EPAG, faculty solidify increasing number of concentrations' place in academic offerings

By Amy Ledig

A Global and Community Health concentration is being considered to join Global Citizenship and Humanitarianism and Human Rights as new concentration offerings the in fall. The faculty will vote on whether to approve the proposal at its May 7 meeting, Educational Policy and Governance chair and Psychology Professor Kendrick Brown said.If approved, Global and Community Health will join Global Citizenship and Human Rights and Humanitarianism as new concentrations available to students beginning in the fall.

The addition of two-and potentially three-new concentrations this year spurred EPAG to reevaluate the concentration policies, resulting in some changes. Provost Diane Michelfelder asked the committee to review the structure, but, said Paul Maitland-McKinley, this year’s student representative to EPAG, “It was just time that we did.”

Michelfelder said she was concerned about the prohibitions on concentrations offering gateway or other particular courses, as well as the “‘negative’ tone of Handbook language about concentrations.”
Under the old Faculty Handbook language, interdepartmental programs offer concentrations, and are prohibited from offering courses of their own, from having “a free standing gateway/introductory course, capstone requirement or any other mandatory or integrative free standing course” and are “not entitled to any personnel or financial resources.” The language also had a sunset clause requiring concentrations to “demonstrate sustained student interest over several years or be discontinued.”

The new language lays out concentrations in positive language, in keeping with the descriptions of majors and minors.

Brown summed up the change as providing faculty with increased flexibility.

“I guess I would describe it as creating an academic administrative units for concentrations. Up until that point, there was no formal structure similar to what we have for departments for concentrations. So now we have actual programs run by a program director who can then organize and use resources to support the concentration,” Brown said. “That was not necessarily guaranteed before March. We’ve also specified some of the characteristics of interdisciplinary concentrations.”

Humanitarianism and Human Rights, approved in December, was the first concentration to be added since Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization was added in 2006. Jim Dawes, English professor and coordinator of the concentration, said that the concentration fills an important place in the curricular offerings at the college.

Human rights, he said, is “the essence of the college’s mission.” He added that discussion of the concept of human rights has become far more widespread in recent years, making the concentration a natural addition for the current generation. Five courses offered in the fall will count towards the concentration.

Global Citizenship, under the leadership of professor Andrew Latham, was approved by the faculty this spring. The concentration was born out of the discussion that surrounded the creation of the Institute for Globalization. Latham stressed that the program was striving to be equidistant from all departments on campus, and particularly strove to bring together American and International Studies, which he described as two parts of the global picture.

“The tendency is to think of civic life as political life, and political life as political science, but it’s not that,” Latham said. “We really want every department on campus to be connected to this because civic life and global citizenship is everyone’s business, and we don’t have a monopoly on what global citizenship means.”

The Global and Community Health concentration is being watched as an exemplar for undergraduate health programs, said Biology professor and concentration organizer Devavani Chatterjea.

Chatterjea emphasized the applicability of Global Health to virtually all majors on campus. “Health is something we’re all interested in and as global citizens. it doesn’t matter what profession you’re going to be.”

Regardless of the faculty’s decision on Wednesday, said Chatterjea, the biology department is committed to the concentration and at the very least Introduction to Global Health will be offered in the spring.

The Urban Studies concentration is also revamping, reconsidering its courses to better reflect consistent offerings, coordinator and Geography professor Dan Trudeau said. The concentration, along with Global Citizenship, Humanitarianism and potentially Global and Community Health, is the recipient of a Mellon grant, which is providing the college with almost $1 million over three years to strengthen concentration offerings.

Despite the increase in concentration offerings, though, EPAG’s movements are seen more as reinforcing the position of concentrations in the college’s offerings. The addition of three programs this year- more than doubling the number of concentrations offered – is viewed as an anomaly, not the start of a trend.

“My sense is that we’ll see a leveling off, and see how these new ones develop,” Michelfelder said.