Faculty are working to create new courses to fit into Bowdoin's recently updated distribution requirements. While many existing courses will be kept, some current courses will disappear to make room for new ones.
The faculty are encouraged to create courses that will be more interdisciplinary in nature across all departments of Bowdoin. These courses will be "modernized and focused on what we do today," according to Associate Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Mathematics Adam Levy. Proposals for new and altered courses are currently being submitted to the administration, though not all of the these courses will appear in the catalogue next year.
According to Levy, the only change to Bowdoin's distribution requirements that will affect current students is the first-year seminar requirement, which stipulates that all members of the Class of 2009 must take a first-year seminar this year.
Along with the first-year seminar requirement, students in the class of 2010 and future classes will be required to take courses in five different disciplines?mathematical, computational, or statistical reasoning; inquiry in the natural sciences; exploring social differences; international perspectives; and the arts.
They will also be required to take at least one course in each of the three major disciplinary divisions?natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, and humanities and fine arts?which can often be fulfilled by taking courses in the five required disciplines. AP and off-campus study policies will not change.
According to Levy, these requirements can be fulfilled in a variety of ways. To fulfill the mathematical, computational, or statistical reasoning requirement, students will be able to take courses in areas like biology, computer science, economics, and mathematics. For the "exploring social differences" requirement, students will be able to take courses in areas like Asian studies, classics, education, and history.
These requirements, made very broad to allow for personal choice by students, will not force students to restrict their choices to a narrow spectrum of classes.
Instituting these requirements will be a difficult and timely process, according to Levy. Not only will new classes be added but new faculty members will have to be hired, Levy said.
The goal is to have twelve new faculty positions and to make room for dozens of new courses within the next few years.
According to Levy, these changes address the basic skills students will need to be successful in the modern world. For example, quantitative skills were not emphasized in past years as much as they are emphasized in the new requirements.
So far, reactions to the new requirements from prospective students and parents have been positive, according to Bowdoin Student Government President and tour guide DeRay Mckesson '07. He does not view the requirements as restrictive. He suggests that "they provide a great framework... it's clear growth in terms of how the College views and emphasizes our educational program."
"The six areas are broad enough to allow freedom in terms of actual classes and focused enough to ensure that students are learning the intended subject area," he said.
When talking to prospective students and their parents, Mckesson emphasizes that they can "own" their Bowdoin experience and should not view the new requirements as restrictive, since they can be fulfilled in a variety of ways.
Levy feels that the new requirements will be no hindrance for students applying to Bowdoin.
"It's all new to them anyway," he said.