence that a student will hold up under the 60-hour weeks expected of employees in certain jobs. While the opinion may be simply erroneous, it is worth contemplating: why would doing two different things in one’s program be more demanding than doing one in greater depth? In at least this case, we have not communicated the effect of our curriculum very well.

There is also a bureaucratic issue for double concentrations. The Registrar at present requires that one of the two concentrations be designated the first concentration, nearly always the first declared, and one the second concentration. The concentrations are listed in that order on the transcript, and the adviser listed for the student in the student directory is the adviser for the first concentration. Data are usually segregated by first and second concentrations so that, for example, in counting the number of Humanities concentrators one must be careful to count both first and second concentrations. In effect, the second concentration is given a second-class treatment. This may not match at all a student’s own attitude towards the second concentration, since many second concentrations are declared late in the junior year and may occupy most of a senior’s time. A more even-handed bureaucratic treatment of the two concentrations should be sought.

The minor

Minors, instituted at Colgate first in 1986, are offered in all but one department and nearly every program; in addition, some interdisciplinary programs offer only a minor. The catalogue defines a minor as consisting of four to six courses, only two of which can be at an introductory level. In truth, only one department requires only four courses; about two-thirds of the others require five and one-third require six. A minor recommendation for minors might be the obvious one:

All minors should require at least five courses.

The motive here is maintaining approximately the same symmetry with minor programs that we maintain with concentrations: a common lower threshold.

Minors may comprise no more than two introductory courses and they may consist of mandated course and/or a required selection of courses from a prescribed list; but in general there are many fewer restrictions on a minor than on a concentration. Many catalogue descriptions of a minor are just a few sentences, much less than the description of a concentration.

Pursuing a minor is an option in the curriculum; a student does not need to do so. Some bureaucratic restrictions suggest that students’ choosing substantial portions of their programs in terms of prescribed sequences is something we wish to discourage. The Catalogue says (p. 38) that "no student may take a minor concentration in the same field as his or her concentration," a rule that surely limits not what students may do but what they may record that they have done, since in some departments, 13 courses might be disposed, without double counting, to fulfill both the concentration and minor requirements of a field. Another restriction enforced by the Registrar is that transcripts will list only one minor and, if there is a second concentration, no minors. If there is a motive for this related to something other than the design of the transcript, it is again that we wish to discourage students from spreading themselves thinly across several programs rather than building an intellectually coherent program.

Faculty seem to be less concerned about minors than double concentrations, the advising system pays little attention to them, and students have not flocked to them. The percentage of students graduated with a minor has been essentially constant over the last six years at 23 per cent. Students are often candid about their circumstantial motives in pursuing them, saying that minors are a second thought, elected when they have accumulated three courses in one department and "might as well" round them out for the record with two or three more courses. Such casual motives may be unfortunate, and the procedures recommended above to question

what students’ habits in selecting double concentrations tell us about our curriculum and how they experience it should also be attentive to minors. On the other hand, the casual tone with which students explain their motives may belie the actual effect of what minor programs get them to do. Another way to look at this same behavior is to say that their interests lead them to a field beyond their concentration, and they are induced by the opportunity to earn a minor to pursue their studies.

The flexibility of the minor may be its strength; if so, students and faculty may want to think about exploiting that strength in imaginative ways.

The concentration and the curriculum as a whole

In this section, we have considered the concentration to some extent in isolation from the rest of the curriculum, except perhaps for its relation to a second concentration or a minor. Elsewhere in this self-study (see below, section 8), we consider mechanisms to strengthen curricular ties between disciplines. Here we reiterate that a theme of our curricular focus is seeing the curriculum as a whole. It may be a natural inclination, by both faculty and students, to see a concentration only in terms of its internal content and methods, but such an inclination does not take full advantage of the curriculum.

This issue might be focused for faculty discussion around the catalogue statement inhibiting students from taking more than two courses in the same department in a given semester.

The Academic Affairs Board directly or through its Curriculum Committee should

debate and bring to the faculty a proposal of what to do about the sentence in the

Catalogue (p. 37) that prohibits a student from taking more than two courses in the same department in the same semester without permission from the department chair.

Since most of the students who violate this rule probably do so for a good reason, the AAB recommendation will doubtless either recommend its abolition or articulate the circumstances under which department chairs should grant the permission. Either recommendation will require the faculty to consider what we mean by a concentration in the context of the kind of school we are.

 

 

5.B. Signature Programs:

The Core, Off-campus Study, Student-faculty Research

This section of the report discusses three programs—the Core, off-campus study, and faculty-student collaborative research. Only one of these programs, the Core, is a required component of the curriculum for all students. We discuss them together, however, because of their potential to distinguish us as an institution.

All three became prominent features of our curriculum in complicated and nuanced ways that are difficult to rationalize but that reflect our special character. A significant thing they have in common is that each of them is now a place where unusual teaching strategies are cultivated. In Core classes, in the programs we devise to teach our students in off-campus settings, and in the collaborative situations of student-faculty research, faculty become models as much or more than experts in the process of inquiry.

The University should recognize that the Core, study groups, and student-faculty research are distinctive to Colgate and should articulate why Colgate’s versions

of these programs are superior. This should be clearly communicated to faculty, students, parents, alumni, employers, and prospective students.

A crucial aspect to recognize about all of these programs is the degree to which the College has invested in them—money, of course, but also institutional and faculty energy that make them the sites of intellectual and pedagogical excitement. We should capitalize on those investments.

1. The Core

Colgate’s Core program has a long, unbroken history, which by itself distinguishes the program from similar programs at other colleges.

History

The first general education courses—a set of then-innovative survey courses—were offered at Colgate in 1928. At mid-century, in the presidency of Everett Case, the general education courses were consciously adapted to what was seen to be the needs of "a world at peace." The program adopted in 1945 specified required courses in five areas: the natural sciences, the social sciences, foreign geographical areas, representative works of art and literature, and philosophy and religion. Colgate attracted national attention for the design and implementation of this program, and to a still significant extent, the alumni from that period recall it as a crucial element of the education they received. Writing about this program in 1977, Professor Herman Brautigam called attention to "the problem approach" taken by these core courses that made them more than mere surveys of the several fields they embraced.

As Colgate began to emphasize professional engagement of its faculty outside of the institution and as new categories of faculty (women, and faculty of both sexes with diverging ethical and religious views) became more numerous, the consensus necessary to continue the elements of the mid-century Core became difficult to sustain. The five areas began, in the late 1960s, to devolve into varieties of a distribution requirement. A program of course-based advising, which later developed into the First-year Seminar Program, became a competitor to the Core for staffing resources; and across the five areas, departmental courses were designated as alternatives to most of the areas of the program. The 1977 Middle States accreditation self-study described the disintegration of general education as the most significant curricular issue of the preceding decade.

A comprehensive revision of the program was undertaken in 1980 and completed in 1983. In "Planning the New General Education Program . . . A Status Report" (June 30, 1981), its first director described it as comprising two complementary aspects of general education: "a core program . . . focused upon interdisciplinary inquiry," and "a set of distribution requirements, designed to ensure breadth of disciplinary exposure." This formulation combined the two competing views of what general education ought to be as complementary aspects of a single thing; and it substituted for the emphasis on ethical concerns the other word that had characterized the mid-century program but was more compatible with the methodological preoccupations of the distribution requirement: interdisciplinary. Most faculty were committed to one or the other of these aspects and taught courses serving the commitment they had.

Some administrative accommodations of interdisciplinary general education, however, insured the continuing institutional commitment to Core courses. Teaching responsibility in the interdisciplinary was made a component of the description of new teaching positions. Though departments as well as individual faculty consistently questioned the degree to which the reward structure supported nondepartmental courses, the director of the Division of University Studies, where the interdisciplinary Core was housed, was a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council, not just for discussions in which new positions and courses were approved, but also for promotion and tenure decisions.

The program was pedagogically ambitious in several of its features. The 100-level courses (there were two) featured interdisciplinary syllabi. Significant faculty-development efforts were trained on the staffs of those courses. At the highest level, Tier III, the program at first mandated and later encouraged team teaching. The limits of Tier III courses, set at 20-25 students per instructor, made team-taught courses necessarily large. At precisely the point where the students were experiencing the most complex learning situation, class size prohibited the faculty from connecting with students’ difficulties.

The other aspect of the program, the distribution requirement, used the divisional/departmental structure to ensure breadth of exposure to various methods of inquiry. Under the distribution requirement, students took two courses from two different departments in each of the three division of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Revision of the interdisciplinary element of this general education program was begun in 1992, nine years after its adoption. The 1994 General Education Revision Committee Report (GRC) said that the examination of the program was prompted by "the age of the current program, significant changes in the faculty and university curricula since the program’s creation in 1983, apparent difficulties in its operation, and seriously mixed student and faculty reaction to the courses" (GRC Report, p. 6; see SD 45, 59, 70).

The new program emerged in 1995 under the title "Liberal Arts Core Curriculum." The form of the present Core curriculum is described in the current Catalogue on pp. 36-37; it pays substantial homage to the idea that one important goal of general education is to ensure breadth of exposure to as many as possible of the several parts of the liberal arts curriculum. The program consists of four required Core courses and a six-course distribution requirement. A significant difference from the previous version of the program is that the required part of this program is now wholly introductory. Except in cases where unusual crowding in a student’s program prevents it, the four Core courses are to be taken in the first two years, with no order of their taking being prescribed. Another change, particularly significant in light of the history of general education in relation to the First-year Seminar Program, allows first-year seminars to be courses in general education in either of the program’s two aspects. That is, Core courses and departmental introductory courses may now be offered as first-year seminars. Under these arrangements, departments and programs are now committed to making consistent allotments of staffing to the program. Though each of the component parts of the interdisciplinary aspect of the Core consists of sections of a common course or sets of analogous courses, the syllabi of all courses admit some degree of faculty choice.

A significant dimension of the newly revised program is the provision that students can pursue both distinction and high distinction in it. This part of the program is just being implemented as the first students eligible to do so are entering distinction courses in 1997-98. Students who have completed the four-course Core are eligible for upper-level interdisciplinary courses focusing on contemporary issues. These courses are distinguished by rigorous and sophisticated conception, innovative pedagogy, and the highest expectation of student performance. Distinction courses will be built on, and bear some relation to, the issues and methodologies that are part of the required Core curriculum, and they will be interdisciplinary in a scholarly and serious sense. The courses will also focus in substantial ways on issues and problems of relevance to students’ contemporary lives and on questions of moral or ethical significance. At the next level, a small number of students will be invited to pursue high distinction in the program by combining their work toward honors in a department or program with advanced interdisciplinary study. To qualify for high distinction, these students will then complete major interdisciplinary projects.

Pedagogy, the curriculum, and the Core

As the term "core" suggests, general education at Colgate is now the program where some of the most important questions about the curriculum arise. Having folded its interdisciplinary courses partly into the First-year Seminar Program, the new Liberal Arts Core Curriculum has to be involved in the determination of what kinds of instruction ought to be included in those seminars to introduce students to college-level work. Further, since the interdisciplinary Core courses are all situated now in the early years of a student’s program but in no prescribed order, their staffs need to be attentive to each other, the better to coordinate the approaches to learning that characterize each of the components. Commanding such a large proportion of a student’s program in the first two years, the Core is a major factor in setting the tone of a student’s expectations, including the significance of electing a field of concentration.

It is fortunate that the Core program now seems to be a place where these issues have to be addressed because the program has, in the last two decades, developed the habit of sponsoring regular and widely attended discussions of curricular and pedagogical issues. Each spring, between the end of classes and commencement, the staffs of the various parts of the program gather, in large sessions and in their component parts (last May, about 100 faculty participated in the White Eagle conference) to discuss not only curriculum but also pedagogy and the extension of the formal curriculum into the extracurricular life of students. Faculty who teach in this program will now have, across the whole program, consistent experience with beginning students and many of them will be cast in the role of being those students’ advisers through their first two years.

At the level of distinction and high distinction, advanced students will also have particularly rich curricular opportunities. The distinction part of the Core is a place where Colgate can locate team-taught courses, courses that involve components of service learning, courses offered in conjunction with distinguished visitors, symposia and conferences. More details of these possibilities are discussed in section 8 below.

The Core and prospective students

Our discussions with students confirmed what the Kane, Parsons Report observed: students do not come to Colgate for the Core program and are generally ignorant of it until they arrive on campus. The objectives and methods of the various parts, however, are distinctive in

important ways to Colgate. The current program preserves the international emphasis that has been an element of our curriculum for decades. It also has a component that is concertedly trained on scientific perspectives on social issues. This, the newest part of the four-course program, is a place where curricular invention is particularly deliberate. The two text-based courses in the program expose students to crucial works of the Western tradition in relation to "response texts," selected by the faculty to demonstrate to students the power of some works to be continually provocative. In all of the parts of the present program, Core courses are places where students and faculty confront the unfamiliar together.

Colgate should communicate to prospective students the features of the Core program which make it unusual: the way it is taught and the syllabi of the courses.

Sample syllabi might be a part of the advertisement of these courses to show that they are not just surveys of great books nor the standard investigation of unfamiliar material. The emphasis here is on the enduring perplexity of the issues that these courses raise.

The Core and faculty

One important decision Colgate took to support general education in the 1980s was to look at the time of hiring for faculty who had the potential to teach interdisciplinary courses. This was complemented by several ambitious initiatives in faculty development that helped many faculty, already hired and even in many cases tenured, to a point where they took a scholarly interest in materials and theoretical approaches they once thought quite afield of their areas of expertise. The result was that the Core curriculum was institutionalized in ways that were compatible with continuing emphasis on the teacher-scholar model. If the Core program is to be a signature of the institution we are today, these efforts must continue.

Interest and ability in teaching in the Core program should continue to be a criterion for hiring throughout the college. The Division Director of University Studies should devise and support faculty development efforts that allow those teaching in the Core to do so with the same level of confidence they have in their other courses. When faculty are asked to devote time and energy to teaching in the Core outside of their areas of immediate expertise or training, they should be compensated in ways that support their scholarly endeavors.

These recommendations are really specifications of current practice. The Division Director of University Studies sits on the DAC as it approves all advertisements for faculty positions; and a representative of that division meets with all job candidates interviewed on campus. A major initiative for a faculty development travel seminar is currently being organized by the leaders of the Core program. When the new Liberal Arts Core Curriculum was launched, initial teaching in its several parts was compensated by additional funds for research, and that policy must continue today.

2. Off-campus study

The range and variety of off-campus study groups currently sponsored by Colgate University are listed in the Colgate Catalogue, pp. 40-48. "A report on Colgate study groups" prepared by the Committee on Off-campus Study in May, 1997, is included in the

Supplementary Documents (SD 30). Appendix E lists the numbers of students who have participated in the various groups over the last several years.

The Catalogue asserts (p. 40) that "Colgate believes that acquiring intercultural perspective is one goal of a liberal arts education. To further this concept, the university offers a wide variety of off-campus programs both international and domestic." To be sure, not all of the off-campus programs organized by Colgate might be said to further an intercultural perspective; but the extraordinary range of the study group programs sponsored directly by Colgate supports the Catalogue’s assertion that the many varieties of off-campus study made available to our students is the result of deliberate educational policy. That policy is not, however, driven by a single purpose. To a considerable extent, study groups are featured in our curriculum to offer our students opportunities to experience other cultures. To a no less appreciable extent, however, the goal of some of them is to transport students to a place where a particular issue or problem can be studied more effectively in a context the campus does not provide. These two goals are not incompatible, but they are distinct enough that they should be separately articulated because, in a given group, one or the other will dominate the design of the experience.

History

Originally Colgate’s interest in off-campus study was inspired by the second of these goals. Early study groups began in domestically based programs offered in Political Science and Economics. The first, begun in 1935 and still a part of our program, took students and a member of the Political Science faculty to Washington, D.C., to study public policy. In the 1950s the Economics Department took students to other domestic sites. The first foreign study group was to Argentina (sponsored by the French Department in 1958). London-based programs in Economics, English, and History followed in the 1960s. The number of Colgate study groups increased substantially in the 1970s, when the student body had grown and particularly after the institution became coeducational. Providing students the opportunity to experience another culture assumed more importance in the proposals and design of many groups.

Colgate now has study groups in a wide variety of foreign and domestic sites, so the Catalogue’s emphasis on the program’s intent in furthering an intercultural perspective is justified. At the same time, however, the problem-based motive of study away from campus is still a significant impulse. The contrast of these two motives is best embodied in two programs available to students pursuing study of the sciences. The National Institutes of Health Study Group takes students to Frederick, Maryland, where they have opportunities for research in an NIH laboratory. Other science students elect to spend a semester in Wales where they can pursue their studies in the context of the University of Cardiff.

As Colgate looks to the future establishment of other opportunities for study away from campus in periods of extended study or shorter duration than a full term (see below, section 8), both of these motives seem likely to inspire new additions to the program. There are issues that some of our students must confront that are best explored in other places. There is also an intrinsic value to dislocation as an impetus to education.

Number and variety of Colgate study groups

The number and variety of Colgate study groups is, especially at present, a response to student demand. A December 6, 1996, article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on study-abroad programs describes the recent and, the article maintains, laudable surge in interest in foreign study among U.S. college students, particularly women. The report lists us second in the nation among liberal arts colleges in the number of students we send abroad (though, it should be noted, the ranking is not corrected for relative size of the institution). More distinctive, though, than the numbers of students we send abroad or on off-campus domestic study groups is the numbers we send on programs designed and run by Colgate faculty largely and usually exclusively for Colgate students. The catalogue lists 25 programs of which 23 are run entirely by Colgate and the remaining two by a consortium in which we are included. Normally about eighteen of these are mounted annually (16 abroad and 2 domestic). Other schools with their own programs do not approach these numbers, with our nearest competitors in this regard mounting about half what we do.

Types of Colgate-sponsored study groups

The major challenges facing Colgate in the administration of its off-campus opportunities are to ensure the educational soundness of the programs its students pursue while abroad and then to integrate the experience of the students on their return into the life of the campus so that the benefits are not confined to the student’s spending the term away. These two challenges present themselves differently in the three broad categories of programs undertaken by our students: Colgate sponsored groups, which may be free-standing or connected to an institution on the site, and groups in which Colgate students participate essentially as transfer students.

Colgate sponsored groups are of two types. Some are planned within the structure of a department or program, and their location is determined by the value of the site to that course of study. Others take advantage of an ongoing association with an institution to give our students an experience abroad. Programs of this second type are still closely tied to the on-campus curriculum, but their emphasis from year to year may shift. Most of the language programs are examples of the first type. Conducted by a member of a language department’s faculty, the study group to Dijon or Kyoto is structured primarily to advance proficiency in the language and culture of the site. The Venice Study Group, on the other hand, may have an emphasis on art history or music, depending on the interests of the faculty member who directs it. All of the courses students might pursue on these groups are considered Colgate courses, sometimes taught by Colgate faculty and always monitored by them. Most of these programs are closely integrated into a concentration program, and the work students do on these programs is often the beginning of further study, even honors work, conducted on their return to Colgate. Colgate is unusual in the number of these programs; and while it rightly takes pride in them, it has tended not to articulate their benefits to the institution and students. We should be more attentive to improving on the delivery of those benefits and advertising our success.

Properly, there is a concern that in taking our own students abroad in a group we dilute the intensity of their experience in a foreign place. Yet we value being able to maintain at least our own standards of admission and performance, compared, especially, to other programs sponsored by U.S. colleges and universities that accept students from a general pool of applicants. Being tied to an on-campus department or program means that there is continuity with the program students follow upon their return to campus. One element of this continuity is the learning community fostered among the students in a group centered around the leadership of a faculty member; these units can form the core of a department or program’s milieu, extending the excitement to other students and faculty. The pedagogical practices faculty adopt in the atmosphere of a study group may stimulate them to extend such strategies to on-campus courses.

The Office of Admission should continue to promote Colgate’s program of faculty-led study groups even more than they do, articulating the advantages of faculty-led groups as they manifest themselves both in the program when it is abroad and in the life of the campus when faculty and students return, enhancing the international perspective of the Colgate curriculum. The Director of Off-campus Study should continue to meet annually with Admissions to highlight features of recent study groups.

These features might be listed:

  • Colgate controls the quality of both the curriculum of the study group and its students.
  • Many of the study groups, and not just those in the languages, are tied to an on-campus department or program, providing intellectual coherence and continuity with a student’s on-campus studies.
  • Students return to campus with fellow students, rather than alone, making the study group a shared, common experience.
  • Department or program-based study groups create small intense learning communities where students feel responsible to themselves and their peers for their own education.
  • In a rural, residential setting, the internationalism that study abroad offers enriches faculty and students alike and changes the milieu in which we all work. Colgate faculty bring back a scholarly and pedagogical perspective that enriches the curriculum on campus. There are over a dozen faculty a year in foreign countries and several more in other situations in this country. These faculty return to teach our students on campus with the perspective of those experiences.

The Colgate study groups that are identified with a foreign institution (for example, the Australia Study Group, the Manchester Study Group) have particular advantages and special problems. Students who participate in these groups are selected by a Colgate faculty member and taken by him or her to another institution where most of the courses available to them are regular courses at that institution. In general, the degree of interaction these Colgate students experience in the host culture is high, perhaps consistently higher than what is typical of other Colgate groups. There are sometimes, however, difficulties associated with adapting the curriculum of the foreign institution.

The directing faculty member can advise students about what courses to take in relation to the program that is the focus of the group. Less carefully selected and monitored are the courses taken on these programs as electives. There is only the beginnings of a system, at present, to advise students about electives. Courses taken on these programs are not, technically, transfer-credit courses; but the problems are similar to those discussed under "transfer credit" in the section on advising, 6, below. These programs are also more apt than departmental and program-based groups to admit students who are more interested in the general experience of going abroad than in the academic focus of the group. Thus there may not be the same continuity for these students with the Colgate studies they pursue on their return.

Colgate study groups and faculty

While there are a number of study groups for which a long list of available faculty exist, in some cases it has been difficult for a department or a program to staff a semester program away from campus on a regular basis. Reasons for faculty reluctance can be related to families (age of children, an ailing relative, a spouse’s professional commitment, or other aspect of personal life) or they can be professional. For many faculty who direct a study group, it is a term that interrupts their ordinary scholarly pursuits. If the study group is abroad, attendance at professional meetings will probably also have to be suspended.

Departments and programs in which a study group is a significant element of the program should encourage faculty direction of the group by assisting prospective directors to arrange it so that it can be as compatible as possible with their research. Coordinating the term away with leaves and helping the prospective director compete for funds for research on the site or extend the term of stay to a research trip can be useful forms of support. Additional research funds might also be made available as incentive to faculty to lead study groups. The institution should also think through ways to meet the special needs of those traveling with family.

Teaching and administrative demands on faculty leading study groups vary, but they are considerable. There have been significant changes in recent years to reduce demands and equalize them across the various groups. This is an effort that should also continue.

Studying off-campus as a transfer student

When Colgate students study away from campus as transfer students, there are problems associated with advising them about what courses to take and integrating their experiences in these courses with the continuation of their programs on their return. These problems can be managed relatively easily when a student seeks admission to a solid program at a fully accredited institution whose offerings are known and understood by an adviser. Foreign institutions can certainly fall into this category, but they are also very likely to pose difficult problems for whoever is advising the student. Foreign study programs sponsored by U.S. institutions seem, on the one hand, to prevent the intricate questions of comparability because the sponsoring institution will suggest appropriate arrangements of credit; but since many of these programs are structured to attract the widest possible clientele, they can fall short of Colgate’s curricular standards. In many cases, the advice of the sponsoring institution is not adequate for our students. The number of students seeking to study as transfer students abroad is large (50 to 100 per semester) and puts heavy demands on our advising and administrative systems. (There is further discussion of this situation in section 6 on advising, below.) Indeed, the AAB is now looking into the issue of which programs are compatible with our curriculum.

Short-term study abroad

Many students applying to non-Colgate study groups for a semester are students for whom that length of time away and perhaps even the association with another institution are motivating elements of the decision. Some of these students, however, are seeking places on other study groups because they could not be accommodated on our own. Still others would go abroad but cannot do so for a term. Colgate has just received a significant grant to support a

program to allow students and faculty to structure educational experiences that extend the traditional boundaries of the academic calendar and the physical location of the campus.

Departments and programs should particularly consider ways in which extended study—a short term of study in May or over the winter intersession at an off-campus site—might become a unit in a course.

Shorter units of Colgate-initiated foreign study may increase the likelihood that groups can be located in non-English-speaking parts of the world, particularly in this hemisphere and in Africa. Faculty for whom full-semester study abroad programs are not possible may be interested in these opportunities. Of course, many students applying to go off campus for a semester are students for whom that length of time away is a desirable component of the experience, but this is an initiative that may be a good solution for some students and faculty. (It is discussed below in section 8.)

3. Student-faculty summer research

Colgate, like many other institutions, offers its students a number of opportunities to become involved in intensive, long-term projects during the academic year through coursework, independent studies, or senior seminars; but it is unusual in being one of only a handful of liberal arts colleges with a program where a significant number of students undertake research projects, often in collaboration with faculty members, for an eight-to-ten-week period over the summer. Students work full-time on these projects and are paid stipends, either from grants and fellowships/scholarships or directly from the budget. Some of the grants require that a portion of the participating students come from other institutions (and our students have corresponding opportunities elsewhere). About 100 students, mostly from Colgate, have been on the campus each of the last five summers taking part in this program. Although the program began with faculty from the Division of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics and is largest with respect to faculty and students in that division, students now work with faculty from all divisions.

These experiences have proven to be most inspirational and rewarding for students. It is the focused attention to a single enterprise and the individual scholarly independence fostered by the program that is critical to its success. In significant ways, its elements parallel the kind of faculty-student interaction that characterizes faculty-led study groups.

History of student-faculty research at Colgate

The occasional opportunity for an individual faculty member to support a student on a government or a foundation grant began to become a more regular event in the early 1970s when the Chemistry and Geology Departments started a small program of summer research for their students. By the early 1980s, support for about a dozen students every summer from all departments in the division was a line in the annual budget of the Division of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. About 20 students would apply for those 12 spots with a formal proposal reviewed by the department chairs. Other positions funded by external grants to individuals or departments, mostly in Chemistry, raised the number of students to about two dozen each summer. In the late 1980s, the National Science Foundation began the REU Program (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), to support student-faculty research. Both the Geology and Chemistry departments have been recipients of multiple-year REU grants. In 1992, Colgate, with support from the Howard Hughes Foundation, began the Science and Mathematics Initiative (SMI) for targeted groups of students underrepresented in the sciences and mathematics. This program has been remarkably successful with some students, and one of the key elements in that success has been a component involving all SMI sophomores (between 10 and 15 students) in half-time work on a summer research project.

By the early 1990s, 60 or more students were participating in natural science summer research projects, although only 15 students drawn, from about 25 applicants, were supported by Colgate’s own funding. Student interest in the program then surged, and the number of applicants grew from 25 in 1994 to 50 in 1995 to 80 in 1996, some of this growth being the result of Geology’s REU grant coming to an end. Fortunately, at about the same time Colgate was awarded two large grants, one from Sherman Fairchild Foundation and another from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which allowed support for about 30 more students per summer. Also at this time, budget lines were established in the other divisions to support small programs of summer research in departments and programs outside of the natural sciences. The 1997 summer program involved 83 students on campus at Colgate and another 12 at the National Institute of Health; 57 faculty members participated. Some idea of the variety of the projects is conveyed in the 1997 Summer Undergraduate Research Directory (SD 68). It should be noted that 1997 was an anomalous year for Chemistry, since many faculty were on leave so that only 13 Chemistry students participated; the number is usually more than 30.

Colgate believes its program in summer research to be one of the largest in the country. We are one of a very few liberal arts colleges with an entry for "summer research" in our catalogue’s index. While many schools have nationally visible REU programs, the on-going, institutionally supported program at an institution of Colgate’s size is rare. The impact of the program on students is remarkable. At the annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Colgate has often ranked in the top five institutions for the number of student presentations (not all from the natural sciences; there have been large contingents from Art and Art History). Many students become coauthors on journal articles with their faculty advisers; the Chemistry Department has been among the top five liberal arts colleges nationally in the number of journal articles written with student coauthors. Still others travel to professional conferences with their adviser for presentations or poster sessions. Some faculty can show this to have been an uninterrupted annual pattern for over 20 years.

Issues

Three major issues face Colgate in considering its commitment to this program as a "signature" of what we are.

The first is one of resources. The program’s present size depends to a large extent on external grants, and soft money is a precarious way of funding a signature program. Is Colgate ready to support a program of this size if it is unable to find other external sources when the present grants end? The steering committee recommends a commitment to fund-raising efforts that would reach out to alumni and other sources of potential support in ways that will advertise a distinctive feature of the institution.

The Development Office should continue to seek restricted gifts to replace the external funds presently supporting the student-faculty research program.

Departments and faculty members would be particularly helpful in these efforts.

A second issue, perhaps one of equity, is also involved with questions of pedagogical responsibility. Student-assisted faculty research is certainly better suited to some kinds of inquiry than to others. In fields like geology, chemistry, or archeology, where inspiration is sometimes a function of the material accomplishment of intricate tasks, faculty may be genuinely assisted by students sharing the painstaking work of collecting and organizing data; and students can learn valuable things from participating in these projects. Not all faculty research is appropriate to this kind of collaboration, however, and students are understandably sensitive whenever a program affords them unequal access to its opportunities. Frustration at the program’s limitations is also felt by faculty as pressure to be involved against their better judgment.

A third issue is closely related. Even when the assistance of students is a genuine benefit to the faculty member’s project, using it can drain faculty energy, and there are circumstances in a faculty member’s career when it is less helpful than at other times.

Department chairs, both in their counseling of individual faculty about taking on student researchers and in their collective determination of which student-assisted research projects to fund, must keep the best interests of faculty as well as students in mind. Student-assisted faculty research should be arranged to be compatible with faculty members’ needs to sustain themselves as teacher-scholars. Faculty whose participation in the student-faculty research program needs to be encouraged should be compensated in ways that support their scholarly endeavors.

In other words, additional research stipends for travel, books, or equipment might be made available. Like the other signature programs discussed in this section, student-faculty summer research is distinguished at Colgate because its faculty are both committed teachers and professionally ambitious members of larger academic communities. In administering these programs, Colgate should encourage both of these impulses equally.

5.C. The Distribution Requirement

The distribution requirement of two courses in different departments in each of the three disciplinarily defined divisions is, with the Core program, one of the two components of Colgate’s general education program. It became a feature of the Colgate curriculum in the early 1980s at a moment when the institution was revising the Core to ensure an interdisciplinary emphasis in all of its parts. Although its purpose to ensure a breadth and multiplicity of viewpoint may coincide with some goals of the Core program, the distribution requirement functions in a very different way.

The Core program is founded on an underlying philosophy that guides the organization and content of each course, is continually refined through staff meetings and retreats, is administered by appointed University Professors through the Division of University Studies, and is represented in the divisional structure by the Director of University Studies. The distribution requirement is a bureaucratic function of the Registrar: its unifying philosophy ("to assure some experience with the characteristic methods of the three academic divisions," Catalogue, p. 35) is maintained without staff discussions of common goals. No faculty meet to consider what it takes to administer it, and it is not reviewed. The Core program provides to some extent at least a common experience for students because it comprises only designated courses. The distribution requirement entails considerably more choice in course selection and so large proportions of a given class rarely share common experiences in fulfilling it except when a large introductory course (Psychology 150, Political Science 150/152, or Economics 201) becomes by common wisdom or general consent the choice of large numbers of students seeking to meet a part of the requirement. Finally, the Core is a distinctive feature of the Colgate curriculum that is shared by few other institutions. A distribution requirement is a traditional, common feature of the curriculum at most colleges; an informal survey of catalogues at 20 comparison schools showed all had a distribution requirement of some form. Indeed, not having a distribution requirement would be more distinctive than having a Core program.

The steering committee’s analysis of this element of the curriculum considered two questions about the distribution requirement as the starting point for a deeper consideration of its design and logic. We present here what we learned when we asked, first, if the requirement actually affected student course selection (is it necessary?) and then if it accomplishes something we find desirable (should we consider its objective necessary?)

Is the distribution requirement necessary?

Assuming that students taking courses from at least two different departments in each of the three disciplinarily defined divisions is a desired end, one might ask if a requirement is necessary to ensure that this occurs. There is no sure way to know, of course, other than to discontinue the requirement and see what happens. One can, however, try to infer from the number of students presently being graduated with only two courses in one division the proportion of students who might take only one or no courses in a division, if it were not for the distribution requirement. An analysis of the transcripts for the class of ’97 indicates that the majority of students take more than the minimum number of courses in each division, and for them perhaps a distribution requirement is unnecessary. On the other hand, the requirement may be an issue with some students. About one quarter of all students from the class of ’97 took only two courses in the Natural Science Division, and about one fifth took only two courses in the Division of the Social Sciences. In particularly, concentrators in the Natural Science or Social Science Division seem to avoid courses in the other division in similar proportion. Students do not seem to avoid courses in the Humanities to the same extent. In any case, the evidence suggests that a significant proportion of the student body would choose to take all their courses in only two out of the three divisions, if they were allowed to do so.

Does the distribution requirement accomplish something we should consider necessary?

Data allow us to conclude that the distribution requirement works. Students do meet the requirement—they must in order to get a degree—and many might not distribute their courses this way if it were not required. But should students distribute their courses across divisions? After all, there are sharp-edged students with a passion for one thing, and they can be the most rewarding to teach. If a student wants to take nearly all of his or her courses in Music or Geography or Physics, is that bad? Should a student who knows he or she will not do well in certain kinds of courses, because of deficiencies of ability or interest, be required to take them? The Core requirement ensures some breadth of exposure to kinds of inquiry, and maybe that is enough. In our consideration of these questions, we enumerated what we would describe as the beneficial side-effects of the requirement on the curriculum as a whole.

We noted that the process of selecting courses to fulfill the distribution requirement is an important exercise. Advisers observe that it often provides an opportunity for a serious discussion of what a student may want out of a course beyond fulfillment of a requirement. In particular, it is a chance to see the value of learning new things or learning in a new way, a chance to appreciate the luxury of a liberal arts education and the wealth of courses available. True, many students don’t need the nudge of a distribution requirement to see the curriculum this way, and others never see it even with the nudge; but enough of us as advisers have found ourselves touting a course in a department far from our own to know that many students do need and profit from it.

We also considered that, just as the distribution requirement forces students to think about the curriculum as a whole, it also forces faculty and academic departments to do the same. A faculty adviser must be aware of what other departments have to offer. A department must remember that its introductory courses are populated not just by prospective concentrators, and those taking electives, but also by students fulfilling a distribution requirement. Indeed, we discovered through our conversations with departments that departments with large enrollments in such courses quite consciously view their support of these courses as an important, maybe even their primary, contribution to the general education program. Thus, the distribution requirement can lead indirectly to a department taking a broader view of its introductory courses, designing a course more as a terminal course for general students rather than a more technical course of value mostly to prospective concentrators.

The distribution requirement can play a role in helping students find a concentration. Just as some students are led by a Core course to a department they might not have otherwise considered, other students may be captured by a department course they took initially to fulfill the distribution requirement. In effect, this requirement provides access for some students to a department they might never reach under other circumstances.

What are we trying to accomplish with the distribution requirement? Would a different configuration of the requirement accomplish that goal better?

One wonders, however, if the durability of the requirement in its present form is a function of its unexamined circumstance. After observing that it probably functions to ensure additional exposure of students to elements of the curriculum, with some good effects and with no apparent seriously deleterious ones, the steering committee felt no impulse to propose specific revisions of it but was moved to recommend some mechanism for its review as all other elements of the curriculum are reviewed. (The distribution requirement was examined only incidentally in 1995 when the Core was revised.)

The Academic Affairs Board, either directly or through its Curriculum Committee, should discuss the distribution requirement, recommending any changes in its design to the faculty. This discussion should occur periodically.

Questions to consider include these: if the goal of the requirement, exposure to various divisional methodologies, is a good one, does it follow that two courses in each division is the right amount? If two is the right amount, why must they be in different departments? (Would the deepening experience of a second course in the same department have advantages?) Are the three departmentally based divisional categories the right ones to use to define the requirement, or should the various programs be grouped in other combinations (e.g., courses in literature, courses in non-verbal arts, courses that use applications of quantitative skills, courses that explore ethical issues) to describe the requirement?

5.D. The Language "Requirement"

Colgate’s foreign language requirement is described as a "graduation requirement" in the Catalogue (p. 34), even though in practice and in effect it functions more like an admissions requirement. It is defined in terms of proficiency as measured by one of three things: years of secondary school study, a score on an SAT test, or level of study completed at Colgate. These levels of proficiency are low enough that currently nearly all students demonstrate proficiency when they matriculate. Further, the Catalogue states that "students are expected to complete the requirement by the end of the fourth term at Colgate," and may not register for their fifth term unless they have either completed it or are registered in a course to do so. This, too, conveys the impression that some experience in a foreign language is needed by students early in their studies here.

The present configuration of the requirement is just now (1997-98) under scrutiny by the Academic Affairs Board, which is discussing whether it should be changed, either by setting a higher level of required proficiency or requiring all students, regardless of proficiency, to continue the study of a foreign language while at Colgate. These considerations for reform are consistent with Colgate’s belief, also stated in the Catalogue (p. 34) that "foreign language competence is of critical value in understanding today’s world . . . [and is] required by many graduate schools and may be necessary to qualify for certain professional positions, particularly in today’s global economy." More attention to foreign language skills by all our students in the context of their academic programs would also coincide with the Colgate’s emphasis on foreign study in its signature study group program.

The steering committee is gratified to note that the issue is once again being raised in the college and content to have it prosecuted in that separate discussion. By analogy to our recommendation about the distribution requirement, we believe that the AAB is the proper body to reconsider it, and it should do so regularly. Moreover, this is an issue where the only disagreement is likely to be, not whether we should promote language study, but what further resources we will allocate to do so. This is one place where the goals of the institution are clearly articulated, and the questions are ones of the extent to which we will pursue them. Increasing the level of proficiency or the amount of study required will entail reallocation of resources and will doubtless have implications for our admissions policies; and it will be in these terms that the language requirement will be reconsidered. Below, in section 8 of this report, we describe some recent initiatives in the uses of technology and project other changes that might be considered in the way our curriculum is structured that could change the parameters of this discussion, since they could significantly expand our capacities for language instruction without prohibitive staffing increases or the extensive reassignment of the teaching power of our language faculty.

Language departments at Colgate: language and literature

The history of language study at Colgate will remind us of an important dimension to the question of how much work in a non-English language to require or otherwise induce our students to do. Well into this century, programs in the foreign languages were part of the curriculum to equip students with the linguistic skills they needed to pursue other subjects. Access to Biblical and exegetical texts was the motive for having Latin and Greek and Hebrew in the curriculum of the Baptist Education Society that later become Madison University, and the importance of European languages to scientific study in the nineteenth century explains why student pressure to have the curriculum include instruction in modern languages occurred at the same time that the study of scientific subjects was beginning to claim parity with and even supersede in importance theological studies within the curriculum. These coincidences, in fact, may make it easier to appreciate the significance of the fact that the motives for language study quoted above from the current catalogue are still distinctly utilitarian; and the pressure of some of these motives should increase as the Colgate curriculum becomes even more deeply involved with issues of internationalism and multiculturalism

All of the language departments at Colgate now, however, are located in the Division of the Humanities, with programs in art, music, and philosophy. Many of them are or have been variously departments of language and literature. The scholarship of many faculty in these departments, particularly those in modern European languages, focuses on issues that are literary and interpretive rather than linguistic. Full-time faculty in these departments do teach language, but some of the language teaching is also done by Category II faculty. The richness of Colgate’s curriculum in foreign languages is not just a matter of how many languages are here but also of how sophisticated these programs are.

Language competency across the curriculum

In September of 1993, a series of events sponsored by the Humanities Division explored issues of foreign language study at Colgate. A two-day conference, "Foreign Languages at Colgate: Toward a Collaborative Vision," discussed language teaching and learning, including the use of new technologies. At the end of this conference, ongoing committees were established to continue work on some of the ideas that emerged. A proposal for a program in Foreign Languages across the Curriculum (FLAC) ultimately resulted from this effort.

At the same time and fueled by the same energy that led to the conference, initiatives were underway to acquire outside money to use technology in the teaching of language. The first of two major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to support collaborative projects in language instruction and resource sharing between Colgate and Hamilton College, came to the two colleges in 1995. The funds from this grant support the development of software tools and faculty expertise with those tools to strengthen language instruction. Both institutions now have interactive teaching classrooms, used so that an instructor on one campus can teach students from the other. This arrangement (distanced learning) has the potential, already partially realized, to connect Colgate to other colleges besides Hamilton though the Remote Collaboration Consortium (RCC). (There have been two recent Mellon grants, the second more broadly addressing the use of technology in teaching; see section 8.D below.)

The issues pursued from this conference and the technological initiatives begun through the Mellon grants are noteworthy for the imaginative ways they extend Colgate’s resources to improve language instruction. The Keck Language Center facilities have great potential to have a significant impact on the way language is taught at Colgate.

The Division Director of the Humanities should encourage the language departments to describe to the Dean of the Faculty and Provost what non-faculty resources (interns, funding, technological support) will enable fuller implementation of a language-across-the-curriculum program. In addition to funds from the operating budget, outside sources and grants should be considered as sources of support for this program.

The Division Director of the Humanities should encourage the language departments to propose courses in units other than full-course units that might be offered in times outside of regular semester limits or in places away from the campus to encourage students to enhance whatever studies they are pursuing with work in a foreign language.

More discussion of partial-credit course units, extending the semesters, and off-campus study is included below, section 8.

Other initiatives resulting from the 1993 conference, while not strictly curricular, deserve mention here for the way they support a major goal of the institution—to use the resources of the curriculum to make students aware of the cultural complexity of the modern world. The language programs began to reach out to secondary schools, promoting Colgate as an institution with an unusual level of variety and depth in possibilities for language study. There have also been initiatives focused on non-curricular aspects of student life (a lunch-time Table of Babel, for example) that have the potential to be developed further within the residential system.

The comparative literature initiative

The other significant curricular objective of the events of September of 1993 was concerned, not with language proficiency, but with establishing curricular structures that would connect faculty of like interests. Two Humanities Colloquia took up issues of translation, a topic of pedagogical and philosophical importance, not just to faculty who teach literature in non-English language departments but to the faculty teaching in a core program that includes two required courses the syllabi of which frequently include texts in translation. The following year, with support from a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this discussion continued around the topic of comparative literature. Several proposed models of adding a comparative literature concentration to the curriculum were examined and, although those efforts were ultimately not successful, they raised important issues that may be better explored in the future when recommendations for team teaching and the cross-listing of courses (see section 8) allow department more flexibility of resources and perhaps more openness to one another’s offerings.



Part II: Standards of Excellence></a><br>
	<a href=Appendices
Search
Next Page