Last year, the faculty voted unanimously to approve the Department of Education’s new coordinate major, which students can begin declaring this fall. Six education courses are necessary for the coordinate major, which can be paired with any existing major. 

The only other coordinate major at Bowdoin is in Environmental Studies.

Associate Professor Doris Santoro, chair of the education department, said that creating a coordinate major is a way of telling students that going into education is a valued, possible option and that teaching is not a profession of last-resort, but an intellectually rich pursuit. 

The education department’s curricular structure has undergone significant changes in the last four years. Until 2012, an education minor was the only option available to students. In the fall of that year, the education and mathematics departments established an interdisciplinary major. This fall, the education department introduced a new interdisciplinary major with the physics department in addition to the coordinate major. 

According to Santoro, the interdisciplinary majors are designed to provide a more specific pathway to teaching in math or physics. The coordinate major allows students to study education and another discipline without the final goal necessarily being teaching. 

Santoro is excited for students to formally coordinate their studies in a major.

“Education is a multi-disciplinary field,” she said. “And as a result, we want students to be immersed in a particular discipline or area of study—such as gender, sexuality and women’s studies—in order to bring that perspective…and developing expertise to the study of education.”

In the first few months, at least seven students have declared education as a coordinate major. Santoro and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Education Chuck Dorn said they expect to see between 15 and 20 education coordinate majors by the end of this academic year. Currently, there are approximately 60 declared education minors. 

Many of the students who already declared the major had previously completed most of its requirements.

Lan Crofton ’17 was happy to declare a coordinate education major in addition to his biology major. 

“Last year I was actually trying to make my own coordinate major between education and biology,” he said. “The only issues were that the biology department did not agree on which courses were necessary and which ones were not necessary.”

The establishment of education as a coordinate major means students like Crofton can receive recognition for their studies in the field of education. 

“What [the students] weren’t getting, was the sort of institutional recognition for doing it because we didn’t have the major,” said Dorn.

Olivia Bean ’17 was previously a chemistry major with an education minor.

“I’d taken a lot of education courses and I’d been frustrated that I’d taken this many and it seems like just a minor,” she said. “So I was really excited when I heard there’d be a major.”

Santoro spoke to their concern.

“We wanted to make sure that there was a way for students to have public acknowledgement for the work they have done in this field,” she said. 

Both Bean and Crofton expressed their desires to teach after Bowdoin.

“I definitely plan on going into teaching in some way,” said Crofton. 

He is interested in pursuing teaching or crafting curricula in the sciences. If he ends up designing curricula, he aims to integrate other subjects into science so that students can understand the role science plays in a world full of many disciplines.

Bean likewise plans to end up somewhere in the field of education. 

“Right now I’m thinking about teaching [science] and then maybe going to grad school later,” she said. 

Conversations about a coordinate major began 18 months ago in response to faculty and student desire for a major.

Santoro said that once the education department started working with the physics department to develop the interdisciplinary major, other academic departments approached the education faculty to express an interest in coordinating their major with education.

Dorn noted that there is growing interest in education on campus, which is reflected by the increased course enrollment and number of independent studies in the education department.

“I think this major is another opportunity to signal to students that education, yes, is something that you’re here to do, but it’s also something that you can take one giant step back from,” he said. “Look at 360 degrees so that you better understand where you’ve been involved in it in the past and even what’s going on in the present.”